MIT Sloan Offers Ways CLOs Can Drive Change During the Pandemic

George Westerman © MIT Sloan School of Management

According to George Westerman, the chief learning officer (CLO) position is evolving from a training role to a transformational role, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

George Westerman, MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer and Principal Research Scientist for Workforce Learning with the MIT Adbul Latif Jameel World Education Lab, says, “The role of the CLO is not just about training anymore. It’s about cultivating in everybody and cultivating in the company the ability to grow and to change and to thrive in this rapidly moving world.” This evolution creates an opportunity for chief learning officers to be what Westerman calls a “transformer CLO.”

Professor Westerman interviewed 19 companies earlier this year about their CLOs and found three ways CLOs can drive change:

* Set goals that inspire personal change – Work to develop mind-sets and capabilities to help workers perform now and adapt smoothly in the future, rather than simply developing skills. Westerman states, “ The point here is if we can help people develop this growth mind-set, then they will draw the learning as they need it. They’re going to want to change rather than just going when they’re told to get the changes.”

* Make learning personalized and engaging – Develop learning that is about creating engaging and effective experiences, such as daily questions, games, peer teaching, and global classrooms. “You get what you need when you need it, as opposed to just because it happens to be the time to do it or the time on the schedule,” Westerman stresses.

* Rethink the company’s learning and development structure – According to Westerman, CLOs and the departments they lead are changing in the following ways:

Organization – Learning teams are getting smaller, faster, and more agile, and focusing more on impact than spending.

Roles – Jobs that have not typically been seen in these areas, such as learning strategist, curator, and experience designer, are being added.

Development – There is a shift from creation to curation, a focus on multiple sources and formats, and removing underperforming content.

Co-creation – Trainers are no longer the ones determining what they are supposed to teach and developing courses on that subject. People are helping subject-matter experts deliver that training themselves, or through peer-to-peer training.

For more on the how to be a transformer CLO, view Professor Westerman’s Webinar.

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