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The CLO as a strategic enabler


The role of the CLO has changed over the years, driven by increased competition and turbulent economic conditions.    Organisations strive to increase efficiency and effectiveness and often the CLO now has hard-stop goals such as increasing revenue, cost reductions or increases in retention.  A recent survey conducted by the HCM Advisory Group and sponsored by Saba Software surveyed a cross section of global organisations to provide insight into various issues in training and learning. 

The survey examined the role of the CLO and how that affects the learning organisation in terms of being perceived as a strategic enabler as opposed to a cost centre.   Respondents were asked what the background of the CLO was at their organisation.  Of the total respondents:

- 9.6% said they had no CLO/Learning Executive at their organisation
- 4.3% said they were unsure of the background of their Learning Executive. 
- 69.9% were from L&D and HR background
- 21.6% came from the Line Businesses
- Less than 5% reported a background in Talent Management.

Respondents were also asked about the reporting line of the CLO.  A high percentage (52.9%) report to the Chief Human Resources Officer whilst 29% report to the CEO and 5.1% report to other ‘C’ level executives.   The survey showed that in organisations where the CLO reports to the CEO (rather than HR), the training function is perceived as more important to the success of the business, however interestingly the learning function is only slightly more likely to be perceived as a strategic enabler.  In other words, the reporting structure of the CLO may indicate that senior leadership places a high priority on learning however reporting to the CEO makes no difference on whether the learning organisation is seen as a strategic enabler for the business.

Practical Advice:
- Ensure that the learning organisation spends time with the line of business to understand their business and their issues
- Build a plan for the learning organisation that is designed to deliver on the corporate strategy and objectives
- Consider upgrading skills in the learning department with business related training
- Consider recruiting future learning employees from line of business roles
- Integrate the soft targets (leadership, culture, values), with the business initiatives (goals, transformation)
- Examine the reporting structure of the learning organisation to see if it is sending the right signal about the importance of L&D to senior leadership

This trend toward a more business-focused skill set for CLOs is likely to continue since the pressure for results is unlikely to decrease.

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