The Four Faces of the CLO: A Framework for Understanding Roles and Focusing Development

CLO Framework

Posted by Amy A. Titus and Josh Haims on January 14, 2014

In a recent HR Times post, we looked at how CLOs (Chief Learning Officers) are thinking about and dealing with the many moving forces at work in the global marketplace and workplace. We’ve also been researching the CLO role itself to understand what’s expected of these leaders and what it takes to fulfill their mandate to ensure the organization’s talent has the skills and abilities to meet business needs. What grew out of our research is a framework comprising four distinct roles — or Faces — CLOs take on: Steward, Operator, Catalyst, and Strategist.

Each Face is equally important. Together they serve as a compass and roadmap — helping CLOs plot where and how to spend their time most effectively and guiding new CLOs as they grow into the job. The Four Faces provide CLOs, at all stages of their careers, a tool for thinking about their role given their various responsibilities — be that leading development strategy discussions with the board, rethinking performance management, inspiring their teams, or working on the next major strategic initiative with their leadership team and clients.

Let’s go a bit deeper into the Faces, which all have their own distinct characteristics:

    • Stewards are the “keepers of the flame.” They protect and preserve critical talent, making sure the workforce has the skills to support current and future business needs. They are fiscal thinkers with an operational mind-set, and they engage stakeholders.

CLO Framework

  • Operators balance capabilities, talent costs, and service levels in order to fulfill the CLO’s mandate. They see that development strategies and learning programs are integrated across the organization, oversee the design and delivery of courses, and make sure content and leading practices are being shared.

CLOs often say they spend the most time wearing the two Faces above. And they say they would like to expand their role to spend more time on the other two, more strategic faces.

  • Catalysts, as the name indicates, make things happen. Here’s where the CLO becomes a true leader — setting a vision, inspiring and motivating a team, and creating an empowering environment based on high standards
  • Strategists set talent strategy aligned with business strategy, taking on three roles in one: (1) big-picture thinker who understands and influences business strategy and priorities; (2) advisor, counseling HR and business leaders about talent development, and (3) arbiter, an authority on talent development trends and the return on development investments.

Together, the Four Faces encompass the full range of the CLO’s job. When reviewing the Four Faces, CLOs have said that they seek to have strengths in all of these areas.

As a CLO, you can use this model to intentionally decide where to spend more or less time based on what you want to achieve and what the business needs at a given time. It’s also an effective developmental tool to think about where you may want to develop, or help a successor grow.

Ask yourself…what face have you been focused on the most? Is it where you need to be?

Amy A. Titus Amy A. Titus is a director in Human Capital within the Talent, Performance and Rewards group of Deloitte Consulting LLP. She is responsible for bringing talent, learning, organization improvement, and change solutions to her clients.
Josh Haims Josh Haims is a principal in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, with more than 14 years of human capital consulting experience. He currently leads Deloitte’s learning and development practice and is the co-lead of the global learning services team.

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