In this episode, Rob Lauber discusses his passion for Learning & Development and his role in the McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity Program. Archways is an education strategy with multiple programs that are designed to help employees understand their purpose and grow along their career journey. Rob will dive into the amazing work he has done with McDonald’s and explain why it is his passion to help people find not just success in their careers, but in their personal lives too.
Along with host Anne Fulton they touch on how to become successful without a degree, how internal talent mobility can help improve retention, flexibility in our modern day of work, and how organizations can unlock the capability for employees to learn.
Rob Lauber has over 30 years of experience in the Learning & Development space, and it is easy to see his passion for helping organizations transform their learning infrastructures and helping people become successful. Connect with Rob on LinkedIn or at https://xloglobal.com/.
For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentexperiencepodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the Talent Experience Podcast!
Anne Fulton 00:25
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Talent Experience Podcast. I'm your host today Anne Fulton, and today's guest is Rob Lauber, CEO and founder of XLO Global and former Chief Learning Officer at McDonald's. And that's where Rob I first met. You know, he's a business driven talent learning and development executive who has been highly skilled at leading business transformations around the world, and so inspired me with the work that they were doing with the Archways Program at McDonald's and Rob, so a big welcome to you today.
Rob Lauber 01:04
Thanks Anne, happy to be here. Really glad to talk to you.
Anne Fulton 01:07
Fabulous to have you on. And I just wondered whether we could start with talking about the Archways Program, McDonald's Archways to Opportunities Program, because I thought it was so inspiring, and powerful and impactful in terms of what you were doing. So I'd love to hear a little bit more about the purpose and the vision and the impact that was delivered.
Rob Lauber 01:28
Yeah, it's now a six-year-old story. So back in 2015, we launched the program, and really, it was about figuring out ways to give people a sense of purpose about why they should work for McDonald's, right? So why should I work there? What kind of experience can I have? And where can it take me? Which I think will be relevant to our conversation later, as well. And then second was around, you know, recognizing that a good percentage of the employee base that we have had that sort of matriculated through college or you know, or high school even. And we're struggling with even English language, as you know, obviously, English as a second language. So how do we help them improve their English language skills as well, not only to perform the restaurants, but then also to help them more in their life at the same time, so it's it consists of four different elements. Once the English learning language program, which actually started a ways back in 2007, but really took off in 2015, will be brand new, we'll put it under the Archways umbrella. And then it on top of that we articulate training that we have for college credits. And we also work with a group called Smart Horizons and have their career online high school program at McDonald's, where they're able to complete and get a high school diploma, we are so not just a GED and equivalency, but actually get a diploma from an accredited school. And then we work with some colleges and universities. But really, it's open to anyone that any individual wants to go to. But we do work with some where we can essentially make the cost of college or university access free for people. So, we have a few favourites that we work with where we negotiate tuition costs, and we negotiate the articulation of credits. And that helps really accelerate people into a two-year degree program. So, if you're a restaurant manager, for example, you can pretty much be halfway through an associate degree, a two year program, just by the training that you get at McDonald's. So, it helps shorten the path. And really our goals there was around, you know, affordability and access. So how do we simplify the affordability curve for people? And then how do we make sure people have access to the programs that they want, for the things that they want. So, Archways is a little bit different than some of the other programs that are out there where we don't really limit the schools that people can choose from. So if you want to try and go to an Ivy League school you can, obviously you'll have some out of pocket at that point, but you can take advantage of your local community college for example, if you want to get into a trade, being electrician, or if you want to get into hospitality, or a large percentage of the people we learned actually wanted to get into health care. So we provide people with all those avenues through the archways programs to be able to do that. So really exciting program.
Anne Fulton 04:23
Yeah, so amazing. And so, you know, in terms of life changing and opportunity creation, you know, for your people are becoming true partners to, you know, to their futures and their careers. I think it's incredibly inspiring, you know, the McDonald's vision for that. And yes, a little bit more behind the purpose or the why, you know, what made you kind of create the program in the first place?
Rob Lauber 04:46
Part of it was around brand elevation as an employer, I think was a big part of what we were doing. So, coming in and 2015 There were a lot of questions around what can we do to improve McDonald's brand as it as an employer, and part of it was giving people a reason to work there. And so, you know, if you looked up Wikipedia, and you looked up MC job, it said that and those kinds of pieces, so it was really about how do we counter that stigma or that mindset and really provide tangible, empirical, you know, a lot of good stories, life changing ways, that people of why people should come to work to McDonald's, and how it can actually help them in the long run. So, that's the kind of pieces that we've really been working on, that McDonald's is really working on, and that we worked on while I was there.
Anne Fulton 05:40
Now, it sounds amazing. And I've always been, you know, great believer in that retail and hospitality can be such amazing career makers, you know, for people in a unique way that many other, many other industries, you know, require all sorts of degree qualifications, whereas a retail or hospitality career, you can start anywhere and actually create an entire future you can, you can become a store owner, or regional owner, and the world's, the world's, at your feet in many ways, so incredibly powerful in terms of, you know, how you can create, you know, a career ladder for people or a future.
Rob Lauber 06:20
Yeah, and I think, you know, our conversation was a lot around how we create economic mobility for people. You know, McDonald's is a mostly franchised business model. And so consequently, the career path within McDonald's can be challenging for people. So recognizing that 99 plus percent of the people that work for McDonald's, somewhere in the system probably will go on and have careers somewhere else, like Jeff Bezos or others, you know, Jay Leno, some pretty iconic people in American culture. So, recognizing that it's how do we help people? And how can that experience at McDonald's, create economic mobility for people, so it's really about trying to meet them where they are. Show them the opportunities that they have in front of them. And really just give people the choice.
Anne Fulton 07:07
How amazing, so you know, what would a Jeff Bezos say about his experience?
Rob Lauber 07:13
Actually, he's pretty, he's pretty quoted out there about how it gives them some good life skills, where he basically learned how to work and, you know, learn how to work within a team, and how to deal with conflict and how to deal with customers and a lot of the things that sort of set him up on his path. And that's one of the things you know, and it's I don't think those pieces are necessarily unique to McDonald's, but that whole first job persona is a really important part, I think that is overlooked these days.
Anne Fulton 07:42
Yes, so important and so powerful. And those learnings, you know, so, instrumental in creating a future. So all very, very inspiring stories, talking about skills as the new career currency, you know, I just wondered if you had some views on how people can create skills for a future and what some of the challenges are around that?
Rob Lauber 08:05
Yeah, you know, it's interesting, I think the mindset shift has been to look towards skills more than necessarily say, qualifications, I guess it would be, or skills as qualifications. So I think rightfully so, there was a huge amount of emphasis in the United States, at least over the last 30 years, to really push on the only way to get ahead is with that four year degree, there's still lots of data that shows you know, the income differences between high school graduation, and college graduation is more than a million dollars over someone's lifetime, those types of pieces. But I think that the skills piece really comes into play becoming more important, I think, because of the future, when you look at labour trends, there's going to be fewer and fewer people available to work. It's just a fact. You know, we know, last year's birth rate was down, believe it or not 4% from the year before. So, you know, project that out 15 or 20 years, you know, the workforce is going to drop by 4% 20 years from now. So, knowing those kinds of things are out there, I think a lot of employers and organizations are starting to think differently about how they're sourcing talent, how they're recruiting talent, where they're recruiting talent, and really, how do they make sure people have the right skills to do what they need to do? Maybe more than the experiences of you know, a four-year degree or two year degree even kind of piece?
Anne Fulton 08:14
Yes, I think it's really time for people to start thinking differently about their talent community, right? You know, those that are currently within their organization, but those that might be part of the future of the organization.
Rob Lauber 09:40
Right, I think organizations won't be able to afford to kind of exclude people that don't have those two and four year degrees, the way they have done in the past, and you're starting to see that in a lot of different places.
Anne Fulton 09:50
Yes. And so, you know, how do you think you know, people should be thinking differently about talent pools today?
Rob Lauber 09:58
Well, I think the big challenge that I hear from a lot of organizations is figuring out what talent they have in their organization right now. So, I know that that's a big question that a lot of I know a lot of organizations, I've seen some stuff Unilever's done and some other companies out there that are really trying to figure that out, because they're massive organizations and very widely distributed. And it's great if these organizations know where they need to go, and you can find lots of data and what skills are needed for the future. The big question is, how many people don't have those skills today and need them? And that seems to be the unanswered question that a lot of organizations seem to be chasing after. And that seems to be, you know, the nut to crack. And I think there's a lot underneath that to unpack as well. So how do I even know what skills I have? And I can bring? I think it's a big question that, you know, how do organizations think about it? And then how do I sort of self-identify what I have? And then at an organizational level, if I say I have great conflict management skills, you know, is that good enough? Or do I need somebody to validate that for me? Or do I have to have some demonstration of it somewhere? So, I think those are the things that people are wrestling with right now, I think it's really about creating, you know, a part of it's under the umbrella of a more inclusive workplace, where necessarily, the profile of the past doesn't necessarily have to be the profile of the future.You know, we're excluding talent pools that could be successful in roles. Because we're saying we need a piece of paper from the university or, you know, $100,000 worth of debt is what is required to get this job. So not really connected to success. And there's lots of data out there as well, that shows it doesn't really matter what school you go to as well. It's not necessarily measure of success. It's more your character, your drive, your ambition, your grit, those kinds of pieces.
Anne Fulton 11:48
Yeah, absolutely. And our global research recently just showed that employees out there are not waiting for the organization to provide these wonderful reskilling opportunities that you're described at Archways, but you know, that they're actually motivated to make sure that they do have the skills for the future and invest in themselves. I think it's a wonderful thing.
Rob Lauber 12:09
You saw a lot of that last year. So it's great.
Anne Fulton 12:12
Yeah, it's really good. I, you know, I think I think we’ve; we've seen a bit of a shift in these labour dynamics, but what kind of retention strategies, you know, do you think organizations should be in investing? And given that there is a market shortage at the moment?
Rob Lauber 12:27
Yeah well, I think the internal talent mobility pieces is becoming even more important as a retention strategy. So, you know, thinking back 15 years ago, lots of articles about, you know, the typical person graduating from wherever, will have five or six jobs before they're 30, or work for five or six different companies. I think that there's a desire and intent to stop that. Maybe not have maybe not the five or six jobs, but five or six companies’ part of it. So, I have this hypothesis that we're, you know, there's this slow shift back to job for life kind of mindset, where I go to work for a particular company, right out of school, or wherever, you know, out of, you know, it's my first job, and I can navigate a 40 year career there and stay there. But I might have had 16 different jobs, I could think of a guy that worked for me at McDonald's, a great guy, this guy, Bill Mitchell, he had, I think he had 23 different jobs across 46 years of McDonald's. So, you know, so he's a good example, I think, internal talent mobility. And I think a lot of organizations are looking at that, as the, you know, the foundation or the cornerstone of retention, you know, trying to break the paradigm that it's easier to find a job somewhere else than it is to find a job inside your own business.
Anne Fulton 13:51
Yes, interesting to see that pendulum swinging, right? You know, for an employer and I do agree with you, there's this kind of there is a new thinking around that. You and I were chatting a couple of weeks ago, and I really love what you talked about was the great awakening. I think our listeners might be curious as to what you're thinking about there, so tell us more about that?
Rob Lauber 14:11
Well you know, the thing I talked about was, I think there's really two things that people are almost demanding from employers today, around the organization, one of those around flexibility. So work when I want where I want. So you hear a lot of that with the hybrid conversation. But that's not really been that's not a new conversation per se for retailers and frontline employees and hourly employees. Flexibility has been key all along the way. But I think that that's getting amplified even more important and people are being more demanding of it. I think you see it when people are switching jobs for companies where they can work remote versus companies that are saying if come back into the office and you happen to move a couple 100 miles away. And then the second one is really that I think employees are insisting that you know that the organization demonstrates them what the future looks like. So great, I'll come and be this analyst for you, but really what's next? And what's after that? And, you know, and I expect that that's probably going to become a key question that organizations are going to have to answer and demonstrate with talent mobility. So that future piece is really important. And I think at McDonald's, that was part of why we launched our choice program was how do we show people a future as we go?
Anne Fulton 15:30
No, I think it's amazing. I'd love your thoughts on how you've done a lifetime here in the industry as a learning professional. Yeah. But, you know, how do you think learning is going to be different into the decade ahead?
Rob Lauber 15:46
Yeah, you know, everybody forecasts in general, you know, every year at the end of the year, so I'm close. But, you know, they put out their top 10, and usually, nine of them are wrong. So I'll probably, everybody listening will probably put me in that same category. But I think that I think that learning as a function, versus learning as a process is probably, I think learning as a process is going to emerge as sort of business critical, which means that it's that the role of the chief learning officer changes the role of learning and development organization changes from sort of product and portfolio management, where you got a set of courses and a set of programs, more to enablement. So how do you really think about, you know, and strategically think about how people learn in your organization? And how that process of learning takes place? And how do you remove barriers to that, encourage that, reinforce that. That's my guess, I would say my fairly educated guess on what I think the next 10 years are going to show that there's going to be a big shift that it's less now about sort of the size of your department. And if you're in the learning profession really more about how are you unlocking the capability for people to learn.
Anne Fulton 17:03
I love that. I love the emphasis on enablement. So we can probably keep chatting, and I've got about 10 more questions, I'd love to ask you. We're on a time limit here. And you but before we wrap up, I'd love to ask you a question. And this is one that we pose to all our guests who come on the Talent Experience Podcast, and that is, what do you most love about the work that you do now?
Rob Lauber 17:30
Yeah, you know, it's interesting. A while back, probably, I don't know, 15 years ago, somebody asked me like, what was my purpose? And I was like, well, you know, I'm a l&d person, they're like, no, really, why are you here on Earth? And I think that it comes down to and it's not really unique to me, I don't think but I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of helping other people be successful. So you know, Archways Program was really near and dear to my heart, because I knew I was changing people's lives. And to me, it doesn't matter if I meet them or not, I'm not really worried about the credit for it. But knowing that ahead of hand in it really gives me a huge amount of satisfaction, even more than actually, I'd say, like compensation, for example. So you know, I'm driven by that, and finding ways where I can help people be successful. So you know, I do weird things like talk to my sister in law about her career and trying to help her out when she's in a bind to, you know, now I have three kids who are all trying to find their way into the working world in the next couple of years. So, you know, what do I do with my LinkedIn profile? Now, I'm working with a lot of start-ups, and I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of that, and trying to help them, you know, figure out problems that I don't necessarily know the answer to. But, you know, I think I can help it at least explore the possibilities. So I think that for me, that's what really drives me, I look for those opportunities. And it's what really gets me up in the morning and keeps me going.
Anne Fulton 18:55
Sounds amazing, incredibly aligned. And we're, we're grateful. And I know, there's probably been so many lives that you've touched around the world, you know, through that Archways Program and left a legacy right of helping people be successful. You know, it's something wonderful to be involved with. So I wanted to thank you so much, Rob, for sharing some of that inspiration for us in our community. And it's been wonderful to have you on as part of our Talent Experience community. So an informative conversation, and we really appreciate you taking the time to participate. So yeah, we're really grateful for having you on today Rob.
Rob Lauber 19:35
Well, it's really exciting to have a great conversation with you and I look forward to many more.
Anne Fulton 19:40
And for the Talent Experience Podcast, I'm Anne Fulton and thanks again to everyone listening in.