The 5 Biggest Challenges for Chief Learning Officers Looking Towards 2020

The 5 Biggest Challenges for Chief Learning Officers Looking Towards 2020

What is a Chief Learning Officer?  The chief learning officer job description details someone who oversees all learning and training initiatives in an organization. They are the drivers of corporate strategy, who develop the skill set of individuals to help meet the end goals of a company.

Some chief learning officers come into an organization with learning theory and business analytics skills. They are team players who help mold employees to align with company goals and values, while harvesting their individual talents.  But like any role, the position of chief learning officer within an organization comes with its own set of obstacles and challenges.

Here are the biggest challenges of Chief Learning Officers looking towards 2020:

1. Lack of clear goals:

Training sessions can be incredibly expensive and time consuming, taking employees from important tasks at hand and asking them to invest in something abstract.  The chief learning officer, in coordination with upper management, must communicate why employees are being asked to attend such sessions and what kind of efforts are expected of them.  And perhaps most importantly, they must communicate how these new skills and considerations will directly affect their daily work and end goals.

2. Lack of organizational understanding:

If employees are going to fully sign on and commit themselves to training efforts, managers will also have to be fully onboard.  After all, it is their employees who are being taken away from their tasks and in turn affecting short term productivity. If no clear results are displayed to managers, they can easily dismiss the training as a time-waster. 

It is paramount for chief learning officers to communicate the Return on Investment (ROI) to managers.  Yes, employees are being taken away from them but they ultimately should make up for it in added value for the company, right?  Not making this clear enough can derail future training initiatives.

3. Lack of employee understanding:

Once employers or managers understand the importance of employee learning and growth for the company to be successful, the employees must be properly informed and briefed as well.  Why is their name on the list of participants needing training? Is it because they are not making satisfactory efforts currently?  How will they complete their weekly tasks in addition to participating in training sessions? A confused and concerned employee will not be a productive or receptive employee.  

Assuage employee fears about training from the get go, helping them connect the dots of the end goal of training initiatives. It is not because they have performed inadequately (hopefully) that they are being asked to engage in training sessions, but because the company believes in them, wants to empower them to reach higher goals, and needs them in order to create a successful and profitable enterprise. Once employees fully understand why they are there, it’s vital to set clear goals and expected timelines. 

4. Understanding that the medium is the message:

Gathering a large group of employees into a large physical training room session is not only expensive (travel) and time consuming, but many a times it is boring for the employee. And a bored employee does not translate to a receptive employee. As a chief learning officer, it is vital that you speak the language of the individual and teach them in the most dynamic and engaging way possible.  

A younger workforce will be most receptive to the latest technological tools. Engage employees from all over the world in an online virtual classroom.  Deliver content in more exciting ways including video or more bite-sized chunks to access on their own time.  Break the students out into smaller brainstorming sessions and have them report back to the main group. Technology must not be a distraction but a method to assist in reaching end goals step by step. Whatever methods or mediums you use, remember that adults don’t memorize, they problem solve.  Tailor training activities on solving problems – identifying problems, brainstorming alternatives, and implementing solutions.

5. Inadequate communication with management:

At this point, your goals are set, you are comfortable with the style/medium how to communicate them, and managers as well as employees understand the importance of the endeavors.  But it is vital that management work closely with the chief learning officer to help guide the focus of the training. Otherwise recently gained skills may not be beneficial to a manager’s aims in the short and long term.

A chief learning officer must work closely with various managers to gauge what is priority and what is the timeline to get there.  Stretching the training time to cover too many domains can leave your employees scattered and unreceptive.  Devise a learning schedule and try to stick to the laid out goals.


Successful businesses in 2020 will be the ones that train their employees and help them advance for the betterment of the individual and the company. Training and learning not only keep companies compliant, but helps propel employees into a new stratosphere of innovation, independence, and ingenuity that will bring value to a company. But the way businesses go about it continues to change. This is why it is vital for a chief learning officer to recognize the biggest challenges and be able to adjust and respond to them accordingly.

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Danny Swibel

Danny Swibel is the Customer Success Manager for Newrow, a company dedicated to helping corporations and educational institutions distribute their knowledge easily, elegantly and personally through virtual classrooms, webinars, and online courses. After completing his Masters degree, Danny has over 15 years of experience working in video, television and media. Danny is responsible for ensuring customer success, content writing and product marketing for Newrow.