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During the inaugural Leadership Forum program, taking place March 14, Rob Lauber, Senior Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at McDonald’s Corporation, will address how he has approached his organization’s efforts to build culture and measure the return on investment.

We sat down with him for a sneak peek at what he will be covering and what you can do as a leader in your own organization.

HR Leader: Building a strong culture is no small task. How do you keep employees (or team members) motivated and excited to learn, develop and flourish?

Rob Lauber (RL): At McDonald’s, that is a great question given the way our system is structured. McDonald’s independent franchisees bring the culture to life in their own restaurants, and this is an area that we as a company are continually focused on. We think a lot about the value proposition of McDonald’s as an employment brand and we work in partnership with our franchisees to enable them to bring it to life each and every day.

HR Leader: Across your many roles – from Cingular Wireless to Yum! Brands to McDonald’s – what is one accomplishment you are most proud of?

RL: I have been super fortunate to be able to work on some amazing initiatives across those three companies. But I have to say that I am most excited and proud of our work here at McDonald’s. It is no small – or quick – feat to work to transform an iconic brand on a global level and I am fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to play a role in helping McDonald’s become an even better restaurant company. Our move to downtown Chicago, for example, has enabled me and my team to reinvigorate the visibility, and the purpose, of Hamburger University, which has been around since 1961 and is iconic on its own. I am super proud to be able to reimagine what it can be in our new offices and see that vision come to life.

HR Leader: Since starting with McDonald’s in 2014, what’s the biggest risk you’ve taken and where did it lead?

RL: Beyond coming to work for McDonald’s in 2014, as it is always risky to take on a new role, I think the biggest risk has been on pushing our mindset to think about learning versus thinking about training. I see the learning and development (L&D) function as needing to be focused on enabling learning versus owning a program portfolio. While there are certainly still programs we build, manage and deliver, we are also now in conversations where we are looking at how people are really learning, and how we can make that easier, more accessible or more relevant to driving our business strategy.

HR Leader: What is one book you recommend to emerging leaders you work with? Why?

RL: At the moment, I am in the middle of Dan Pink’s When. Exploring the timing of “when” to do something is pretty interesting. I can think of ideas and initiatives that I have seen fail during my career, which 15 years later would’ve been considered “breakthrough.” Timing is probably an area we, as people, don’t necessarily pay enough attention to.

That said, for emerging leaders, I don’t think there is one book I would point them to. Instead, I focus on making sure they are grounded on their own emotional intelligence and can realize that as you grow as a leader you realize success isn’t about what you do – it is about what the people you lead can do. There are probably 1,000 books about that, honestly.

HR Leader: Coming out of your Leadership Forum session on the ROI of culture, what impression do you hope to leave with attendees?


My point of view is that every business has a culture, like it or not.

The big questions, however, are: “Is the culture of your business what you want it to be?” and “Are the leaders of your organization intentional about that culture?” ROI is honestly not necessary if those two can be answered.

HR Leader: Share the best advice (or tip) you’ve come across for aspiring leaders.

RL: Early in my career, I worked for a leader at BellSouth who told me two things:

  1. Be clear on what you want – from others, from your work, from your career. That will enable you, and others, to know what you don’t want, too. And, it keeps people from guessing.
  2. Focus your energy on helping other people be successful. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction you can go home with every day when you do that. And usually you end up being successful in return.

I still focus on these two things today and they have served me well.

Register to learn more from Rob and his fellow panelists, Tim Foley (Director, Performance and Learning, Navistar) and Eliza Wicher, Ph.D. (Director, Global Talent Development, Groupon), on March 14 at 8:30 a.m.