An ASTD/i4cp study of the CEO-CLO relationship finds that
implementing a learning strategy that supports the business
strategy is critical to moving the learning function from the
perceived "order taker" to a valued partner.
With the continuous economic upheaval, the speed of technological
change, and the ongoing need to deal with uncertainty and
complexity, critical thinking skills have risen to the top of the
list of competencies needed to lead organizations effectively into
the future. And many organizations have little confidence that the
next generation of leaders will be ready or even have the skills to
lead, according to the 2011/2012 Trends in Executive Development: A
Benchmark Report published by Pearson TalentLens and Executive
Development Associates Inc. (EDA), which creates custom-designed
executive development programs.
The report is based on interviews with 15 CLOs conducted in August
and September 2011, and on content from five interviews with CEOs
featured in T+D magazine between 2009 and 2011.
Opinions differ on what is more important for organizational
impact: is it the relationship with the CEO and the senior team, or
is it a strong grasp of the business strategy? "If the learning
strategy is aligned with the business, it will be aligned with the
CEOs strategy," says Tamar Elkeles, vice president of Qualcomm
Learning Center. "Each year, there is a lot of executive turnover.
If youre aligned with the CEOs agenda, and that CEO leaves, what do
you do then?"
Diane Holman, chief talent development officer for Wolters Kluwer,
agrees with Elkeles on this viewpoint, and recommends that
processes be put into place so that the connection doesnt wane when
the CEO leaves.
In addition, a commitment to business impact must exist in both
parties. Each of the CLOs interviewed is working with senior
management to make sure the learning programs do one primary thing:
impact the business.
To measure this, CEO Bill Sullivan of Agilent consistently looks at
metrics such as financial performance, organic growth, and customer
loyalty. He acknowledges at the outset that these metrics are
linked to leadership development, and therefore provide a good
barometer for the success of the learning function.
Although Chick-fil-A cant set goals for each location, it measures
success in areas such as usability. CLO Mark Miller has documented
that sales and customer satisfaction increases when stores use the
training, and as a result the usage rate has grown from about 5
percent to 83 percent.
As with any aspect of the business, the learning function doesnt
always succeed 100 percent in remaining cohesive and aligned with
the senior executives. Sometimes those misses are a product of
misalignment between the learning strategy and the business
strategy, and sometimes they are because the CEO and the CLO are
not in sync. To help alleviate this, CLOs should get a seat at the
table, but use it wisely.
Kevin Wilde says that "part of the role of HR is to get yourself
into the meetings you need to be in. Dont wait to be invited. But
once youre there, be about learning to help the business, not just
about learning." As the report explains, this can help the learning
function change from "order takers" to valued participants.
The full report, which includes interviews with successful learning
leaders who discuss the relationship and alignment between the CLO
and the executive team, is available at the ASTD online store,