When Chief Learning Officer (CLO) Magazine was launched in August of 2002, the members of the Editorial Advisory Board represented the following companies: Cisco Systems, Delta Airlines, The Home Depot, IBM, International Data Corp., Marriott International, Oracle and Toyota.  You've probably heard of them.

The make-up of the Advisory Board companies made me wonder what of the experiences of CLOs for these large companies was being shared and implemented in companies that were much smaller.  Those in the role of CEO, COO, CFO and often CIO at large organizations have a counterpart in most small and mid-sized businesses.  The CLO, though, is someone typically found only in the largest of the large. 

I cringe because small- and mid-sized businesses can greatly benefit from having someone to instill a true learning culture early-on.  Through the earlier stages of growth a culture is more pliable and technology is more reasonable.  Compensation structures can be tweaked to be more effective at rewarding the right behaviors and learning tools and methodology that supports those behaviors can be tested and refined.

Small- and mid-sized organizations can quickly capitalize on the fact that 75-80% of the information that employees need to do their job comes from their network (i.e. asking someone a question) and on-the-job experiences (i.e. intranet, Google, searchable eLearning, podcasts, etc.).  The remaining 20-25% is comprised of workshops, manuals, seminars, etc. and what are often the go-to vehicles for large training departments.

Knowing this and structuring learning and development around it while still nimble creates a strategic advantage that will pay dividends throughout the lifecycle of the organization.  Appoint someone, internal or external, part-time or full-time, CLO or any other title, to oversee the learning and development in your organization and to ensure that it provides employees with the knowledge, skills and mindsets to further you along your strategic plan.  And keep in mind that this is rarely accomplished through the modes of traditional training.  Having this mindset early will help as processes, systems and culture are refined and matured.