Learning In Practice: Strategy Division 2 Winners

From left: Don O'Grady, Charandeep David and Deborah McCuiston


Don O’Grady

Senior Vice President of Human Resources, LPL Financial

Post-recession, a shifting business landscape prompted financial services firm LPL Financial to enhance its employee learning and development experience. From 2007 to 2013, the firm’s training and development served the business through learning that was categorized, cataloged and created based on the demands or needs. Although it provided training that was vast, reactive and just in time, it was not consistently strategic or aligned to business imperatives beyond immediate needs.

The company wanted to evolve the learning function to better serve the employee experience, promote both immediate and long-term career growth, and contribute business value and support the organization’s mission and strategy. Under the guidance of Don O’Grady, LPL’s senior vice president of human resources, the company implemented a number of simple, personaland integrated talent management strategies toimprove learning.

For instance, the company put in place a structured corporate university for all employees, and incorporated reputable external training accessed through a learning management system. It designed and developed a core curriculum for each college. It also established a direct connection and reinforced the financial services firm’s competency model. On top of all that, it integrated its talent management systems, including performance management, talent review and leadership development. Ultimately, the new university launched with five colleges and 152 new courses.

To date, 90 percent of employees in a company survey said they “agree”/“strongly agree” that their knowledge and skills have increased as a result of the new learning experienced created post-strategy shift. Further, total training hours year-over-year have increased. In 2012, 32,967 total employee training hours were completed; in 2013, that number jumped to 52,317.



Charandeep David

Head of Aircel Academy, Aircel

In 2011, the telecommunicationsindustry was going through a rough patch. For Indian telecom company Aircel, the tough economic environment was especially relevant — the company’s operating costs exceeded its revenue, and newer technologies such as 3G failed to take off as planned.

With a goal to reduce costs and improve revenue, company leaders decided to shift strategy. As head of the company’s main learning and development vehicle, Aircel Academy, Charandeep David recognized that to achieve a business transformation, the company needed to think differently about how it prepared and developed talent. For instance, the business shift would require many leaders to take new responsibilities and manage massive change initiatives.

With David’s leadership, the company created a leadership development initiative, the Future Leaders Program, to address the most important capabilities employees would need to wade through the transition. In partnership with Harvard Business Publishing, the program leverages a blended learning approach to assess leadership skills gaps and implements action learning projects, among others.

The Future Leaders Program successfully met the company’s business needs, helping it to reach profitability by the end of 2013. 



Deborah McCuiston

Director of Corporate Learning, Virgin America Inc.

Despite being in its seventh year, airline Virgin America Inc. still considers itself a “young and scrappy” company. Product innovations are conceived and worked on each and every day. Yet,despite the company’s active workflow, it didn’t have a process in place so leaders could set aside time to take in the bigger picture and plan long-term strategy.

Deborah McCuiston, Virgin America’s director of corporate learning, organized and facilitated an annual strategic planning session process that has ignited a swath of major company initiatives. For instance, SABRE, Virgin’s new reservations system allows it to compete with larger airlines when customers book plane reservations.