Are You Taking Your Role as Chief Learning Officer Seriously?

Are You Taking Your Role as Chief Learning Officer Seriously?

Demand for Great People

You’re probably asking more and more from your employees. After all, people are often your business’s competitive advantage. Are you giving them learning opportunities and training in an accessible and personalized way?

Focusing on development, growth, and learning creates mutually beneficial relationships and culture of success. Designing a training program could be the difference in retaining employees long term. Employees who understand how to learn and seek learning opportunities on offer are employees that will help your business win for the long term

But what people need to know to do their jobs so your company can win changes all the time. How are you are you currently managing this process?

Maybe you’ve already tried hiring training staff or paid for outside consultants to run workshops. But maybe you are wasting money with these bandaids… Often, training is given but never implemented as people get on with their daily routines and only piecemeal wise use the training they have received.

What’s the root of this problem?

Perhaps you’re missing a mix of tools and organizational mindset. Your employees aren’t being encouraged to learn and often do not implement their newly learned skills. Your learning design is faulty. The principles of Gamification, behavior science, and human-focused design can help.

Let’s put on our Chief Learning Officer hat and think about how we can design for the best learning outcomes. .

By reading this, you’ll learn how to inspire your teams to get full value from training you invest in, or even to consider designing a new organizational learning experience for your team from scratch with the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard.

The feedback you’re getting if training isn’t designed well

To begin, let’s touch on improving broken designs, and then move on to improve good ones to make them great.

As you train employees, you should be collecting feedback from your employees about their learning experiences.

You should also see their learning in the work they do on a daily basis, and determine a way to measure this progress that works for both employees and managers.

But you should also listen.

If you’re hearing things like:

Training takes too much time away from work.



I don’t get to apply what I learned, so why does it matter?


…then you have a big red flag to address. Clearly, this feedback suggests the employees aren’t getting what you would like them to get from training.

The downside of a poor training experience

If a training experience isn’t great, employees could develop a negative attitude about it. You want your teams to be excited about their personal and professional growth, not viewing training as a box to check off.

If you overhear someone say, “I don’t know why they make us waste time on training,” you need to seek feedback from that individual immediately to learn and adapt your design.

You need to understand this statement at its root. For this individual:

  • What exactly made it seem like a waste of time?
  • Is what they are learning relevant?
  • Are they applying what they learned?
  • Is there anything else contextual (about their team, project, or situation at the company) that may have influenced this feedback?

Next, let’s switch our focus to the outcomes you are looking for.

Outcomes you ARE looking for…

Ultimately, you want employees to improve, apply new skills to their work, and feel great about their elevated contributions. This supports a strong work culture and tends to improve employee retention.

The Chief Learning Officer should create an employee learning experience which has these kinds of outcomes:

I look forward to training to improve my skills and ultimately my work.


When I learn something new, I immediately apply it to my work.


Great training also carries secondary benefits of:

  • a stronger work culture
  • increased retention
  • improved loyalty
  • better job satisfaction

…because you are investing in your employees, and your investment is actually perceived as such for them.

As Josh Bersin mentioned at Degreed Lens, “opportunity has become directly correlated to employee engagement and tenure within organizations.”

Next, let’s think about your Core Activity Loop.

Designing your core activity loop

Your Core Activity Loop involves Desired Actions, …

The Player commits Desired Actions and tracks Feedback Mechanics. The Desired Actions result in the Win-State (for the Player) and affect Business MetricsIncentives must be embedded in the Win-State.

Your Core Activity Loop focuses on the main segment of your overall experience. (Your experience may have many smaller activity loops as part of a larger experience; at the Octalysis Group we refer to various stages as Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, Endgame. Each stage can have a Core Activity Loop.)

As the Chief Learning Officer, your challenge is to first define your Core Activity Loop.

It might look something like this. Let’s take a basic training sequence for a new employee.

  1. Training
  2. Application
  3. Review or Feedback on Training
  4. Additional Application
  5. Further training at the right time

And here’s another for a long-term employee who is getting additional or advanced training:

  1. Training
  2. Application
  3. Review or Feedback on Training
  4. Additional Application
  5. Further training at the right time

These are both the same…which suggests we could use the same Core Activity Loop framework to design both experiences, with tweaks at the detailed level of feedback mechanics or incentives.

Building for people at different stages

The long-term employee above could know more about when they need more training.

Or not.

Self-awareness and willingness to look for new opportunities for growth are independent of time-at-company. However, we can instill these through hiring and culture, or even through training itself.

But while we’re on the topic of categories of employees, let’s look four major types.

4 Types of Employees

Regardless of time at company or skill set or area of the company, Yu-kai likes to think about employees in four simple categories. Maybe you will think of ways to further this matrix, but it is a helpful starting point if you haven’t already considered how to quickly think and design for employees.

The Players in your organization roughly break down into Politicians, Survivors, Performers, and Stars.

You want to discourage Politicians, motivate Survivors, leadership-train Performers, and reward Stars.

Very quickly, you’ve probably already thought about how your training and learning design could differ for each of these categories. Or, at minimum, how each of these categories of employees could or should be taken into account.

Building your own design (as the Chief Learning Officer)

You’ve got to start with Business Metrics. What impact do you want learning and training to have in your organization? Within this, you can determine more detailed Business Metrics linked to specific training and learning outcomes at the employee or cohort level.

Yes, you have a lot of work to do.

If you’re a Sales organization, you might want:

  • better over-the-phone sales skills
  • savvier writers for outbound email sales
  • keen researchers of social, with the data analyst skillset

You can start to see how granular this can get. If you do the work to list possible Business Metrics, you can then begin to piece together your Players and how to carry them through a Core Activity Loop to reach those Win-States which matter to your business.

A possible Core Activity Loop (revisited)

Earlier, we looked at a possible Core Activity Loop for a basic training sequence for a new employee.

  1. Training
  2. Application
  3. Review or Feedback on Training
  4. Additional Application
  5. Further training at the right time

At each of these stages,

Business leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk does one-on-ones with his employees across 5 offices (and multiple continents) to ensure they are getting what they need as they onboard and learn the skills and gain the relationships on his team. His core Business Metric (from my point of view) is “Are my new employees embedding themselves in the culture?”

Based on a few short questions and employee responses in a one-on-one setting, Gary learns if this is true or not, then helps the employee in the moment or course corrects at the operational or strategic level. Gary moves fast but sticks to his “religion.” His religion is the Business Metric described above: do his employees understand how they can succeed at Vayner Media.

Empower employees through project-based training

From Google’s 20% time (open projects) to directed projects (necessary for business), project-based training is embedded on an as-needed basis and helps employees understand the need for the training. It generally will improve the relevancy of the training and encourage application.

Mentor Cloud believes that “your most overlooked educational resource is your own top performers and experienced employees”. If you can find a way to involve your experienced employees in the training, you could do all of the following:

  • Make training relevant through project-based training
  • Create mentor-mentee relationships through training
  • Incentivize experienced employees to share their knowledge
  • Show newer employees what they can build toward (growth)
  • Demonstrate that development doesn’t stop at your company–even experienced employees are trusted with important learning experiences and training
  • Training is part of a leadership training program for experienced employees

…and much more.

Allowing for emerging outcomes

Starting with something simple can work wonders. A rigorous but simple design gives:

  • speed, faster to implement
  • iterative feedback (you get feedback from employees and trainers sooner)
  • faster impact to business metrics

Freedom to design one’s own learning

What shouldn’t be overlooked is an organizational learning design that allows for employees to create or supplment their own learning. Empower employees. After all, the invidual knows what she wants best. Sometimes, creating this freedom creates even more long-term trust. Who knows, employees may even have fun designing their learning routines and dreaming up side projects to help the company.

If someone comes up with, say, an idea to go to a conference to learn and create new contacts and a network–but they need budget–how can you encourage that creativity?

I once went to a marketing conference by hustling my way to a free ticket. I discovered people from my company (from a different team) were also there, though the company had paid for them to attend. While it was satisfying to work my way to a free ticket, it would have been even better if I didn’t have to take a vacation day to attend the conference.

Companies like Degreed offer their employees an annual learning stipend of $1,200 to learn however they like. With this, they seek a learning platform which is best for them, but also helps the company:

  • events
  • online courses
  • online learning communities
  • conferences
  • podcast training series
  • email courses

By being OPEN, you empower your employees and build a culture of learning and growth.

The important piece to consider is the Business Metric behind such a creative and open system. You still need to get results. Your Core Activity Loop embedded with the right incentive-driven feedback mechanics will get you there.

Start creating your learning design and empower employees right now

At the Octalysis Group, we’ve helped numerous companies on five continents create powerful Core Activity Loops to better engage their employees during learning and training to ultimately build a virtuous cycle of employee outcomes and long-term retention.

We encourage you to start by bringing in concepts from the Strategy Dashboard explained above. Good luck!

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