2013 Best Practices and Outstanding Training Initiatives

Training editors recognize innovative and successful learning and development programs and practices submitted in the 2013 Training Top 125 application.


BB&T Corporation: Leadership Development Program (LDP)

Twice a year, a class of Leadership Development Program (LDP) associates relocates to BB&T University for nine months to participate in the four phases of the program. Associates choose one of two concentrations to specialize in: business banking or specialized corporate functions. Program framework and highlights include:

  • Phase 1: All members of executive management visit BB&T University to deliver seminars on their respective areas of responsibility in the banking industry. Visiting outside professors serve as subject matter experts on financial analysis and various banking models. Associates learn the values and importance of teamwork, corporate responsibility, and leadership by example as they coordinate and conduct a team-chosen community service project. Additionally, Farr Associates (a leadership and organizational effectiveness consulting group and subsidiary of BB&T) helps associates gain an increased level of self-awareness by identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Phase 2: All associates receive an introduction to foundational concepts that frame lending at both BB&T and within the financial services industry. 
  • Phase 3: Associates spend time individually developing skills related to their concentration. This comprehensive phase includes job rotations related to their individual line of work. Associates complete projects for the departments within their line of business. Upon completion, managers provide feedback on employees’ performance, which is recorded in their annual review.
  • Phase 4: The program culminates with a capstone bank management project. Associates work in cross-functional teams to compete in a simulation that applies the knowledge they have accumulated through the first three phases. Teams apply asset management strategies, make pricing decisions, and allocate corporate resources in an effort to maximize corporate performance. Teams present their results and best practices to a Corporate Board of Directors, made up of senior leaders at BB&T.
  • Graduation: At the end of the LDP, associates begin their first assignment with the bank. BB&T University continues to support these associates by offering both mentoring and career counseling. 


Senior Leadership: Nine of the current 12 members of BB&T’s Executive Management team are LDP graduates. Forty-two members of the current Senior Leadership Team (SLT, level just below Executive Management) joined BB&T through the LDP (37 percent of SLT). Some 52 percent of LDP graduates from 1996-1999 currently hold the title of Senior Vice President, Regional President, or Executive Vice President.

Retention: BB&T’s LDP five-year retention rate of 80 percent outperforms the industry average by 43 percent.

Production: Monthly loan production for Business Banker LDP graduates in levels III and IV is 40 percent and 54 percent higher, respectively, than their direct hire counterparts’.

Performance: Some 69 percent of LDP graduates regularly exceed normal job expectations and anticipated business results, demonstrated by superior ratings on annual performance appraisals. Some 42 percent of direct hire counterparts receive the same rating.

Gilbane: Sales Transformation Program

The Sales Transformation Program was developed to implement a “One Gilbane” strategy and culture, embracing a “doer-seller” mindset throughout the company. At Gilbane, those who manage the construction process are also responsible for encouraging new business and contacts and facilitating sales. The goal was to institutionalize consistent processes, disciplines, skills, and tools; equip senior Operations leaders to be sales leaders and change agents; and achieve a sustainable behavior change.

In partnership with an outside consultant, Gilbane developed a program framework that integrated senior leadership involvement in design and development during the process stage. Sales leaders were involved in developing a framework of coaching disciplines, tools, and metrics. Cross-functional teams were involved in implementation planning and defining the requirements for operationalizing the doer-seller process and the sales leadership system.

Gilbane created a framework to help doer-sellers develop their influencing skills through repeatable coaching best practices; disciplines; metrics, and tools, including playbooks, sales conversations, a sales leadership system, training workshops, and structured coaching sessions (individual and groups by region).

The defined success metrics included:

  • Number of enhanced services conversations with prioritized buyer audiences
  • Number of qualified enhanced services opportunities in existing accounts
  • Number of qualified opportunities as a result of doer-seller “engagement”

Key Performance Metrics:

  • Number of enhanced services deals closed (existing accounts)
  • Number of wins as a result of doer-seller engagement
  • Increased hit ratio and repeat business ratio
  • Achievement of company sales goal through a pre-designated percentage of sales generated through doer-seller-sourced opportunities

The program launched in 2011 with 52 senior executives serving in proactive roles of reinforcement and planning. This was followed by six two-day interactive workshops for more than 365 doer-sellers (project executives and regional Operations management) where they were coached on skills and techniques to develop and build existing relationships, nurture new relationships, and identify/generate new prospects for business.

2011 results:

  • Doer-seller-identified projects/prospects = 87 percent of goal
  • Booked fees from doer-seller-identified projects/prospects = 666 percent above goal

In 2012, Phase 2 of the program was implemented; it added new complements to the process, systems, and tool kits. Twelve workshops were held for more than 419 employees to both equip senior leadership with additional disciplines and advanced coaching skills, and further develop the skills of Operations personnel in relationship development and new opportunity identification. A new leadership competency for doer-seller/business development was added to Gilbane’s Core Leadership Competencies.

2012 results:

  • Doer-seller-identified projects and prospects YTD = 93.3 percent of goal
  • Top account plans reviewed with feedback YTD = 71.3 percent of goal
  • Gilbane’s hit ratio on project wins is currently 3 percent above the year before and climbing.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital: The Allen Playbook

The Allen Hospital (AH) has long understood that a well-run hospital is just like a high-performing baseball team: It requires top-notch talent and well-executed plays. Having a baseball field adjacent to its facility and with New York-Presbyterian Hospital as the official Hospital of the New York Yankees, the AH decided to capitalize on the metaphor of a baseball game to develop The Allen Playbook, entitled “Your Playbook for Creating a Grand Slam Patient Experience.”

The first step was to assemble a team of Allen All-Stars to share their best “plays” and tips in creating the most positive patient experience. The playbook was developed from these All-Star focus meetings. The nine knock-out plays identified by the All-Stars are aligned with the key patient satisfaction indicators targeted for improvement at the Allen Hospital.

“Spring Training” on the playbook for managers and staff took place from February 2012 through early June 2012. Managers (the coaches) participated in a three-hour session called “Coaching for a Grand Slam Patient Experience.” The interactive session gave managers the opportunity to learn about the nine essentials plays important to a grand slam patient experience. The session also provided them with the opportunity to practice pre- and post-dugout team member discussions.

Approximately 83 percent of the Allen staff participated in a 90-minute session called “Creating a Grand Slam Patient Experience.” The session focused on the core skills necessary to successfully execute the nine knock-out plays: listening, expressing empathy, and reflecting.

Sustaining the use of the plays is an important part of this training initiative. The Play of the Week is reinforced through team meetings and the use of monitors located throughout the hospital. A bi-weekly e-mail sent to managers provides them with ideas on how they can reinforce the plays and re-educate their teams. Frequent leadership rounds attest to the playbook’s effectiveness. More than 60 percent of the staff can speak to the Play of the Week and can provide an example of how they’ve executed a play(s) within recent weeks. Also, on a weekly basis, patient comments from patient satisfaction surveys are aligned with each of the nine plays and sent to managers to review with their teams.

Other sustainment activities include a recognition program that recognizes the Most Valuable Players based on the individual’s contribution to the team or an individual effort as it relates to one or more of the plays.

Since the playbook was introduced, the AH has enjoyed upward trends in the 2012 Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey results where “Responsiveness of Staff” increased to 60 points (14.6 percent over 2011), and “Overall Rating of Hospital” increased to 77 points (18 percent over 2011).

The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.: Asset  Management Group Trak Programs

Wealth Management, part of The PNC Financial Services Group’s Asset Management Group, focuses on achieving sales goals and growing both assets under management and the loan portfolio. The Trak programs (Fastrak and Advisortrak) prepare Wealth Management (WM) employees to provide clients with the advice, tools, and resources they need to effectively manage, grow, and protect their portfolios. Fastrak is designed to onboard all new WM employees, while Advisortrak meets the discipline-specific needs of the largest team within WM.

Through more than 20 role-based curricula, Fastrak provides a WM organizational overview via a blend of online learning and live and recorded Webinars. An average of 100 individuals complete Fastrak annually.

Designed to develop the industry’s top WM talent, Advisortrak builds sales competencies for banking, investment and trust advisors, relationship managers, and wealth planners. Successful completion of Fastrak and this invitation-only program is one requirement to be considered for promotion. Each year, seven cohorts (with 30 advisors each) participate in
Advisortrak, which includes:

  • Fourteen online courses (on average) focused on key wealth advisory issues.
  • Teleconferences for advisors to demonstrate technical and conversational competence.
  • A two-day classroom session on conversational competencies, new client acquisition, and relationship expansion throughout the client life cycle.

Achievement of certification completes the program, obtained through a 40-minute mock client conversation evaluated by WM leaders. To date, more than 900 advisors have successfully completed the program.

Changes to Advisortrak in 2012 include:

  • Use of an alternate vendor to eliminate licensing fees
  • Development of new interactive online classes
  • Transition to leader-led delivery in individual markets
  • Use of videoconferencing to facilitate panel certifications

As a result of these changes:

  • The success rate for learners who pass on their first certification attempt has doubled.
  • More than $700,000 in costs has been eliminated.

PNC’s return on investment calculates an average return of $63,000 in sales per participant as compared to those who have not completed the program. Sales results for two Advisortrak cohorts who completed the program in 2011 increased an average of 51 percent following completion of the program.

Two additional Trak programs, Hawthorntrak and Institutionaltrak, designed for client-facing employees supporting ultra high-net-worth individuals and institutions, have been introduced in the last 12 months.

United States Navy: Information Technology of the Future (IToF)

With the cybersecurity challenges the United States faces today, information technology (IT) and information assurance (IA) are critical to the U.S. Navy’s mission. To meet the technology needs of the U.S. Navy’s global force mission and IA requirements at sea and shore facilities throughout the world, the Navy’s Center for Information Dominance implemented an IT training continuum called Information Technology of the Future (IToF). The IT training continuum requirements were refined following a front-end analysis, which is a process to determine content development and delivery methods. The plan uses a three-step strategy:

Step 1: Leverage existing resources (manpower, equipment, space, and curriculum) valued at $9 million.

Step 2: Conduct a business case analysis (BCA) to evaluate training solution alternatives. The BCA resulted in adoption of a hybrid approach of commercial off-the-shelf curriculum delivered by a blend of military, government, civilian, and contractor instructors. Taking advantage of existing resources, it avoided an estimated bi-annual curriculum development cost of $3 million. Using this approach, the Navy became a member of a network of IT organizations with a “ready-to-go” curriculum package, providing premier IT/IA curriculum with flexibility to meet emergent technology changes and workforce professionalization via commercial certification.

Step 3: Design and deploy an innovative and expandable virtual laboratory network infrastructure that was accepted as the Navy Enterprise solution. The solution provided for a cost savings in hardware, technical refresh, and life-cycle maintenance support estimated at $6.2 million over six years.

A team approach leads to the integration of seven networks into a common core remote training environment, exposing students to real-world systems. The remote approach was established via a “cloud” environment supporting four diverse training locations at a cost of $4.5 million compared to $18 million to establish a “point of presence” at each site, for an additional savings of $13.5 million, bringing the overall savings to approximately $19.7 million over six years.

IT Training Continuum students with less than two months of training and no IT experience can earn commercial IT certifications that meet high standards in the IT industry.

  • 75 percent of IToF students pass the CompTia A+ 701 Certification Exam on their first attempt, and 92.85 percent pass by their third attempt.
  • 64.29 percent of IToF students pass the CompTia A+ 702 Certification Exam on their first attempt, and 85.7 percent pass by their second attempt.
  • 37.5 percent of IToF students pass the MS 70-290, Server 2003 Certification Exam on their first attempt, and 87.5 percent pass by their second attempt.

Several studies have shown that personnel holding these certifications are able to improve customer service, complete trouble calls in less time, improve network security, and reduce network downtime.


Best Buy: Path to Excellence

Best Buy took on the challenge of creating a world-class culture of learning and development for its 167,000 employees in 2011. It aimed to build a program that would support and complement high-quality training modules, as well as recognize and reward employees for their learning achievements. The solution: Path to Excellence.

Path to Excellence ties employees’ learning paths to their career paths. Employees earn “virtual badges” and progress through learning levels that correlate to where they are on their career journey. Employees achieve bronze status when they have prepared for a new role. This involves completing training modules and exercises that are foundational in content and complexity. They progress to silver status as they develop in their role, completing more advanced modules. Reaching gold status requires employees to begin leading in their role, completing modules that support their ability to bring others in their department along. Finally, platinum status is achieved when employees have successfully prepared for their desired, or aspirational, role (those choosing “mastery” over “mobility” can still attain the platinum level by completing leadership modules).

Employees earn pins they can wear to showcase their achievements, points they exchange for products and customized rewards, and pennants for a given department or store to display on their walls as a source of pride. Employees also are rewarded for applying what they’ve learned when their leaders observe them displaying the appropriate skills and behaviors taught in the training.

Path to Excellence has enabled Best Buy to integrate training execution, measurement, leadership, and recognition elements into a holistic learning and development culture. Stores with the highest number of platinum and gold level employees have out-sold stores with the highest number of bronze and silver level employees by a 3:1 ratio. Since the program has launched, Best Buy also has seen exceptional overall company performance improvement in three key metrics: The close
rate improved 129 basis points; revenue per transaction increased $3.31; and services and connections sales increased 37 basis points.

CHG Healthcare Services: CORE Onboarding and Continuing Education

CHG increased hiring in 2011 over 2010 by 54 percent (480 vs. 311 new hires, respectively). But that led to two challenges: getting new employees trained and successful quickly, and keeping them at the company during the often-difficult first two years of employment.

In response, CHG’s largest division created CORE (Creating Optimal Results Education), a restructured approach to onboarding for first- and second-year new hires. CORE is composed of four distinct branches:

  1. Sales Training (for new hires through their second month)
  2. Business Partner (non-sales) Training (for new hires through their second month)
  3. Leadership Training
  4. Continuing Education (for those in their third to 24th month)

Beginning in 2012, new hires now keep all new business found during their first month of training, allowing for earlier incentives and a more immediate sense of contribution to their team’s financial goals. In addition, coaching by CORE trainers, team leaders, and colleagues of first- and second-year new hires was increased by more than 40 percent per person over the previous year. Second-year new hires now participate as mentors for first-year new hires in the divisional “Advocates for Achievement” mentoring program.

Second-year new hires also were given subject matter expert responsibilities in first-year new hire whiteboard meetings, which are the daily team meetings to review key performance indicators (KPIs).


  • In the first six months of 2012, first-year new hires each generated 15 percent more gross margin than in January to December 2011.
  • To date in 2012, first-year new hires contributed 35 percent more booked days per month than they did in 2011.
  • First-year mentees see roughly a 50 percent increase in monthly days booked when compared to another first-year new hire without mentoring. Mentees also see a 23 percent increase in outbound calls.
  • Second-year new hires also saw a post-mentoring increase (approximately 20 percent) in their own days booked because of the reminder that came with emphasizing the basics to the first-year new hires.
  • CORE efforts have combined to help increase the divisional overall engagement scores from 91 percent in 2011 to 95 percent in 2012.

Edward Jones: BOA Trimester Challenge

Edward Jones branch office administrators (BOAs) play a critical role in serving clients, a fact validated in surveys where high satisfaction with the BOA translates directly into higher overall client satisfaction. The firm knew from experience that its BOAs enjoy participating in promotions offering rewards for specific activities, so it decided to combine training; rewards; and high-impact, client-related challenges.

The firm created the BOA Trimester Challenge to train BOAs to set an objective, track progress, achieve a goal, and work independently on activities that lead to greater client satisfaction, contribute to branch efficiency, and, in many cases, result in cost savings. Each trimester, Edward Jones launches a new challenge, offers training on that topic, and provides cash prizes to BOAs who demonstrate success.

The first challenge in the third trimester of 2011 confirmed the program’s value. The Easy Access to Cash challenge: Encourage clients to sign up for on-demand online transfers. The firm hosted 32 virtual instructor-led sessions (VILTs) for 1,264 participants; created an online course; and posted online talking points and cues for client conversations. BOAs could qualify for cash prizes of $50 to $100, depending on their success in signing up clients to convert account transactions from check distribution to online transfers.

This challenge was designed to address key firm issues:

  • The firm wants BOAs to spend time on quality client interactions, not tedious tasks such as check handling.
  • Checks are costly—53 cents versus 3 cents for an online transfer—and common. Some dividend transactions result in as many as 12 checks annually to a single client.

Edward Jones observed an immediate and firm-wide impact for the trimester when more than 8,500 of its nearly 12,000 BOAs boosted online transfer activity and earned an award:

  • Online-transfer enrollments nearly doubled compared to the same trimester a year earlier.
  • Online-transfer money-in rose by 48 percent and money-out rose by 69 percent.
  • Overall checks issued fell by 6 percent, and checks for security dividends fell by 4 percent.
  • Savings reached $43,000 for one trimester.

The vast majority of participating BOAs took the training, with 84 percent rating it as effective. The firm spent $266,000 on BOA awards. Cost savings from a continuing higher rate of online transfers versus check transactions totaled $257,000 over the first 11 months.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company: SPOT Sharepoint Electronic Collaboration Deployment

In 2012, Nationwide made great strides toward bringing enterprise/peer knowledge to the point of demand for associates through a new social collaboration community called SPOT. This community provides opportunities for learning from experts, collaboration with peers, and knowledge management.

SPOT consolidates existing document repositories and incorporates powerful search and tagging features that allow associates to efficiently find, consume, and share information. Yammer is integrated into the Sharepoint platform to provide the opportunity to discuss content within communities.

Nationwide’s Learning Solutions team developed virtual classes/informal learning solutions for site owners/members to enable adoption of this strategic collaboration platform by increasing awareness/proficiency for 25,000-plus associates. The virtual classes utilize facilitated learning, examples, and interactive conversations to teach associates how to create a site, move files, and add members.

Change management was an important aspect of this initiative, because Nationwide previously had implemented collaboration systems that have been less than successful. Therefore, the company aligned the learning solutions to the ADKAR change management model developed by PROSCI, using e-mail and meetings to:

  • Establish awareness of the need to change.
  • Enable desire by creating energy/engagement through fun/educational team site planning sessions.
  • Share knowledge through virtual classes, job aids, online user groups, and forums (SPOT site owners were not able to get their own site provisioned until they had taken the fundamental training classes).
  • Foster the ability to use the new tools by practicing in class followed by workgroup practice sessions.
  • Reinforce ability through a SPOT site specifically for learning purposes, so participants can learn informally using an actual site while they seek resources to help create their site.

Nationwide invested in training 160 leaders in ADKAR.


  • Since training began in July, more than 1,000 Sharepoint SPOT sites have gone online; there have been fewer than 30 calls to the Help Desk.
  • Quick References on Sharepoint Owner/Member skills were distributed to 1,215 associates.
  • A Sharepoint site was created for members to practice in as they access resources for their own community site: Web trends data show 12,843 total page views over one month and 1,084 unique visitors to the site each day.

A 2012 corporate objective for Nationwide centered on relationships. The SPOT site—specifically the discussion boards on Yammer—has allowed communities to build relationships. In 2012, Nationwide brought on Harleysville Insurance, and the SPOT tool will allow it to build relationships between its existing 31,000 associates and the 1,700 Harleysville associates in a way that would not have been possible without this tool.

One Nevada Credit Union: Member Connection

In 2012, One Nevada Credit Union went from being a federally chartered credit union (Nevada Federal Credit Union) to a state-chartered credit union (One Nevada Credit Union). As a federally chartered credit union, One Nevada was limited as to the people it could serve in surrounding areas. As it transformed into a state-chartered credit union, the company expected an increase in membership; this anticipated growth prompted One Nevada’s newest training campaign: Member Connection.

Member Connection focused not only on the products One Nevada offers but also on a fresh way of offering these products to current and new members of the credit union. This mandatory training session was taken outside the traditional classroom and transported to every employee at their home branch where real-life situations could be experienced and practiced.

One Nevada’s sales culture philosophy of “incentive for utilized products only” was revisited before it showcased the newest process of Member Connection. All employees must understand that incentive pay will only be paid out on products that members utilize and not for those simply sold or placed on an account.

The basis of Member Connection is to allow every employee to veer away from being seen as typical salespeople by credit union members. The foundation of Member Connection is using the non-aggressive sales perspective of a restaurant server. One Nevada compares its “menu” of banking products to that of a quality restaurant. Armed with these comparisons, it started teaching employees to “offer” rather than “sell” products, just as a restaurant server would offer a patron a sweet treat off the dessert cart. The credit union communicated numerous and easy-to-understand situations as the training progressed:

  • Knowing the daily specials
  • Knowing the soup of the day
  • Offering and wheeling the dessert cart
  • Offering coffee
  • Knowing what drink goes with each entree
  • Understanding the people waiting to be seated

As One Nevada altered its thought process from “selling” to “professionally offering,” it saw the light bulb come on over the head of many of its previously “didn’t sign on to sell” employees. Since the inception of Member Connection, One Nevada has experienced projected growth at roughly 1,000 new members a month. It has seen its cross-selling attitudes and opportunities grow and member retention increase. For example, at a branch in Reno, NV, monthly loans are up more than 80 percent, and cross-selling has increased by 25 percent.  


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Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.