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Cathy Hoy


CEO and Co-founder

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The future-focused CLO: Building capabilities for tomorrow

As technology and global markets are evolving, so too is the role of CLO. This article explores the pivotal role CLOs play in steering their organisations towards future success, focusing on the skills and strategies that will define the next generation of L&D leadership.
silhouette of woman near shoreline. The future-focused CLO: Anticipating and building capabilities for tomorrow

In an era defined by rapid technological advances and shifting global markets, the role of Chief Learning Officers (CLO) is evolving more dynamically than ever before.

Gone are the days when learning leads were solely responsible for traditional training and development programmes. 

Today, they are strategic partners in shaping the future of their organisations, tasked with anticipating changes and building the capabilities needed to thrive in the landscape of tomorrow. 

Understanding the future of work is crucial

Anticipating the future of work

As a Head of Learning, your remit likely includes fostering a culture of continuous learning, driving digital transformation and aligning developmental programmes with overarching business goals. 

This expanded scope demands a forward-thinking mindset and a proactive approach to building capabilities that can swiftly adapt to emerging trends.

Understanding the future of work is crucial. This means keeping a pulse on advancements in technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and predicting their impact on the workforce.

It also involves recognising demographic shifts and changing employee expectations, which influence how learning is delivered and consumed. 

By staying ahead of these trends, CLOs can ensure their organisations are not just reacting to changes but leading them.

The critical role of skill mapping

Skill mapping is a strategic process that involves identifying the skills available within an organisation and those it will need in the future. 

It serves as a foundational element in talent management, highlighting gaps in the workforce’s capabilities and informing targeted learning initiatives. 

Skill mapping enables the CLO to:

  • Identify skills gaps: By comparing current skills against those required for future success, they can pinpoint areas where the workforce may be lacking
  • Plan targeted training: With a clear understanding of skills gaps, their teams can design or curate learning programmes tailored to address specific needs
  • Measure progress: Ongoing skill mapping allows for the measurement of training effectiveness, showing how the skill level within the organisation evolves over time

Megatrends ... profoundly impact business landscapes

Leveraging megatrends to anticipate change

Megatrends — significant economic, political, environmental, and technological shifts that shape our world — profoundly impact business landscapes. 

By understanding these trends, learning leaders can anticipate changes in the business environment and prepare the workforce accordingly. For example… 

  • Digital transformation: The shift towards digital operations necessitates skills in cybersecurity, data analytics and digital marketing
  • Sustainability and corporate responsibility: An increasing focus on sustainable practices requires knowledge in green technologies, sustainable supply chain management and environmental laws
  • Remote work and globalisation: These trends demand skills in digital communication, cultural competence and remote team management.

Integrating insights from these megatrends into skill mapping processes ensures that organisations don’t just react to changes but are prepared for them. As such they are positioning themselves ahead of the competition.

Here is a useful tool from EY, called the Megatrends Pathfinder. It helps you identify some of the Megatrends that might be useful to monitor for your organisation.

Building capabilities for tomorrow

Future-focused CLOs utilise a two-pronged approach to build the necessary capabilities within their organisations:

  • Strategic upskilling and reskilling: Understanding that the skills of today may not suffice tomorrow, CLOs champion upskilling and re-skilling initiatives. This involves not only technical skills but also soft skills like adaptability, critical thinking and leadership. These are universally applicable across evolving job roles
  • Fostering a culture of continuous learning: To stay agile, organisations must cultivate an environment where learning is continuous and encouraged. This includes leveraging technology to provide accessible learning opportunities and recognising and rewarding progress and achievements in skill development

To effectively anticipate and build capabilities for tomorrow, CLOs should consider the following steps:

  • Conduct regular skill audits: Regularly assess the organisation's skill inventory. Compare it against the competencies required for future strategic objectives
  • Engage in scenario planning: Use insights from megatrend analysis to envision various future scenarios. Determine the skills needed to thrive in each
  • Tailor learning pathways: Develop personalised learning pathways that align with both the organisation's goals and individual career aspirations. This ensures mutual growth
  • Leverage technology: Adopt learning management systems, AI, and analytics to deliver customised, scalable learning experiences
  • Monitor and adapt: Continuously monitor the effectiveness of learning initiatives against skill mapping outcomes. Be prepared to pivot strategies in response to new trends and insights

The future waits for no one

The future won’t wait

As author Ashley Saunders said: “The future waits for no one.” Through strategic skill mapping and an informed understanding of megatrends, CLOs can ensure their organisations are equipped to navigate the future successfully. 

This proactive approach to talent development not only positions organisations for enduring success but also empowers individuals to reach their full potential, crafting a workforce that is resilient, adaptable and forward-thinking. 

In essence, by focusing on the capabilities of tomorrow, CLOs can turn potential challenges into opportunities, driving their organisations to new heights of achievement in an unpredictable world.

If you found this article interesting, why not read: Mastering business alignment: A strategic guide for today’s chief learning officers?

Author Profile Picture
Cathy Hoy

CEO and Co-founder

Read more from Cathy Hoy

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