The C-suite is expanding. 20 years back there were no Chief learning officers. The position was birthed almost overnight by Jack Welch. Big companies followed the lead and today almost every big organization has a Chief Learning Officer of its own.
While one Big C deals in tangibles- in crisp numbers, the other in takes care of the intangibles-culture and knowledge. And this is where the conflict begins. Chief Executive Officers and Chief Learning Officers take a different stance when it comes to learning expenditures. While both may be thinking the best for the organizations and might agree on their long-term goals, in face of adversity their short-term goals may vary considerably. CEOs are aligned to profits and CLOs are aligned with the development of their people.
But looked closely, their aspirations merge better than they appear to. It is the rainbow on the horizon that needs to be pointed to. And the only way they can get the best from each other is by bringing common terms on the table.
What CEOs want?
Goals. Profits. They want to see the results of training and L & D activities in the employee effectiveness. They want to know the relevance of training in achieving business goals and how L&D activities help in employee retention and engagement. And most of all CEOs want to know the return on the investment that they make on their L&D activities. CEOs are quite frugal when it comes to expenditures of any kind.
What CLOs want?
Up-gradation. CLOs want to develop the organization’s workforce to match the growing demand. They are attuned to the organization’s vision. CLOs want to build a culture of learning and development in the organization. Their prime focus is to upgrade the technology knowledge know-how. They bring large-scale changes in the organization.
Where do their priorities clash?
Culture changes and L&D initiatives are slow and subtle and are difficult to quantify. In such as case expenditures on them might look wasteful. Sometimes, training initiatives are not directly aligned with the company goals. Only 39% of organizations have disclosed that their learning objectives are directly aligned to their organization’s goals. In such a situation, it will be difficult for the training section to justify their expenses to the CEO who might have a better investment opportunity in his mind.
When it comes to cost-cutting in businesses, learning budgets are the first ones to go. This might create a major impediment and rift between the two.
How CLOs and CEOs align their strategies?
CEOs and CLOs need work together in partnership. And onus lies on the latter. If CEOs want to see numbers, then possibly CLOs can show the impact and gains from the learning initiatives in terms of concrete figures. If CEOs don’t understand the details of training, then CLOs can spare the details and show them the tangible benefits in terms of skills learned and their contribution to the overall company goals.