The Chief Learning Officer (CLO) has earned card-carrying membership into the C-suite along with a nameplate for the door on the corner suite. The position isn’t new; it was once called director of training or similar, but the CLO title carries with it an expanded skill set, leadership role, and scope of responsibilities in today’s predominant eLearning environment.
What is a CLO?
A position best suited to a team player with an eye toward collaboration and someone who fully embraces eLearning in all its formats. The CLO’s primary leadership role is to formulate the strategy to drive corporate learning direction, goals and policies. Together with the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), the CLO disseminates knowledge and information to the learner through technology, social media, and occasionally, through human resources (instructors). And, as always, it’s the person in top C-level leadership position who is responsible for bringing it all in at or under budget.
If you’re interested in learning, download our free guidebook to becoming a chief learning officer, here.
The first CLO ever (on record) is Steve Kerr, who was hired in 1990 by Jack Welch to oversee GE’s learning and development. The actual name of the job title came about in a rather curious manner: According to this USC interview, as VP of Leadership Development, it was suggested that Kerr be given the title Chief Education Officer. Kerr approached Welch and joked “I’m going to be CEO just like you.” Welch responded with a laugh: “There’s only one of those at GE! You can be Chief Learning Officer.” Because the position/title was created on the spot, Kerr actually had to create his own job description.
Fast-forward 25 years, and we’re already giving out CLO of the year awards. (!)
Notable Modern CLOs
- Tom Evans, PwC. 2014 CLO of the year. In charge of development for 39,000 employees.
- Amy Hayes, Facebook. Global head of Learning & Development for 9500 employees.
- Tamar Elkeles, Qualcomm. 2010 CLO of the year. In charge of learning for 23,000 employees.
CLO Gender Breakdown: Women Represent
According to PwC, only 3% of total CEO’s are females. The number is slightly better when it comes to female CEO’s of S&P 500companies, at 4.6%. The paltry representation of women doesn’t end there. A recent study for Fortune 250 companies found that only 18% of board members were women.
The fact that women are underrepresented in C-suite and higher up positions is an unfortunate statistic on its own merit, but does highlight an interesting caveat to the CLO role: Women might be better suited to becoming CLOs rather than men, as women traditionally enjoy larger representation in the role of educator. In fact, 74% of private school teachers were women. The high representation in education might explain the healthy numbers for female CLOs. After pouring over 1550 CLO profiles on LinkedIn, we found the gender results to be both surprising and refreshing: 45% of CLOs are female, which is a number considerably higher than male/female breakdowns in the C-suite.
CLO Salaries – Let’s Talk Numbers
It can be difficult to nail down an overall average salary for a chief learning officer. From the size of the organization to the location and the breadth of the job description, one can expect a pretty wide range of what’s considered normal.
A CLO’s true job description varies about as widely as the average salary and depends heavily on corporate management. In general though, it’s up to the CLO to oversee all things educational within an organization, including training, leadership succession, onboarding and in-house L&D – these are hugely important responsibilities and the CLO average salary is beginning to reflect that, especially in larger corporations. In short, if it has to do with training, education or leadership, the CLO should be the one taking the lead, and his or her salary will reflect that.
According to SimplyHired.com, the average CLO brings in $77K per year. But don’t rely on that number as gospel truth or the glass ceiling for CLOs. As CLO responsibilities and the general need for (better, more engaging) training increases, so do the numbers. SalaryExpert.com also points to location being one of the major factors in CLO salary, with CLO’s in San Francisco and New York on track to make up to $150K in 2015. This upward trend in salary average speaks volumes about the direction of learning and development as a whole: More and more organizations are understanding the importance of a dedicated CLO in further the company’s M.O.
Below are the cities outlined above in the infographic, as well as their average CLO salary: