on the front line

Learning Through Service

How are we investing in the learning, talent and HR profession? By Dave Defilippo

Dave DeFilippo is chief people and learning officer for Suffolk.
He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.


recently had the opportunity to spend two days teaching a group of 13 aspiring chief learning officers during the spring CLO Accelerator program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, March 24-25. For those unfamiliar with the accelerator, it’s a two-day course for learning professionals who aspire to become CLO for their organization and for business managers new to the role of learning leader. The experience is intended to provide students with the vision and tools to execute in the role.

The evening before the program began, as I thought about spending a weekend in a hotel conference room and then returning to my day job the following Monday, I wondered why I had committed to this seven-day workweek. However, after a few hours on the morning of the accelerator’s first day, as I began to hear the discussion among the highly engaged group of attendees, it became apparent to me that the time I was spending teaching the course, along with other senior practitioners such as Kevin Wilde, Justin Lombardo, Gerry Hudson-Martin and Lisa Doyle, was an important investment into the future of the learning, talent and human resources profession. Here is why.

First, being given the opportunity to be a teacher of corporate teachers gave me pause as I listened to the issues raised and questions asked by the knowledgeable and engaged group. Their insatiable desire to make a difference and contribute to their respective organizations was palpable from the first inquiry — about best practices to create and implement a learning and talent strategy — to their final presentations. Further, their commitment and dedication to their respective firms and employees remained evident throughout the two-day immersive experience.

Second, one of the unintended consequences of teaching is that you learn as much as you impart, which was certainly the case with the accelerator and those 13 curious and talented individuals. As much as the issues spanning learning and talent were familiar to our experienced course leadership, the currency and context brought forward by the group served as a reminder that our learning and development needs to be a continuous, lifelong endeavor. Julia Child once said, “You will never know everything about anything, especially something you love,” which seems particularly pertinent in this context.

Julia Child said, “You will never know everything about anything, especially something you love,” which seems particularly pertinent in this context.

Last, I finished the accelerator program and the weekend thinking that we should all find our own ways to give back as a service to the learning and talent development profession. Here are some questions I ask you to consider: Within our organizations, how are we preparing the next generation of HR practitioners? Are there early career professionals who should rotate through one of the human capital functions such as learning and development, talent acquisition or even as an HR business partner? Who are the line managers who would benefit from a rotation in one of the people practice areas and would then emerge as even more effective operational leaders as an outcome of that experience?

Outside of our firms, how are we helping to find and cultivate the next generation of HR talent? Be it by participating in professional organizations, social networking or even with our alma maters, are we engaging others and sharing the stories about the work we do?

Thirty years into my career, I closed that weekend in March with a sense of fulfillment and even more confidence that the future is safe given the level of talent among those who I had the good fortune to teach and learn from.