How to be a Chief Learning Officer | Career Guide

How to be a Chief Learning Officer | Career Guide

The role of Chief learning officer has been around since the 1980s, but has grown in both popularity and importance over the past decade. This growth parallels changes in mainstream corporate culture that place more emphasis on job training and people development as critically important business goals.


What is a CLO?

A Chief Learning Officer (CLO) is a senior executive responsible for leading an organization's learning and development initiatives. The CLO is responsible for designing and implementing programs that enhance the knowledge, skills, and abilities of employees to support the company's overall business strategy. This includes developing and delivering training programs, creating a learning culture, and ensuring the effective use of technology for learning. The CLO works closely with other executives and departments to align learning programs with the organization's goals and objectives.

What does a Chief Learning Officer do?

Here are some of the major responsibilities associated with the transforming role of CLO.

  • Developing and implementing a comprehensive learning and development strategy that aligns with the organization's goals and objectives.
  • Overseeing the design and delivery of training programs, including technical skills training, leadership development, and professional development courses.
  • Ensuring that employees have access to the resources and support they need to develop the skills and knowledge required to perform their jobs effectively.
  • Evaluating the impact of learning initiatives and identifying opportunities for continuous improvement.
  • Managing the budget and resources allocated to learning and development initiatives.
  • Building partnerships with other departments and stakeholders to align learning initiatives with broader organizational goals.
  • Staying current with industry trends and best practices in learning and development.
  • Building a culture of continuous learning within the organization.
  • Representing the organization in industry and professional associations related to learning and development.
  • Collaborating with HR, Talent Management, and other teams to integrate learning and development programs with other HR initiatives.

Steps to becoming a CLO

While there are many paths to becoming a Chief learning officer, here are some of the important trends:

  • Building a strong foundation in education and relevant experience: CLOs often have advanced degrees in education, instructional design, or a related field, and many have experience as trainers, instructional designers, or in other learning and development roles.
  • Developing expertise in a specific industry: Many CLOs have specialized expertise in a particular industry or field, such as healthcare, technology, or finance.
  • Gaining experience in leadership roles: CLOs are often senior executives who have held leadership positions in learning and development or related fields.
  • Building a network of professional contacts: Networking with other professionals in the field and participating in industry associations and events can help build relationships and increase visibility.
  • Demonstrating a commitment to continuous learning: CLOs are often thought leaders who are passionate about learning and development, and they stay current with industry trends and best practices.
  • Building strong communication and interpersonal skills: CLOs must be effective communicators and able to work with a wide range of stakeholders, including employees, executives, and external partners.
  • Developing a strategic and data-driven approach: CLOs must be able to develop and implement comprehensive learning and development strategies that are based on data and aligned with organizational goals.

CLO skills

what is a CLO?

These skills are helpful to think about if you want to be a Chief learning officer:

  • Strategic thinking and leadership: ability to align the learning and development strategy with the organization's mission and goals.
  • Business acumen: understanding of business operations and the ability to measure the impact of learning initiatives on the bottom line.
  • Knowledge of learning and development best practices: staying up-to-date on latest learning theories and technologies.
  • Communication and interpersonal skills: The ability to effectively communicate with different stakeholders and build relationships across the organization is critical to the role of Chief learning officer. Externally, these skills also play an important role in business networking
  • Data analysis and evaluation skills: ability to gather and analyze data to evaluate the effectiveness of learning programs.
  • Project management skills: ability to plan, execute, and manage complex learning initiatives and programs.
  • Adaptability and flexibility: willingness and ability to change course as needed and respond to shifting business needs.

How much do CLOs make?

How much a Chief learning officer makes depends on the industry and company but according to the average base salary for a Chief learning officer is $212,000 per year with the potential for bonuses and other incentives. 

Famous Chief Information Officers

Here are some notable Chief learning officers that aspiring executives can look to for career guidance and inspiration.

  • Chade-Meng Tan: Head of Google’s School of Professional Growth, Chade-Meng Tan plays an important role optimizing the learning and development needs of Google’s dynamic workforce.
  • Melanie Rosenwasser: DropBox is a culturally forward-thinking company, and Melanie Rosenwasser plays a big part in that as she leads the company’s People Team and manages learning and development initiatives. 
  • Simon Lambert: The Chief learning officer at another tech giant, Microsoft, Lambert lead’s the company’s learning team in the UK, bringing vast experience and innovation in his approach to the role of CLO.

Best resources for aspiring CLOs

If you’re looking for additional resources on how to be a CLO, consider the following:

  • Professional organizations: organizations like the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and the International Association for Corporate and Professional Development (IACD) offer resources, networking opportunities, and events for CLOs and learning professionals.
  • Books and articles: books such as "The Chief Learning Officer" by Shar McBee and articles on learning and development best practices can provide insight into the role of the CLO and its evolving responsibilities.
  • Online courses and programs: platforms like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning offer courses and programs on learning and development, leadership, and management.
  • Conferences and in-person events: attending conferences and events focused on learning and development can provide opportunities to network and learn from experts in the field.
  • Industry websites and blogs: websites such as eLearning Industry and CLO Media offer news, trends, and information on the latest learning technologies and best practices.
  • Mentorship and coaching: seeking guidance from experienced CLOs or learning professionals can provide valuable insight into the role and offer guidance on how to develop the necessary skills.

How to be a CLO | Conclusion

becoming a chief learning officer

The first step toward any goal is simply moving forward. By reaching the end of this article, congratulate yourself on doing just that. Remember the road to any top-level executive position is long, but there are countless opportunities to enjoy every step along the way. Planning for the long-term is great but don’t forget to embrace your present situation by focusing on quality in your daily work. Do that and you’re well on your way to becoming a CLO.

Good luck!


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