The Added Value of a Chief Learning Officer to an Organization

James Von Bramer, St. John Fisher College


Over the past decade, many companies have begun to focus on organizational learning and how it directly influences organizational effectiveness. Organizations have shifted from traditional methods of training and development such as classroom lectures and broad based training methods, to technology based learning programs and building integrated learning environments. These new programs and environments are dynamic and equipped to adapt to changes. As a result, more organizations are beginning to understand the role of organizational learning from a global perspective and how it affects productivity, employee retention and overall organizational effectiveness. Organizational effectiveness is a measure of an employers’ ability to achieve their goals (The Bureau of National Affairs, 2006). Human Resource Vice Presidents and similarly titled executives have been a guiding factor in enabling organizational effectiveness and learning. These professionals have continued to develop new skills, responsibilities and competencies as organizational strategies and visions have evolved. Schwandt and Marquardt (2000) describe learning organizations in a world that is constantly and rapidly changing. The long-term success of organizations seems to rely on understanding their learning patterns in response to internal and external changes. To assume greater control of their own actions, organizations learn to react to changes in their environment and how they come to question their own processes and procedures. According to Schwandt and Marquardt, literature on organizational theory and practices has been increasingly concerned with the ability of organizations to learn to cope with the escalating rate of change and complexity of organizational environments. One way that organizations can proactively manage this change and better prepare for the future is by employing a Chief Learning Officer. A Chief Learning Officer is typically a corporate executive in charge of employee training, education and learning (Lustig, 2003). Chief Learning Officers encourage their employers to investigate what competencies will make their workforce successful and then align development programs with their strategic objectives to internal and external changes. They also create an environment in which learning is readily available to employees and try to determine what return on investment can be measured after learning occurs (Jossi, 1998). A vital responsibility of a Chief Learning Officer is building the foundation of an organization’s learning culture, as well as continuously modifying the programs to stay ahead of the constantly changing business learning environment.