Speaker Spotlight – Maryland DHS CLO Michael Dorsey

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Our world has changed so much in a year. COVID-19 has gripped the planet and forced people in all walks of life to re-examine what they are doing daily, to abandon the unneeded and embrace the things that work and matter most in their respective lives. Organizations are having to embrace that strategy as well. It can be felt across the board, especially in the learning organizations.

In many cases, employees are remote and are required to learn in new ways… all while the company is finding its traditional forms of content transmission must adapt to this new reality.

Out of that, the Corporate Learning Network as devised the next iteration of Corporate Learning Week. This year’s event is all virtual and offers sessions on four non-consecutive days:  March 9, 16 & 23. The fourth day features a series of master classes and an interactive group discussion focused on the management principles of Peter F. Drucker.

One of our featured speakers is Michael Dorsey. He’s the Chief Learning Officer for the Maryland Department of Human Services. Being a leader of a state-led organization definitely gives Dorsey a unique point-of-view, so we asked him to look at the current trends and provide learning leaders like you a path forward into a successful 2021.

Michael Dorsey

Chief Learning Officer

Maryland Department of Human Services

Speaker Spotlight

What’s the most significant challenge facing learning leaders right now?

Number 1:  figuring out where the “new normal” in learning is going to land especially with learning budgets at risk due to financial shortfalls caused by the pandemic.  Since this is an unprecedented time in the workplace, there are very few case studies or white papers to offer guidance to leadership in the learning community. 

What’s the solution(s) to that challenge?

  • “Frank” and honest conversations with fiscal decision makers and organizational leadership concerning the future of learning initiatives within the organization.
  • Reengaging with strategic plans of organizations and connecting learning initiatives with the strategic plans. This will allow an opportunity to showcase the need for learning initiatives that promote the success of strategic plans established.  (Post Pandemic issues like Emotional Health, managing remote workforces, onboarding Millennial and Generation Z to the workplace, etc.). 
  • Building buy in amongst organizational leadership in regards to learning initiatives.

What’s your approach to leading the learning function?

  • Engaging and interacting with the strategic vision of the organization as established by organizational leadership.
  • Focusing on behavioral outcomes in regards to learning initiatives to place on the priority list.
  • Understanding the “business” of the organization our department is charged with supporting. The learning office is no use to the organization if it cannot relate to the “business” of the organization.
  • Actively engage the workforce to determine needs on both a line staff level and at a management level. It is important to pay close attention to what is “needed” as opposed to what is simply “wanted.”
  • Benchmarking other organizations of various types to consider how they are approaching the current environment.

What new strategies or technologies excite you most in this field?

Definitely the remote worker and the increased use (and reliance) of technology to perform work duties.

What are you most curious about?

For me, I am most curious about whether the training we provide is actually, “working?”  How do we ensure retention of information and the true impact it has on the quality of the workforce and what it produces? 


Michael Dorsey
Chief Learning Officer
Maryland Department of Human Services