Article: What does industry think about the CLO?

Learning & Development

What does industry think about the CLO?

Experts across industries talk about why the role of a CLO is very important in today's context
What does industry think about the CLO?

Amit Das, President & Chief Human Resources Officer, Reliance Communications Limited

Given the VUCA environment that organizations currently operate in, the erstwhile OD or talent manager role has now evolved into the role of a chief learning officer. The evolution of the CLO role is a consequence of the business demand to respond to the uncertain business environment. These uncertain conditions call for the HR and the learning team to partner with the intention to beef up the capabilities and competencies of the organization. In a nutshell, the CLO’s role is not only to design the learning vision for the organization but also to develop the learning agenda based on the demands of the business. The business needs good leaders for the success of business plans. Having future-ready leaders in place is also another key agenda for a CLO. Thirdly, a CLO is the custodian of change and is able to integrate the culture and values of an organization.

The CLO has a big responsibility to build the recognition framework embedded in the culture of the organization and influences leadership behaviours and the entire performance management process. Besides that, CLOs should also drive best practices. Many organizations are talking about new learning techniques such as blended learning, e-learning and 70-20-10 principle. It is the CLO’s job to keep the company abreast of these new developments in the market.

Apart from all of the above, a very important role that a CLO plays is the change of leadership mind-set in the organization. The organizational leadership needs to take collective ownership of talent. A CLO needs to marry the two requirements of the business and the leadership.

Since the CLO has to understand the overall people agenda, which in turn is the business agenda, the CHRO role is the obvious route for a CLO. Apart from that, a CLO also has a career path in the business side. 
For example, an individual runs a learning academy or Gurukul like a profit center. In such a role, the CLO needs to demonstrate the competencies of running a talent academy as a profit center.

Anand Pillai, Sr. Executive Vice President & Chief Learning Officer, Reliance Industries Ltd.

A CLO performs all three functions – a learning function, talent management function and OD function. The lines, however, are very blurred. There is serious integration that needs to take place between these three functions and hence, it may be best to put all three under the broad umbrella of a CLO. The CLO is not one person and may have to wear five different hats. S/he has to first be the chief capability officer. In our organization, for example, there is a term called MRC or minimum required capability. The CLO should make sure that each person in the company has the minimum capability in the current role and the next one. The CLO is also the chief culture officer or the chief change officer because 90 per cent of culture revolves around learning and integrate them with capabilities.

The CLO also has to be a talent and measurement manager from the perspective of HR technology. S/he should therefore have a very solid technology and analytics inclination. The CLO is also responsible for the leadership bench strength of the organization and linked to that is succession planning. CLO should build the success plan across at all levels. Lastly, the CLO should also be the chief talent officer and a prime driver of attracting, retaining and developing talent.

The CLO should report to the CEO or business head of the organization. Three factors decide when the organization is ready for the CLO role. First is, when the organization feels the pain of growth and the consequent lack of capability. The second important factor is the mind-set change to accept a person who can influence business decisions. The third indication would be when there is integrated workforce planning and business planning. It is important for the CLO to have the balance between attention to detail and view of the big picture. The CLO should have an appreciation for technology, knowledge management, and human capital.

Anuranjita Kumar, Managing Director, Chief HR Officer, Citi South Asia

The CLO role is a strategic role that enables a learning culture in an organisation by focusing on three Es: exposure, education and experiential learning. The CLO brings these three important ‘E’s’ together in talent management as there are different facets in the way talent is managed. The CLO’s responsibility is to create the learning culture and an awareness about what the organisation requires to succeed.

Talent management is actually a product role as each business manager and CHRO is involved in this aspect of talent. The delivery of talent products is the responsibility of the business partner and the business strategy helps determine the organizational design. Learning is the glue that sticks talent, design, and delivery together.

The mandate of the CLO is to create a learning product, which addresses the needs and aspiration of an employee. Creating a learning culture entails business buy-in, infrastructure and various product suites, education as well as various career development programs. The overarching theme of the role of a CLO is to create a learning environment and culture.

The CLO may report to either the CEO or the CHRO, depending on the organisation. At Citi India, the CLO reports to the CHRO, but this does not take away any of the interactions that are required with the CEO or the management committee. The CLO and CHRO can also be seen as peer roles, depending upon the individuals’ experience and expertise.

The CLO should be somebody who has commercial sense and great business acumen in order to connect the pieces of the business. The CLO should also be somebody who is inspirational. A CLO can move into any other HR role, service or client experience role, and even start their own company specializing in the HR domain as a CEO.

Chaitali Mukherjee, Managing Director –Experis APME REGION & Country Manager, Right Management India

Since millennia, the role of imparting learning has been executed by only the most self-aware, focused, and sincere individuals in any community. Their dedication to the propagation of knowledge has often been seen as a passionate journey undertaken by these individuals, where the curiosity to go beyond what is known is sometimes seen as an eccentricity! But the role has also demanded a lot from them and many have sacrificed their lives in this endless pursuit to explore the secrets of the world. What the ‘Gurus’ from eras gone by have been able to share have helped us make advancements in everyday life. Progress in any field – science, technology, understanding human behaviour, medicine and many more – has been achieved only through the endless pursuit of exploring the unknown! The world may have transformed and re-transformed over centuries, but the role of a ‘Guru’ has not. The knowledge they seek has always been necessary for us to explore. It still requires a few individuals from a community to go beyond the systems and processes and look for ways to break existing paradigms. Similarly, organizations across the world have also evolved continuously. They have transformed from small shops, trading houses, family businesses to medium to large enterprises or even global conglomerates. To help in these transformations, a crucial role is played by a few key leaders who provide direction. But there is usually one leader who creates the vehicle for growth and change and enables it through learning and re-learning. There is a growing need for such an individual – one who can help build the right capability in the organization’s talent. Our team at Right Management clearly sees this individual as playing a bigger and bigger role in organizations across India – a role we call as the Chief Learning Officer.

Gajendra Chandel, Member Executive Committee & Chief Human Resources Officer, TATA MOTORS LTD.

The CLO role is undergoing metamorphosis both within and outside India. There is no common understanding of the role as opposed to other roles such as TA or compensation, which is normally part of the HR. This role has evolved from training to talent management, moving to OD and finally to that of a CLO. It has become a wider role and is still evolving. Today it is one of the most critical roles in any organization and it encompasses not just talent management and OD, but it is much wider. In an organization like ours, the learning is not only HR-related or HR function related but a part of organizational strategy. All behavioural aspects and personal aspects come under the purview of the CLO.

The CLO can be either from the HR side or the business side, but it comes from a depth of understanding the company, industry and competitive landscape. The inputs of the CLO are very critical for the formation of the strategy itself. Making the organization future-ready is the measure of a good CLO. It is crucial for the CLO to prepare the business to be able to compete three to five years down the line.

The CLO role has evolved out of the chief talent officer role. The right CLO is able to ask some critical questions such as what kind of resources will the business count for and how will the organization develop them over time. Another important part is knowledge management. In India, it has not come to the point where the individual has view over all these areas comprehensively.

Having a CLO depends on the management of the organization. If you make the CHRO role narrow, it is the CLO role. The CLO role, much like a CHRO role, is a business role. It is the only role in the organization where the role and role holder is able to integrate. A CLO can either become a CHRO or a CEO depending on how an individual is comfortable with designing and rolling out initiatives.

Jacob Jacob, Chief People Officer, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd

The CLO plays a critical role in an organization. The CLO’s job is not limited to just management and execution of training programs but encompasses a much broader and strategic objective. The CLO is responsible for end-to-end talent management – right from building and developing capabilities till shockproofing the organization against the future talent needs and the emerging talent scarcity.

A CLO should have a comprehensive understanding of the business. In healthcare, for instance, most of the employees are in critical patient facing roles – with patient care and satisfaction being an extremely tough job. A CLO has to understand the needs of the patient and the capabilities available to cater to their needs. CLO should create sustainable processes, which ensure availability of required talent at all times to make sure that “Patient Satisfaction” turns into “Patient Delight”.

The CLO is responsible for fostering a performance driven culture within the organization by creating systems that promote fast-tracking of high potential resources and talent-development of the rest.

Today’s talent asks for meaningful careers in an organization and look up to the CLO as a bridge between the organizational requirements and employee’s careers.

Most organizations today develop training modules for junior, middle, or senior level employees purely based on role requirements. But business necessities of organizations are far more wide-ranging than just what the roles demand. Learning has to be comprehensive and all-encompassing. The learning metrics of the organization should be mature to accommodate for robust competency frameworks and to measure ‘before’ and after’ behaviours. By adopting real-time, accurate measurable metrics through multiple channels like 360 degree reviews, patient feedback, internal surveys etc., CLO acts as one of the principal drivers of change within the organization.

Though the role of a CLO is usually defined within the HR paradigm, it is essential for today’s CLO to work closely with the business. There is no doubt that the CLO plays a very important role in defining the organizational strategy and the alignment of talent strategy to achievement of business objectives.

Judhajit Das, CHRO, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company Ltd

Earlier there used to be emphasis on face to face training as it was the most efficient way for imparting knowledge to large numbers of employees, especially in the life insurance industry which has a large workforce in sales & distribution. Learning heads were responsible for delivering functional training & skill building and considerable amount of their effort went in managing logistics of training delivery, managing training budgets and training coverage. Technological advancement in the form of virtual learning has made the need for face to face training for imparting knowledge redundant. This means a shift in attitudes as well. Organizations need to move away from spoon feeding employees with knowledge & skills to employees taking personal responsibility for their learning. However, organizations will need to provide the infrastructure and systems to facilitate learning especially on the job.

The best learning happens on the job and therefore the emphasis needs to be on providing opportunities for cross functional mobility to acquire rounded business experience. Job rotation is key as maximum learning, 70 per cent (Morgan Mc Call, Robert Eichinger & Michael Lombardo – CCL, 1996) happens on the job. One cannot learn swimming without a swimming pool. High potential candidates seek different and exciting roles and hence the need to focus on creating internal mobility opportunities for employees every 3-5 years. This is true for those in specialist positions as well, they need to rotate in different roles within the function to acquire functional expertise. In my view, the three most important things that a Chief Learning Officer needs to focus on are as follows:

It is a CLO’s job to create access to learning content using the latest developments in technology such as simulations which is the closest approximation to skill building. CLOs need to be familiar with the latest developments in pedagogy. CLOs need to provide the systems & infrastructure for learning support but the job of coaching on the job for skill mastery, especially for domain or functional competencies needs to be the responsibility of the line manager. Behavioral training is difficult to do virtually so there is the space for face to face training for management development and leadership development.

J.M.Prasad, Chief – HR, ING Vysya Bank Ltd

Create a learning culture is the key deliverable of a CLO. The CLO has to create and roll out a learning culture and prepare the organization for future people challenges. The CLO is the key in an organization that translates strategy to people capability, and ensures that it is built into the system. In today’s context, 80 per cent of learning has to be delivered outside the classroom. The CLO role is different, however, from a talent manager role which is about ensuring that the expectations of high potential are met.

First and foremost requirement from a CLO is a person who is able to identify change agents from the business context. If there is one function in the organization which has deepest insights of people challenges, it is L&D. They interact with employees to understand ground level challenges and feel the pulse on what exists today, what is needed tomorrow and what the gap is. An ideal CLO is one with good understanding of business challenges and its readiness of people capability. Every intervention has to be built towards bridging this gap.

A CLO should aim to build a framework on the extent to which the learning agenda is tied with business outcomes. A CLO also has to understand how learning agendas can have buy-in from business sponsor. S/he should be able to build a clear document that connects context, objective, target segment, clear outcomes on the ground, and further business objectives. In most organizations, such documents do not exist.

A CLO should be constantly focused on strategy and not a training plan in a calendar. It is what a CLO does that serves as a bridge between strategy and learning delivery intervention, and ensure the intervention is addressing those outcomes. The most important part of CLO is bridging business challenges and on-the-ground outcomes. A CLO should not be as much about building a training institution, but should be about building an institution to address capabilities of tomorrow.

Kamlesh Dangi, Group Chief People Officer, Religare Enterprises Ltd

The need for the CLO role is still in its evolutionary stages. The primary objective of having a CLO in an organization is culture creation. This is the primary differentiator between a CLO and an individual performing a talent management role. An organization inherently increases its chances of success if the culture of the organization is aligned with its strategy. A CLO’s role is not just about ensuring how to train people on capabilities, but also its values. A CLO needs to think long-term and her/his objective is not about what is needed in the end of the year, but is more about what is needed long-term in the next four to five years.

Where a CLO should reside is very company and industry-specific. If a company is a highly technical business, such as engineering, the CLO should be from the business side. If, however, the company belongs to an industry which does not require too many technical skills, the CLO should be from the HR side. What is more important for a good CLO are personal attributes more than where s/he is coming from.

The CLO is responsible for the creation of lead and lag measures for the success of a product or a business initiative and have the capability to tie back how the culture and capability of an organization is able to contribute to a product. A CLO needs to have a high technical bent of mind to be able to effectively close the current and future gaps of the business.

K. Ramkumar, Executive Director, ICICI Bank

Every organization needs a person who is accountable for the learning and development of the company. The role of a CLO is to keep the organization ready for the future. The CLO holds the conscience of the organization in one hand and its competitiveness on the other hand. Great athletes and sportsmen such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Gary Sobers are people who bridge conscience with competitiveness. That is what a CLO should typify. Very often, CLOs misunderstand their role as arrangers of training.

A good CLO constantly asks three questions: What do I do to cement the values of the company? Secondly, what are the current gaps in technical and managerial abilities of the people and how can I bridge them? Thirdly, how to translate learning interventions into skills and abilities? A CLO should not drive knowledge interventions as much as driving the hunger for knowledge without assistance.

A CLO’s credibility comes only when s/he takes up the role of a skill inculcator. S/he should personally be seen as someone who is capable of imparting skills to people and build perspectives, a business and logistics person, tech-savvy and needs to carry a credible demeanour within the organization. Finally, all the DNA elements of a leader are a prerequisite for a CLO as it is a leadership role.

A CLO should be a mobiliser of opinions, people and resources. To measure a CLO’s effectiveness, it is important to ask employees and the CEO whether the CLO is making an impact. Every time an organization postpones a strategy or a business proposal, it can be safely assumed that it does not have the benefits of person who can guide them to achieve it. A CLO, therefore, should be responsible for creating a pool of people over a period of time to build an organizational learning system.

Meenal Jadhav, Director, Talent Management, Schneider Electric

While OD has elements of change and development, the CLO role is larger. The prime question for a CLO should be- How do we create a learning organization?

Talent management in Schneider is identifying, developing and retaining high potential at all levels of the organization.. It aims at proactively building a talent pipeline ready for key positions in the organization. OD involves initiatives that cut across all employees such as change management, building a high performance culture, values deployment, employee engagement etc.

Capability development should be a future focused process. The CLO should constantly worry about how the organization develops and grows, and accordingly what will be the capability needs. Capability development for current and future of the business is the biggest agenda of a CLO. A CLO is responsible for building mediums and modes of this capability and creating a learning organization. A CLO’s role is also about leadership development, and the CLO should constantly worry about how to create senior leaders for succession development and leadership development. Third piece is change management and culture building. Learning and change is a huge need for Indian organizations.

Size and complexity and the capability of people determine the reporting relationships. A CLO requires a deep understanding of the business coupled with OD and talent management capability. It could be interesting career path to look at business roles for a CLO. The pace at which people come up to speed with capability is a key measure of a CLO. Besides that, culture, value deployment, and learning organizations will continue to be part of CLOs intangible measures.

Any organization that is getting close to 150 people should start thinking about how to evolve and change as an organization. There are organizations which are currently small and may be planning to grow rapidly. These organizations should start thinking about having a learning officer role.

Srikanth Karra, Director-HR, BHARTI Airtel

Though it is contextual in many occasions, the CLO’s mandate will be to create capabilities and the competencies that the organization requires today and for the future success of business. OD and talent management is a little more in the domain of HR management. By talent management I mean what kind of talent is being supplied to the company and what is required for progressing the talent. The CLOs role is in the domain of the business. A CLO really needs in-depth knowledge of the business and industry that the organization operates in and should have done P&L, products and market-facing roles. In that context, therefore, a CLO cannot be transported from one industry to another.

There are several leaders who may not have the aptitude or the inclination to learn. A CLO should be able to sit in the same table as a CEO or CXO and understand where the business is heading whenever there is a business review. They should be able to build the institutional frameworks and capability to take the business to the path of growth. The role encompasses planning to deal with capability gaps. Second success measure is equal amount of focus on delivery of training, whether it is functional training, leadership training or soft skills training. Creating architecture to deliver these capabilities is very important.

The right time to invest in a CLO role is whenever the company anticipates a high-growth stage. The way to position the CLO role is that someone who takes it up has a better chance to become a CEO. The idea is to make it attractive for a path to career progression. CHRO and CLO are like twins and it is not necessary that a CLO has to report to the HR Head, but s/he can directly report to the CEO.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #ExpertViews

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