India: CLO Summit

I attended the CLO Summit (#CLOSummit) in Mumbai last week. It was an interesting conference bringing together the CLO and HR community – companies like Infosys, Wipro, Deloitte and GE, Government sector representation with DPE, NSDC, NABARD & others and vendors such as HBP, 24X7, LearningMate and many others. I went to the summit trying to get a sense of the mindset and innovations that exist today. Some observations based on the participation (may not be entirely generalizable):

  • Face to face/virtual instructor led training is the dominant mindset today, but with a growing understanding that, given the scale, that e-based methodologies need to be quickly incorporated
  • Large companies like GE and Deloitte already have well established processes in place which they have perfected over the years. There is a lot of thinking and innovation into how programs for leadership and management can be innovated upon with a strong focus on mentorship and coaching.
  • The government sector behemoth seems to be waking up to the possibility of high productivity growth because of structural changes made by increasing accountability.
  • Vendors are ahead of the curve already, talking about social learning networks and Web X.0. But companies, with the sterling exception of Infosys, which has understood that knowledge management and learning are intimately connected, do not yet understand how community/network led learning can contribute. In fact, informal learning ranked the lowest among the priorities in a survey. It was good to see HBP (Harvard Business Publishing) take a jab at combining community features inside a program though I could see slow adoption of informal approaches (they called it blended learning) among the participants.
  • Social Media: Although there is an appreciation that the younger generation is digitally driven, it does not really factor into any large scale impacts. There were only about 6 people out of over a hundred that were tweeting. I am pretty sure none of the CLOs were, mostly vendors.
  • India’s demographic dividend, the mass of over 500 million people who comprise India’s working population, and the challenges that it poses for us, was clearly identified by NSDC.
  • Custom eLearning is still a relatively small thing in the mindset – OTS courses such as those provided by Skillsoft and HBP are more in vogue
  • Conferences are not yet open like in the West. There is pretty much no thought on opening up and sharing in a structured manner using social media.
  • Smaller companies are struggling with the role of the CLO – the mindset of the typical CEO is inimical to the aspirations of the CLO with a voiced apprehension over the business impact of specific learning interventions – a very fundamental disconnect between the two roles.

The conference also brought out, through the blunt presence of Sudhir Mishra, film maker, the fact that clearly the dominant teaching-learning paradigm in corporate India is clearly more informal, on-the-job than formal, in any form. This conclusion may sound startling given the focus on formal classroom training, but it is my perception that business in general values the on-the-job much more than classroom at this point. It values classroom or virtual, because that provides scalability to some extent, but ultimately, its between the manager and the worker, a web of intricate inter-dependence.

This is clearly reflected in the challenges voiced by HR professionals – business is not responsive to L&D demands. It is not responsive because it feels more comfortable doing the training by itself, in informal settings, on the job. That is not just a matter of delegation or expertise, it is more a time-tested method by practitioners living the business every moment. And that method, despite all the L&D expertise, is still preferred with L&D doing the basic job, the more mechanical learning, the coordination and structure.

But the most disconcerting thing that emerged was that there was absolutely no emphasis on learning in the CLO’s role definition. The CLO was mainly perceived to be, as Wikipedia puts it, is the “highest-ranking corporate officer concerning talent or learning management of a corporation or agency”.

Of course, the CLO is a business facing education manager, but in my opinion, she is there to co-create a learning organization – an organization where learning and innovation is a culture – rather than being there to create the most fantastic learning process management systems based on roles, competencies and abilities frameworks.

She is there to bring expertise on how learning should happen, on how to harness the knowledge in her organization, in unleashing the power of collaboration through technology, on making her workforce responsive and adaptable.

And in that role, she will find, that she does not need to train, but just connect and facilitate learning experiences. And to expose business to how they can train themselves better through technology.

It is a different perspective – one that involves the shedding of any feeling whatsoever of being able to control “training” or “showing RoI” – while at the same time sharing the goal that a more learned workforce is a business requirement.

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