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Building Capability

Yum! Brands' learning strategy has been about making learning visible, consistent, valuable and relevant. Technology has enabled it to reach a high level of impact.

October 12, 2011
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Related Topics: Capability Development, Performance Management
KEYWORDS capabilities

As vice president of Yum! University, Rob Lauber considers himself a change agent in the organization: changing how it views and approaches learning. This approach, and learning success, is contingent on strategy and experience, not tools. For Yum! the strategy has been about making learning visible, consistent, valuable and relevant. Technology has enabled Lauber to get a high level of impact.

Elkeles: What do you think are the two biggest trends in the learning industry right now?

Lauber: I would say the first is how learning fits into talent management, and the second is the impact of social media on structured learning. I believe learning is complementary to talent management. The notion of talent management is about making sure you have the right people in the right jobs in the right place in your organization. Organizations need employees to have skills and capabilities to be able to execute their roles effectively. Learning has to play a part in preparing and enabling people to be successful in their roles as they move through an organization.

Elkeles: Where does social media fit?

Lauber: Social learning or informal learning isn’t new. What’s different is technology is increasing opportunities for informal learning. Learning organizations are trying to put structure around unstructured learning by focusing on how to measure it and how to track it. Social learning is about making it easier for people to learn from others. It can extend the learning organization’s influence by focusing on enabling learning to take place more actively rather than be seen as something that needs to become structured.

Elkeles: Does the learning function have to take an active role in social learning?

Lauber: There is still room for those in the learning profession to embrace, adopt and leverage social learning. Instead of focusing on the old mindset of programmatic learning, it is good to be open to thinking about the broader context of ways we can enable people to learn. I am always thinking about what experiences people need to grow their skills and increase their capabilities, how we can make it easier for people to learn in ways they want to, and less on what type of training course I should offer. My job and the job of my team is to enable others to learn. When we start to think that way, it changes the way we think about what we do.

Elkeles: That also changes how your organization works. What are you doing to address these changes?

Lauber: Our content and message to employees is focused on experiences as a critical development tool. The bulk of learning at Yum! is based on experiences — within an existing role — not on formal learning. On the social learning side, we are aligning all of our learning technology platforms and beginning to think about how we provide an integrated approach to access know-how at your fingertips. Employees can access structured learning through an online format or engage in learning from others through social learning opportunities, and even integrated performance support comes into the conversations.

Elkeles: So, technology has made a significant impact on learning?

Lauber: Technology has amplified and accelerated a way of learning that has been around since the beginning of time — social learning. It is a catalyst for learning to occur more easily and a way to even reduce the amount of formal learning activities we have in the organization. Many learning organizations are reacting to technology instead of leading it. At Yum! we’ve embraced it as another way to build people capability.

Elkeles: What are you working on that excites you?

Lauber: I’m working on a learning technology platform that’s rolling out globally to our 38,000 restaurants in 110 countries. What’s exciting about it is the reach and the transformative impact it’s having on the business. We’re seeing reduced turnover and a significant improvement in hospitality customer experience results in one of our key U.S. businesses. People are attributing these results directly to the development they are receiving.

Tamar Elkeles is chief learning officer and vice president of learning and development at Qualcomm and the author of The Chief Learning Officer: Driving Value Within a Changing Organization Through Learning and Development. She can be reached at

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