You’re the new Chief Learning Officer! Now What?

Congratulations! You’re the new CLO (Chief Learning Officer). Now what do you do?

The first 90 days in any executive role can be daunting. More often than not, you walk into a new executive role because it’s been vacated or emptied due to a gap in satisfaction or performance. There is pressure to show results quickly. When you own the learning journey on behalf of the organization, that pressure can be increased because you have to care equally about results, effectiveness and experience — all while successfully leading a team.

If you are a new learning leader or you are hiring a new learning leader, Brandon Hall Group™ recommends the following three-phase process to orienting to your work in the first 90 days. There is no hard and fast timeline associated with the three phases; for example, 30 days each. Rather, the phases are loose groupings of like tasks designed to move you from understanding to action that will move you and your company forward.

As you embark on these first 90 days, you want to establish your credibility as a leader, gain a clear understanding of the current state of learning in your organization and lay out a clear vision for moving forward. Here are 15 actions to take as you begin your journey.


Phase One: Understand the Current State

Understand the level of business impact your current learning programs are having.

  • For each active program, look at relevant performance data and determine how that learning program is impacting the bottom-line results of the business. This should be aligned with organizational priorities of course. It will also serve the added benefit of giving you insight into the state of data in the company.

Evaluate the effectiveness of your learning technology ecosystem.

  • What is in place? How is it being used? Do people like it? Are there obvious gaps in capability or underutilization? Understanding what you have and how well it’s working (or not) is key to determining a plan going forward.

Review the alignment of the learning strategy to business strategy.

  • From our point of view, if a learning program isn’t directly tied to a business strategy, it probably shouldn’t be happening.

Determine the level of engagement and effectiveness of your learning programs.

  • Who are your learning audiences? How many people complete courses? What is the learner feedback? What is the associated retention of learning participants in their roles? Do learners recommend courses to colleagues?

Are we measuring/developing/supporting the right skills for the business?

  • What are they? How are they defined? How are they measured? How do people know about them?

Evaluate the effectiveness and capability of your learning team and structure.

  • The larger and more complex the organization, the more scrutiny the learning organization structure requires. Do you have the right skill sets available on the team? How is the learning team perceived by the rest of the business? What do they do well? Where are there obvious gaps or low-hanging fruit?

Review governance structures and policies.

  • Research is very clear that learning governance leads directly to higher levels of effectiveness, alignment and success for learning teams. What is the current state of learning governance? What needs adjusting or changing?

It’s important to note that in most organizations, some of these elements may be missing altogether. That’s okay. The goal of this first phase is to simply get the lay of the land. It can be starting from scratch or simply validating what you learned through the interview and hiring process.


Phase Two — Gap Analysis

This phase is all about getting very clear about what the business needs from its learning team. It builds on the assessment from Step 3 in Phase 1 to painting a very clear picture of performance needs and how learning can help drive improved performance.

What are the current business targets and how is the company performing?

  • All companies have a set of metrics they manage to. You must understand the current state of those performance indicators at an organizational level.

Where are their obvious opportunities to impact business outcomes?

  • Based on that understanding and your knowledge of current and/or planned learning programs, where can learning quickly have an impact on improving, supporting, or protecting current organizational performance?

What needs to happen to create stronger alignment and business impact?

  • As you head into these conversations, depending on the organization’s level of maturity, you may find that business partners are not accustomed to working with learning in this way. Look for the pathways to building that strong alignment and business impact recognizing that can be a long-term solution.


Phase Three — Plan for the Future

Do you have the right learning strategy and structure to support the business?

  • If yes, do the right people in the business understand that? If no, how will you adjust?

Do you have the right team skills and capabilities to deliver results?

  • What is your plan for maintaining or building the right capabilities on your team to deliver what the business needs?

What changes do you need to make to your technology ecosystem to empower success?

  • Building key partnerships with IT and Procurement in laying out the business case for changes or additions in technology partners is key.

Leverage governance teams to prioritize and map out action-planning.

  • No matter how experienced or strong you are as a learning leader, you can never do it all at once or in short order. You will have to prioritize. Leverage your learning governance (or prioritize the building of learning governance) to help you with this process. This eases the way toward approvals, funding, etc. It also acts as change management preparation when key leaders are involved in decisions, they are more vocal about the importance of adopting change.

Determine how you will measure and track progress and movement forward.

  • What gets measured, gets done. You must have a plan for this upfront and bake it into every aspect of your learning workflows.

It is critical to keep in mind that this is your starting place, not your destination. Your plan will and absolutely should change over time as you learn more, as your organization matures, and as your business needs shift.

Always keep in mind that as CLO, you will need help. Looking for the right partners to enable the success of your team’s efforts will be absolutely critical. Brandon Hall Group™ Smartchoice® Platinum Preferred Provider LearnUpon can help you simplify, align, and execute a performance-focused learning strategy. You may want to start with this post on strategic alignment.

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Matt Pittman



Stay connected

Get notified for upcoming news subscribing

Related Content

Matt Pittman

Matt Pittman brings nearly 30 years of experience developing people and teams in a variety of settings and organizations. As an HR Practitioner, he has sat in nearly every seat including Learning and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Succession Planning, Talent Acquisition and as a Human Resources Business Partner. A significant part of those roles involved building out functions in organizations and driving large scale change efforts. As a Principal Analyst, Matt leverages this in-depth experience and expertise to provide clients and providers with breakthrough insights and ideas to drive their business forward.

Resubscribe to our email distribution list.