Do You Need a CLO?

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You know your company needs a CEO and a CFO. What about a CLO?

CLO stands for Chief Learning Officer, which is one of the more recent additions to the C-suite. The CLO is in charge of the company’s learning policies, goals, and budget. The first CLO on record is Steve Kerr at GE. Rumor has it he joked about becoming another CEO (in this case, referring to Chief Education Officer) but the Chief Executive Officer Jack Welch decided Chief Learning Officer was more appropriate!

Since the CLO position was officially created at GE in 1990 many companies have hired their own CLO, including Fortune 50 companies like HP, Bank of America, and Citigroup. As the importance of education and professional development increases, the role of the CLO is becoming more common. And with more than $160 billion spent annually on training and development, it only makes sense that CLOs are increasingly in demand.

What do CLOs do?

CLOs manage education and training programs within companies on both a macro and micro scale. They develop processes and implement strategies that work for their employees, whether that is to train employees on new technology, educate employees on new company policies, or teach the skills employees need to advance in the company. And then they make sure those processes and strategies actually work by monitoring the training methods and platforms being used as well as staying in communication with both managers and other C-suite executives.  

Because education and training are so closely tied with employee engagement, it’s important for a CLO to understand both. You might even say CLOs could also be considered Chief Engagement Officers, as CLOs often work closely with employees and are a vital factor in the level of employee engagement.

So if your company doesn’t have a CLO yet, do you need one?

Yes and no.

Depending on the size of your company, you may already have someone functioning as a CLO – they just lack the title. In smaller companies HR often acts as a de facto education/learning advisor who manages CPE, certifications, and other trainings required for employees. But as companies grow the need for a dedicated professional focused exclusively on training and education grows.

CLOs typically have decades of experience, stay on top of new technology and learning platforms, and are willing to make changes and adjustments as they go. If your company is committed to creating a real culture of learning, hiring an experienced Chief Learning Officer may be the best way to get started.