Interview with Kelly Palmer - CLO of Degreed and Author of "The Expertise Economy"
This year's Christmas Special of HR Innovation Day is approaching. I am very happy to have Degreed on board to held a keynote at the event.
And I am even more excited to be interviewing Kelly Palmer today. She is a well-known thought leader on learning, business, and career development. Kelly, the former CLO of LinkedIn and Yahoo, is currently on the executive team of Degreed as Chief Learning officer. Kelly speaks regularly at companies and business conferences around the world, has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Barron’s, Financial Times, Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., MIT Management Review, Scientific American, Chief Learning Officer (CLO), and on Bloomberg Radio. Kelly is the co-author of the book "The Expertise Economy: How the smartest companies use learning to engage, compete, and succeed". In this book she comprehensively describes the successes of companies in gaining insights into learning transformation processes.
Peter: First of all, thank you very much for Degreed’s support of my HR Innovation Christmas Event. It is a great pleasure for me to have Degreed on board.
Kelly: Thank you so much for inviting Degreed.
Peter: May I ask you to introduce yourself?
Kelly: Yes, I’m the CLO of Degreed and previously was the CLO of LinkedIn and have been in Silicon Valley my whole career in a variety roles including product development, corporate strategy, and learning/talent.
Peter: Not many German companies have a CLO. What are your tasks? How would you describe your role and experiences as CLO in general?
Kelly: I’d say my role at LinkedIn as a CLO is a bit different from my role at Degreed as a CLO. At LinkedIn, I was hired to start a learning organization from the ground up, so my role there was to develop a learning strategy (technology, content, experiences) for the company and then build an organization to support that strategy. I was responsible for Learning technology and had a small technology team with a product designer and several developers, I had a learning experience team that would design and develop engaging learning offerings for employees, both online and in-person. In addition, I had an Editor-in-Chief that was responsible for our content curation strategy as well as leaders who were responsible for leadership and management development, professional development, and technical development. I also ran executive coaching, employee engagement, on boarding, and talent management for the company. So as you can see the role is quite broad. Often times these roles are also called Chief Talent Officer. The roles of Chief Learning Officers and Chief Talent Officers are becoming more and more important strategically for the company as we think about upskilling and reselling the workforce.
Peter: You are now CLO at Degreed. Can you briefly explain the special challenges of a CLO in an education technology company?
Kelly: At Degreed, my focus is more on influencing the learning and talent industry and working with Degreed clients and other CLOs to help them think differently about their learning strategies. Learning shouldn’t be seen as a service, it should be a strategy that is part of the business strategy and we know that technology can be a huge enabler to help you achieve your strategy. This is why we wrote the book “The Expertise Economy” to help CEOs, business leaders, and talent leaders see how strategic this is to the success of companies where automation, digitization, and acceleration are dramatically changing the way we work and learn.
Peter: Degreed’s mission is to support companies by continuously re-skilling and up-skilling the workforce as well as to support individuals acquire new competences on an ongoing basis. What needs to change to adopt new ways of learning successfully? Or in other words, which barriers must be overcome?
Kelly: One of the biggest barriers to overcome involves fundamentally changing our mindset about what learning is, both for business leaders as well as people in the learning/talent field. Learning isn’t something that you order up to solve what ever problem arises (for example, "our employees aren’t doing this well, so let’s send them to training” is a very outdated model). Instead, we need to think strategically about how to help people build the skills they need to be great at the job they already have and to prepare for their career of the future. This is not only critical to the employees, but critical to the business strategy.
Peter: If companies want to start with education transformation, at which points should they start? What would you recommend?
Kelly: I often recommend that companies start with evaluating their learning culture. Do they have a culture of creating the right environment where learning is part of everything they do at the company, or is it a culture of compliance where people are forced to learn what others are telling them to learn just for regulatory purposes? Second, I think it’s important to figure out what your learning and talent strategy is and make sure that you are thinking about skills more broadly and not just learning programs. It’s critical that you know what skills your employees have, so take a skills inventory at your company. Then figure out what the gaps are and what skills will be most important moving forward and base your strategy on how you help people build skills. That’s where technology comes in — you don’t have to do this manually. We have technology that can help you with this type of strategy and give you data and analytics to help measure your progress.
Peter: The motto of this years HR Innovation Day is "Getting companies moving with HR". Most of the readers are HR professionals. So my question is: What role should HR play in introducing and ensuring new learning methods in modern companies?
Kelly: HR professionals should understand and help develop the learning strategy and help their business leaders understand how critical it is to the business strategy. Often times, HR professionals also treat learning like a service, and then that’s what business leaders expect — that they can go to HR to ask them for specific training programs. It’s up to HR professionals to change that conversation and turn it into a strategy conversation if we are to make progress in changing the mindset about what we actually do. That means HR professionals need to understand all the components of a learning strategy from technology to content to learning culture to data analytics. It’s not about creating learning programs, compliance training, and events. It’s so much more than that!
Peter: Thank you very much for this inspiring interview. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you continued success and open-minded readers of your book.
My Interviewee Kelly Palmer has a Bachelor of Arts in English/communications and a Master of Science in adult learning and education technology. She is the co-author of the book "The Expertise Economy: How the smartest companies use learning to engage, compete, and succeed". In this podcast Kelly talks about the needs of the future workplace & how the people who are preparing now for the future are those that are going to be most successful. Kelly lives in San Francisco.