Training Top 125 Best Practice: OptumRx’s Leadership Academy

After the pilot and two years of offering Leadership Academy, the program was so popular that there were more candidates than available spots in the classroom, so OptumRx had to expand it and adjust the content and delivery to meet the demand.

Over the last several years, pharmacy care services provider OptumRx has experienced tremendous growth, making it crucial to have a strong leadership bench to support changes and new business needs. In 2013, OptumRx Learning Services anticipated this need and created the Leadership Academy program to build and promote a path to leadership for high-potential employees identified as emerging leaders.

After the pilot and two years of offering Leadership Academy, the program was so popular that there were more candidates than available spots in the classroom, so OptumRx had to expand Leadership Academy to support the demand for this training, continued company growth, and the need for additional leaders.

Program Details

The initial Leadership Academy program was launched to a pilot group of seven employees. The pilot’s success and positive feedback sparked interest across the company, which led to a second class of 19 participants.

An application process was implemented to assist operations leadership in selecting candidates with strong potential to participate in the course. Interested employees submitted their completed application, along with a copy of their current resume, which was reviewed by operations leadership to make the final selections for course participants.

During the 10-week course, participants were exposed to the following topics through a blend of online learning, classroom facilitation, and group collaboration:

  • Successful team leadership
  • Principles of effective coaching
  • Goal setting
  • Company culture
  • Motivation, encouragement, and recognition
  • Time management

Throughout the course, mentors from the current leadership team provided guidance to their mentee, and helped draw connections from class content to workplace situations. 

Eventually, OptumRx began having more candidates than available spots in the Leadership Academy classroom. So Learning Services revised the curriculum and adjusted the delivery to support a blended approach of self-study, as well as virtual instructor-led training. Participants were given intersession assignments (reading, worksheets, and videos) and answered discussion board questions. Class time was spent discussing the weekly topic and listening to a current company leader (manager or above) share his or her journey to becoming a leader.

Other enhancements included the addition of an alumni association, as well as a mentor network to continue the connection and development of Leadership Academy graduates and mentor leaders. Much of this collaboration and relationship building happens via social learning on OptumRx’s enterprise-wide Hub Connect page.


After the pilot and two consecutive years of offering Leadership Academy, 142 participants graduated from the program, and 121 were promoted. Nearly 50 percent of those promotions were to a supervisor role within the first year of graduating the program.

Since completing the course redesign, OptumRx has graduated 361 additional participants, and promoted 177 associates to leadership roles. The remaining graduates have impressive career development stories, as well, with 82 percent moving from entry-level roles to individual contributor positions. Overall, the program participants demonstrate exceptional engagement, as represented by their 1 percent turnover rate and average annual performance rating of 4 on a 5-point scale.

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