For centuries, man has had a fascination with the idea of a universal language — a kind of communication that all humans share, despite cultural differences, social barriers and geographical boundaries. Some have even tried to construct actual word-based international languages, such as Esperanto, to facilitate daily interactions and help avoid conflicts.
But I think the concept of a universal language is rooted at a much deeper level than an actual alphabetical construct. To me, it represents shared understanding — some internal sense that gives people the ability to distill the essence of a message or experience.
Over the years the powers of a universal language have been attributed to everything from music and art to food, love and even mathematics. In some of these cases, I get it. Take art or music, for example. The best works transcend cultural, historical or personal context and speak directly to our common humanity.
There is one arena, however, where I believe there is a universal language already spoken and understood. It’s the world of business, and the common communication medium is customer service. You know it when you see or hear it.
No one recognizes this fact better than the 2013 CLO of the Year, Rob Lauber, vice president of Yum University at Yum Brands Inc. Singled out from a competitive field of phenomenal learning professionals nominated for this year’s top honor, Lauber was selected by a blue-ribbon panel of his peers — the nine previous CLO of the Year winners — for leading the reframing of Yum University from a functional, U.S.-centric department into a fully realized global internal brand that stands for enabling learning across the organization.
One of the largest restaurant companies in the world, Yum Brands covers many geographies, languages and continents, with more than 39,000 KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants in more than 130 countries and territories. According to Lauber, the Yum organization has its own internal version of a universal language.
“What all the company’s brands and locations are expected to share in common is the constant pursuit of world-class operations,” he said, “which can only be achieved if all global employees are participating in consistent, relevant, timely learning experiences.”
It’s a challenging goal given the company’s complex, decentralized structure as a roughly 85 percent franchised business, and its diverse and dispersed workforce of more than 1.4 million worldwide.
As vice president of Yum University, Lauber is charged with the alignment and execution of global learning initiatives that are tied to multinational business objectives, including great customer service delivery. In the past seven years, he has put strategies, structures and innovative technology in place that build know-how across the organization and empower every employee to be an avid learner. The result has been a transformation in the way learning is enabled across the system.
According to his colleagues, Lauber has redefined Yum University into a more robust and effective learning engine by making workforce development programs more accessible, portable, globally consistent and cost-effective.
Lauber’s selection as the 2013 CLO of the Year also recognizes his entire body of work and valuable contributions to the industry, whether as a longtime member of the American Society for Training & Development board of directors and its chairman in 2010, his appointment to Kentuckiana Works (a 13-county workforce board), or as a previous winner of multiple Chief Learning Officer magazine Learning In Practice Awards during his tenure as executive director of learning services for Cingular Wireless Inc., now part of AT&T.
Recognition is another language people around the world readily respond to and understand. For the special supplement in this issue, the editors have compiled compelling profiles of Lauber and all the outstanding L&D leaders who received 2013 Learning In Practice Awards at the Fall CLO Symposium for the design and delivery of exceptional employee development programs. I hope you will join me in acknowledging and celebrating all their achievements.