Why Chief Learning Officers Should Be Driving Digital Transformation

Written by: Sarah Reynolds

Read Time: 2 min 30 sec

To push Industry 4.0 projects forward, many best-in-class industrial organizations have created Chief Digital Officer and Chief Innovation Officer positions, tasking these new leaders with shepherding the organization into the future. But have Chief Learning Officers been left out of critical discussions about how these projects will affect the workforce?

Chief Learning Officers (CLOs), along with Chief Human Resources Officers, form a strategic link between employees and the C-Suite. While learning has long been considered a support function, modern CLOs now design, implement, test, and refine learning initiatives directly in line with key business initiatives. This alignment allows Chief Learning Officers to offer new, people-first perspectives on digital transformation, guiding the implementation process for Industry 4.0 initiatives.

But CLO’s contributions to digital transformation can extend beyond the implementation process. When given a seat at the broader digital transformation table, Chief Learning Officers can be critical evangelists for these initiatives, championing the acquisition of new technologies, driving the adoption of these technologies internally, and pushing for organizational change when current processes and procedures block these adoption efforts.

Rethinking the status quo

Digital transformation can help industrial organizations reinvent how their products, processes, and people deliver value to both customers and their bottom line. But while Chief Digital Officers might prioritize product and process changes, Chief Learning Officers will take a decidedly people-first approach to digital transformation.

Through this lens, CLOs can offer strategic leadership and direction that keeps employee needs front-and-center in product and process improvement discussions. They can also serve as advocates for new technologies that will help employees work smarter, improving productivity, throughput, and worker safety. For organizations looking to build a business case for Industry 4.0 investments, CLOs can help broader transformation teams understand the true value of new and emerging technologies.

Driving adoption

While Chief Digital Officers have earned the title ‘transformers in chief,’ their transformative ideas cannot be brought into reality without the support of Chief Learning Officers and Chief Human Resources Officers. Digital transformation requires alignment across the workforce, both vertically and horizontally, to launch successfully. But more than that, it requires immense employee support to thrive.

From the outset of any Industry 4.0 initiative, Chief Learning Officers can provide valuable intelligence to their counterparts in Operations, IT, and other functions about which programs, processes, and even technological devices will be easy for employees to wrap their heads around and which might require more change management and training to successfully implement. As members of the larger HR function, Chief Learning Officers can bring the voice of the employee to the table in strategic digital transformation discussions, helping other leaders understand potential barriers to adoption and identify the proactive steps they can take to streamline the introduction of new processes and technologies.

With their people-first approach to digital transformation, CLOs are uniquely positioned to help design Industry 4.0 programs and initiatives that have a high rate of success once they’re rolled out to employees – and then to equip employees with the tools and training they need to embrace these new processes and technologies.

Championing change

Beyond connecting the dots between digital transformation strategy and employee training needs, Chief Learning Officers are also uniquely positioned to serve as advocates for embracing big changes that impact the workforce. New technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) hold huge promise for helping employees do their jobs more efficiently, effectively, and safely, yet training alone cannot completely bridge the gap between the technology employees are comfortable with today and the technology that they’ll need to adopt to succeed tomorrow.

As digital evangelists, Chief Learning Officers can help communicate not only how to use these technologies, but also why adopting these new technologies will help improve employees’ workflows, processes, and overall effectiveness. They can also help position adoption as part of larger employee development programs, emphasizing the strategic nature of getting comfortable with new digital technologies at work.

Getting started

Looking to engage your Chief Learning Officer in a digital transformation project? Start with a discussion around augmented reality. New findings from ABI Research demonstrate that AR can dramatically accelerate training processes, making it quicker and easier to capture the expertise of tenured employees and transfer that knowledge to new hires. By focusing first on technology with deep learning applications, you can quickly align with your CLO around the benefits of digital transformation in your business. Download the report from ABI Research to learn more.

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Tags: Augmented Reality Aerospace and Defense Automotive Electronics and High Tech Industrial Equipment Life Sciences Oil and Gas Retail and Consumer Products Digital Transformation Industry 4.0

About the Author

Sarah Reynolds Sarah Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing for PTC’s augmented reality business, where she explores how AR can help organizations recruit, empower, and retain top talent. A ten-year veteran of the HR market, Sarah brings a focus on HR’s strategic role in enabling digital transformation and creating best-in-class employee experiences to her work at PTC. Sarah writes and speaks widely about pay equity, diversity and inclusion, and the intersections of bias, ethics, and technology, contributing to Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Institutional Investor, Business Trends, the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) blog, and speaking at live and virtual events hosted by WorldatWork, SHRM, HR Dive, AICPA, and more. You can follow her here on the PTC blog, or on Twitter @fairpaymonster.