How CLOs Can Serve a Diverse Ecosystem of Learners

May 26, 2021 | New Workplace Leadership | 3 min read

My children recently asked me to clarify what I do for work. In my mind, I wondered: How can I explain that I help people meet their truest potential, grow their careers, and make a difference in the world?

In rapid fire fashion, I visualized an impressive checklist of the projects, training programs, and implementations I’ve led. But what did I come up with? “I help people do well in their jobs — for example, by creating videos that show teachers how to effectively check your heads for lice.”

My children raised their eyebrows, smiled, and shrugged their shoulders with a “Hmm.” No further questions. That was the most fun and interesting example I could come up with. But that project was also important, and obviously still fresh in my mind from when I worked in a global childcare company’s training function, and my children were students in their pre-schools. In reflecting on my response, I asked myself: Is that really what I do?

Yes, that is what I do.

It’s awesome.

And I don’t just help individuals; I empower ecosystems of leaders and teams to grow and thrive.

Across all industries, learning & development leaders play a vital role in enabling the success of our complex ecosystems: empowering all learners with pathways to knowledge.

We are the stewards who help people learn whatever they need in real time, from implicit bias awareness to head lice detection. We serve all constituents. If we fail to educate and empower even the smallest, most nuanced groups with personalized learning experiences, they will fail, as will the entire ecosystem.

I learned a lesson about the interconnectivity of organizational ecosystems early in my career, when my team was about to roll out an inclusive leadership model to over 900 front line leaders in early childhood education centers. We thought we had all the data required for a successful launch, from stakeholder engagement survey results to key performance indicators.

But in a sea of complexity, we lacked an ecosystem perspective.

We received feedback during this project’s discovery phase from our front-line leaders. As enthusiastic as they were about the program, they faced realities inherent to their jobs that would make its sustainment and scalability taxing on their flow of work.

So I took the opportunity to go on location and walk side-by-side with front line leaders to experience their days. I was inspired by how they continuously learned and applied skills real-time: from knowing the perfect bleach-to-water solution for disinfecting changing tables, to understanding and applying the best methods for ensuring children feel fully loved, included, and safe.

In those early days leading an L&D function, I learned four key takeaways that still apply:

  1. Fully understand the diverse ecosystems in which our learners work and live.
    Be present, ask the right questions, and never underestimate the power of seeing people’s stories firsthand to learn and build awareness.
  2. Design learning plans using diverse learning technologies for diverse needs.
    For many employees, learning in the flow of work is vital. Mobile apps may be common, but they’re among the best tools for meeting busy learners where they are.
  3. Prioritize accessibility and inclusivity in your platforms and implementation plans.
    Without this, you could risk siloing learners and wasting valuable resources. Identify and remove logistical obstacles to opportunity.
  4. Don’t build a “field of dreams” — foster engagement.
    If you build it, learners won’t automatically seek it out. Create a culture of continuous learning with a push (at the right time) and pull dynamic.

I carry these lessons with me today in my role as Vice President of Global Talent Enablement at Skillsoft. These days, I often engage with peers who lead L&D functions for our customers’ ecosystems. The insights I’ve gained from their worlds have been so compelling, I decided to share them in a new Skillsoft 360 report titled “The New CLO: From Training to Transformation.” I encourage you to read it.

In the my next blog post, I’ll describe how leaders can harness the evolving nature of their jobs to create stronger more inclusive ecosystems.

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