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Chief Learning Officer

What is a Chief Learning Officer? Job Description & Responsibilities

Chief Learning Officers play a pivotal role in corporate training and development.

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By Scott Winstead

what is a chief learning officer

As a longtime eLearning industry professional, I’ve seen firsthand how corporations have started to realize the value of investing in ongoing education and training for their employees in recent years. In fact, a recent survey found 95% of L&D and HR leaders saw a 5-10% increase in budget in 2023. Corporate education jobs have become more commonplace, and one of the top positions in the field is the chief learning officer, the executive responsible for overseeing all aspects of employee learning and development within an organization.

The demand for CLOs has grown significantly in recent years as companies look to bolster their learning development initiatives, and the role of the CLO has grown to encompass a variety of duties related to employee development.

In the guide below, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the role of chief learning officer, including defining the position, the roles and responsibilities of a CLO, who CLOs report to, and more.

What is a Chief Learning Officer?

A chief learning officer (CLO) is a corporate executive responsible for overseeing all aspects of employee learning and development within an organization. In conjunction with their learning and development teams, they help shape the minds of company employees through engaging online and in-person training programs. Instead of traditional classroom teaching, the CLO takes a comprehensive approach and encourage continuous learning throughout an employee’s tenure.

Simply put, the Chief Learning Officer, or CLO, is the ultimate authority on employee development and learning strategy for the entire organization. Their role is to design and execute training programs that cover everything from initial recruitment to the latest industry innovations, all with an eye on aligning everything with company culture.

The CLO leads the development of strategy and programs to ensure that employees have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in their roles.

This might include everything from providing ongoing training and employee development programs to evaluating the effectiveness of these initiatives in achieving employee growth.

Additionally, the CLO often works closely with other executives to align workplace learning initiatives with the overall business strategy.

In recent years, the role of CLO has become increasingly important as organizations seek to stay competitive in a rapidly changing global economy.

As a result, chief learning officers are now responsible for leading some of the most critical learning and development initiatives within their organizations.

The data shows that around 90% of Chief Learning Officers have corporate experience, averaging 18 years. Like other executive roles, this position demands someone with extensive hands-on experience across various organizational and industry tiers.

Some companies may have a different job title for this role, like:

  • VP of Learning and Development
  • Chief Education Officer
  • Learning Manager
  • Head of Education
  • Senior Manager of Learning and Development

Chief Learning Officer vs Chief Talent Officer: What’s the Difference?

The terms “chief learning officer” and “chief talent officer” are often used interchangeably, but are they actually the same?

In short, yes, CLOs and CTDOs are basically the same things. The terms are often used interchangeably because they both refer to the same set of responsibilities, which include managing and implementing learning and development initiatives within an organization.

The role of a learning leader is critical to a company’s success, regardless of whether they go by Chief Talent Development Officer (CTDO) or Chief Learning Officer (CLO).

However, CTDO may be a better fit for today’s learning leaders due to its all-encompassing nature. These individuals must possess an array of skills and exhibit foresight to shape and lead this vital aspect of organizational growth.

The Chief Learning Officer’s Responsibilities

The role of the CLO involves a number of responsibilities and day-to-day duties.

A chief learning officer (CLO) is responsible for the overall design, development, and delivery of corporate learning and development programs within an organization.

In addition to overseeing the creation of training content, the CLO is also responsible for ensuring that all employees have access to the resources they need to learn new skills and improve their performance.

To accomplish this, the CLO works closely with managers and HR professionals to identify employee training needs and assess employee learning styles.

The CLO also develops relationships with external trainers and instructional designers to create custom programs that meet the specific needs of the organization.

In addition to these responsibilities, the CLO also plays a key role in evaluating the effectiveness of organizational learning programs and making improvements as needed.

By working collaboratively with other members of the leadership team, the CLO can ensure that all employees have the opportunity to grow and develop professionally.

For crafting an effective organizational training strategy, a CLO must have a deep understanding of the knowledge requirements and timing for employees at different levels. They should also be adept at identifying potential challenges faced by staff and devising solutions to overcome these hurdles.

Who Does the Chief Learning Officer Report To?

In some organizations, the CLO may report to the CEO or another senior manager.

Typically, this involves working closely with department heads and other members of senior management on all aspects of learning and development.

Additionally, the CLO will often work with the chief human resources officer (CHRO) to ensure that all learning initiatives are aligned with the organization’s overall HR strategy.

By working together, the CLO and CHRO can engage in strategic planning for developing employees that meets the needs of both the individual and the organization.

Depending on the size and structure of an organization, there may also be other individuals involved in overseeing this process.

Regardless of who exactly the CLO reports to, however, it is critical that this individual has direct access to key decision-makers in order to execute his or her duties effectively.

After all, without support from senior leadership and collaboration across departments, a company’s ability to develop its workforce will inevitably suffer.

So whether you’re an aspiring CLO or simply someone looking to advance your career in corporate training, it’s essential to recognize just how important this role can be for organizational success.

Useful Resources

A Final Word on Chief Learning Officers

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a CLO, it’s important to understand this won’t happen overnight.

It requires a great deal of expertise, experience, and an in-depth knowledge of the corporate training environment.

You’ll need to develop your skills as both a leader and a teacher in order to effectively serve as a bridge between senior management and training staff.

But with dedication and the right training, you can become an invaluable asset for any organization. With the right strategies and insight, you can help empower employees to reach their full potential contribute to the success of the organization.

That’s why the role of chief learning officer should not overlooked or underestimated—it has invaluable impact on organizational growth, development, and prosperity.

A good place to start your journey is by enrolling in the Professional Certificate in Instructional Design program from Emeritus. This intensive program explores everything from the fundamentals to the latest best practices for online learning implementation in depth. In only 5 months, you can get the expert-led training you need to start building a career in the field of corporate learning and development.

You can learn more about the program and request a brochure at this link.

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