Learning in Practice 2015: Trailblazer Division 1

From Left: Elizabeth Bryant, James Bradford, Daniel Gandarilla


Elizabeth Bryant

Vice President of Southwest Airlines University, Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines had embedded learning in its individual departments for 40 years. Inconsistency and redundancy were common across the organization, and this caused inefficient resource use, increased costs and limited flexibility.
When the company acquired AirTran Airways in 2011, changes were imminent. Employees were assigned to find opportunities for change in the organization, and considering the company’s 25 percent growth, the decentralized training model was targeted for change.
To develop Southwest Airlines University, the learning department identified four pillars: collaboration, consistency, continuous improvement and community. This became important to live by as the company combined 11 separate training teams into the university. It also converted more than 100 operational employees into field instructors.
Elizabeth Bryant, vice president of Southwest Airlines University, led the team, socializing the benefits and challenges of this merger with business partners. A plan was established to ensure face-to-face communication, and new university employees filled out surveys to show their expectations. Transitions were done in three phases: department changes, title changes and moving into the Training and Operational Support building,
Efforts from these initiatives created a more collaborative, engaging learning environment, and cross-training skills led to new classes, while training consolidation eliminated learning inconsistencies.


James Bradford

Construction Learning and Development Manager, Bechtel Corp.’s  Oil, Gas & Chemical

Bechtel Corp. employs a variety of highly skilled workers. But craft laborers are increasingly hard to find, and retention is even tougher. By developing workers and creating a career path, the company has made a significant investment that has proven successful.
James Bradford, the company’s construction learning and development manager, worked with Chief Learning Officer Lucy Dinwiddie to gather stakeholders in a kind of think tank to ensure the experience offered content on leadership, safety, communication, quality and scheduling.
The High Performance Crew, or HPC, program blends a classroom-focused learning strategy with workplace reality, and its mantra is the 4 Ls: Learn It, Link It, Live It and Lead It. HPC also has an interactive learning map called “A Day in the Life,” which provides a game-based jobsite that simulates a typical day as a foreman. This program emphasizes that days can change at a moment’s notice, and foremen must remain flexible with schedules and maintain progress and safety.


Daniel Gandarilla

Director of Talent and Team Development, Texas Health Resources

Reorganizing learning and development at Texas Health Resources improved employee access to learning resources and reduced duplication and variation. By centralizing administration services and restructuring instructional design services, the company removed redundant courses, saving an estimated $120,000 in labor costs. Further, it restructured and reduced orientation time, and productivity increased.

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