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Chief Learning Officer Interview

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Background Information

In order to advance the understanding of Chief Learning Officer’s role in developing a learning organization, this paper presents a research that was done about the role of Ms. Susan P. Peter, who is the Vice President, Executive Development and Chief Learning Officer in the GE Company. Before being promoted to the post of the Executive Vice President in charge of human resources staffing and development in 2000, Peters was the senior Human Resources Manager for the GE Appliances (GE, 2012).

In addition to these two positions, Peters has served the GE Company on several capacities from 1979 when she first joined the company through the Human Resource Management Program. She then served as the manager of Union Relations in the department of Central Air Conditioning until 1982, when this department was sold to the Trane Company. After two years in Tyler, Texas, she rejoined GE Appliances where she climbed the corporate ladder to be one of the company officers in 1997.

Academically, Peters is a Bachelor of Arts degree holder in English Literature from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame. Additionally, she earned her Master’s of Education degree from the University of Virginia (GE, 2012). Outside the GE Company programs, Peters serves in the United States’ Girl Scouts National Board of Directors. According to GE (2012), Ms. Peters is a married mother of one daughter.

General Electric Company is a global multi-products and services provider that originated from Thomas Alva Edison’s electrical innovations in 1890 (General Electric, 1956). The company is globally known as the largest wind turbines manufacturer in the United States. Since its inception, the company has made tremendous growth to offer variety of services and products such as electrical appliances, aviation, healthcare, lighting, consumer electronics, oil and gas products, global electronic distribution, financial credit services, software and hardware services, water treatment products, and rail services among others (Businessweek, 2012).

This United States based company is headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut (GE, 2012). Being an innovation-driven company, the company seeks to exploit technology in satisfying the technical and financial needs of its worldwide customers. An eighteen member board of directors, currently headed by Jeffrey R. Immelt as the Chairman and company’s Chief Executive Officer, forms the top leadership of the GE organization structure. As the Chief Executive Officer, Immelt also leads the company’s two presidents and other 22 corporate executives. In total, the company has 191 most senior executives, who work together to ensure higher productivity of the GE company’s over 301,000 employees (GE, 2012).

Assessment of the CLO’s Performance

As the Chief Learning Officer, MS. Peters has the role of identifying the talents for the GE Company, development of its leadership and ultimately planning succession within the company. In this capacity, she ensures that the company acquires the best talents while developing relevant training and education programs for their professional growth and smooth running of the organization. As such, the success of this company depends on her efficiency in analyzing the company’s talents needs against the talent market. Her ability to avail the necessary training and growth opportunities for the best performance of all employees is a key factor in the development of the company’s leadership and succession (GE, 2012).

In tune with Elkeles & Phillips (2007) view of Chief Learning officer to be responsible for planning and recruiting talent, Peters served the greatest role in the analysis of the company’s talent needs and identification of the required talents to meet such needs. To facilitate this, the company conducts on-campus recruitment events in order to capture the talents of various university students.

In collaboration with the Senior Vice president in charge of Corporate Human Resources, Peters recruits the new talent before taking them through entry-level leadership programs (GE, 2012). In this sense, the GE’s talent management system comprises of other officers other than the chief learning officer. Besides the responsibility of hiring the company leaders and workforce, the Corporate Human Resources Executive also shares the responsibility of developing these talents.

As the company’s Chief Learning Officer, Ms. Peters occupies the central position in developing the company’s workforce. She fits Elkeles & Phillips (2007) description of the current Chief Learning Officer. As other CLOs only get involved at the onboarding stage of the new talents, Peters walks the long way of a real CLO. She develops and implements the learning system that provides thorough training for both continuing and new talents (GE, 2012). After the recruitment of new talents, the Organization Learning Department takes them through a series of orientation trainings in preparation for their initial duties.  Elkeles & Phillips (2007) applauds this function as a crucial tool for reducing the rate of employees’ turnover.

Peters’ role seems to resonate with current trends in standard Organization Learning   Departments (Elkeles & Phillips, 2007). Apart from disseminating theoretical knowledge and skills the formal trainings, Peters strives to develop the company’s new talent by designing a learning program that rely heavily on the hands-on experience (GE, 2012). The experienced company leaders are used as mentors to the new employees. In such arrangements, the Learning Department ensures skills transfer in a collaborative environment that encourages employees to learn from each other.

In the GE Company, learning and development are lifelong activities that are encouraged and facilitated by the Organization Learning Officer. To ensure this endless learning, Peters avails continuous learning and development opportunities for the employees’ advancement. Such learning programs are structured to facilitate both personal and corporate growth. This is meant to encourage employees’ personal achievements.

In line with the recommendation of Elkeles & Phillips (2007), that an effective and successful learning should make a succession plan within the company, Peters identifies and prepares company’s future leaders. She has an added responsibility of identifying employees with high potential to lead different departments within the company. Also, some company employees are always identified and prepared to advance the company’s sales and innovations in different markets around the globe.  According to Elkeles & Phillips (2007), this practice is the best way for an organization to retain its current and potential top performers. By fostering closer learning relationship among employees, this learning program ensures smooth transition and succession within the company.

Recommendation of Additional Steps

In order to effective account for the resources lost or saved through this learning system and human resource management system, Ms. Peters should measure and monitor their employee turnover. The insights gained from the turnover trends would drive and inform the learning system to incorporate the lacking elements that might cause the turnover observed.

Apart from the normal employees’ pay the Chief Learning Officer should also look into other ways of rewarding the company’s talent. Since she is the officer in charge of workforce development, she should be able to recognize the employees’ performance and advocate for their motivation through incentives and other nonmonetary rewards (Elkeles & Phillips (2007). This would go a long way in managing the company’s talent.

Implementation Steps

Of the two recommendations, Ms. Peters’ active participation in the management and rewarding of the company’s talents is very critical for the betterment of the company and its workforce. In doing this, she should start by adopting an automated talent system that would facilitate friendly discussion between the top management and employees about their performance. Such a system would be helpful in the identification of the highly performing employees to be rewarded appropriately while encouraging the less performing ones to increase their productivity. 

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