Leave Learning to Employees, sort of

clocoverLeave Learning to Employees
By Kate Everson
CLO magazine November 2015

This article describes the CLO of Kaplan as he adapts to a world where employees can route around learning to find their own content. They don’t need him any more

Learner-created content presents a challenge to CLOs: they want to control it.

EasyGenerator CEO Kasper Spiro points out that you can’t. Learner-created content is out of control by definition. Better that CLOs focus on creating ecosystems that support learning, knowledge-sharing, and social interaction.

Kaplan set up a wiki that has proved very successful. (I’d call this working smarter, not learning, but that’s not a big issue). They tag wiki entries with an approval rating which strikes me as controlling but maybe not.

“Even if CLOs monitor learning closely, workers will still send around links to TED Talks and Harvard Business Review…” Of course. The CLO long ago abdicated responsibility for the totality that might be labeled learning in favor of focusing on specific issues. People make their own choices with or without him.

The article returns to employee-created or shared content. A consultant discourages employee-made learning materials because of the lack of proficiency among the employees. What nonsense. What does this do to morale? Who better to create content than those who are on the shop floor? An amateur produces content overnight; a training department takes months.

“CLOs have to make sure the channels hosting employee-created or shared materials are congruent.” Why is that? Most organizations are not congruent. I think CLOs should be worrying about other things.

The Kaplan CLO states his situation honestly:

At the end of the day, I as the learning professional am not going to change how the business runs. I can help influence it, but management owns the day, employees own their day. They’re going to do what they need to do to accomplish their objectives, so how do I fit into that and help shift that if I want to try to nuance it, as opposed to ask them to meet me where I’m comfortable.

This is one of those articles that begins with the right questions but offers pedestrian, half-way measures as solutions.

The CLO feigns near helplessness.


Instead of wringing his hands, he could:

• have his team fill the roles Jane Hart advocates in Modern Workplace Learning: collaboration specialists, community managers, and performance advisors.

• apply the new 70:20:10:100 performance framework to identify the gaps most rewarding to fill.

• help employees become effective DIY learners by making Real Learning available organization-wide.

• sell his management on the new reality that learning = working and the learning ecosystem approach.

In this age of the extended enterprise, I’d stretch this beyond employees to contingent workers, outsourced suppliers, distribution partners, and others in the value chain.

Once again, I fail to understand why we learning experts (L&D) provide no guidance on learning to the people who need to do it. It’s like “Here, do my job but I’m not going to tell you how.”

Real Learning acquaints participants with social learning and experiential learning with simple exercises. Why can’t a CLO pass along that knowledge?