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Book Review - The Chief Learning Officer

Years ago, I read an excellent book that is a great blueprint for leaders of training & development departments. I have enjoyed some books by the co-authors, Jack Phillips, who writes a lot about measuring the return on investment (ROI) for learning and development. The book, The Chief Learning Officer: Driving Value Within a Changing Organization Through Learning and Development (334 pages), by Elkeles and Phillips, definitely covers the topic of measuring ROI. But it goes well beyond this and addresses many other important aspects of managing a successful learning & development function.

First off, the book describes the role of an executive learning professional—sometimes called the “Chief Learning Officer” (CLO). The title was created by Jack Welch at General Electric to place emphasis on this function at the executive level, to strategically differentiate the employees of GE. Whether or not your organization is as progressive as GE in putting an executive leader over learning and development, there is much to learn from this book at any managerial level.

Some of the highlights of the books include the importance of having a strategy that aligns with the business and setting an appropriate budget that empowers the strategy to succeed. The authors address keeping the organization competitive with other industry leaders; focusing on value creation; and the importance of communicating successes to—and partnering with—management, earning their support, and how this can be done. It also addresses other important topics such as the mistake of assuming that training is the only performance intervention. Wise learning leaders will always ask questions to understand the need behind the request for a training program. If training is the wrong response, other tools should be utilized (e.g., coaching, compensation alignment, performance management processes, etc.).

The book ends with some excellent advice from learning executives from reputable organizations. One example from Pat Crull, VP of Learning and CLO at Time Warner: "CLOs are learning experts, but our primary role is to partner with other business leaders to enhance organizational performance.”

We recommend this book to business leaders at all level of an organization.