2014 Best Practices and Outstanding Training Initiative Award Winners

Training editors recognize innovative and successful learning and development programs and practices submitted in the 2014 Training Top 125 application.



One area ADP business leaders continuously seek to improve is decreasing time to productivity of newly hired sales representatives in a rapid, agile way. Accelerating First-Year Sales Performance was created in 2013 to address this challenge and support ADP’s strategic goal of Agility (building and selling great products faster).

  • A cross-functional team between Sales Learning and University Recruiting was formed with the common goal of hiring talent and accelerating their first year of performance.
  • The team was trained in the Agile Software Development Methodology to guide their way of doing business.
  • The team identified an innovative approach to achieving its goal and submitted a request for proposal (RFP) to become the official product sponsor for the National Collegiate Sales Competition (NCSC). ADP had been a member of NCSC since 2009. NCSC is the largest, oldest role-play competition in existence and has the goal of promoting the sales profession and reducing the time required to prepare graduates for sales careers. More than 10,000 university students use NCSC training materials to prepare for regional and national competitions. Studies show that graduates experience 25 percent lower turnover and have a 50 percent faster ramp-up time.
  • ADP’s payroll and tax solution was selected for the NCSC. It has a mobile app and an interactive demo in the iTunes and Android App stores, ideal for students to practice and demonstrate on the go.
  • The training program was developed in three months. A dedicated training site was created, including a multimedia program teaching payroll fundamentals, product knowledge, and sales-specific knowledge. Information about the program was included in a sales text book distributed to more than 64 universities. A support infrastructure was developed that included Webinars for professors; a Website with marketing, training, and role-play activities; and a tollfree number to have questions answered by an ADP support specialist. Some 19 videos had a total of 11,198 views, and the Website had 6,641 unique visitors and 58,036 page views.

Results: In FY’13, 161 associates were hired from the program—almost double the number since joining NCSC in 2009. In addition, associates were tracked over a 90-day period and their overall sales were more than $204,000—almost 10 percent higher than the previous year’s new hires.


Baylor Health Care System is committed to maintaining its notfor- profit status so that it can continue to serve all who need help. This increases the organization’s responsibility to decrease waste/cycle times, and improve patient satisfaction/outcomes. One significant way Baylor did this in FY’13 was by implementing Lean Methodologies and Process Improvement tactics in several of its hospitals and corporate departments. When a Process Improvement/Lean intervention is planned, a focused training program also is implemented.

The Lean Academy is 20 hours of training spread over 10 weeks. Students learn to make major changes to a large process. STEEEP Academy (Safe, Timely, Effective, Efficient, Equitable, Patientcentered care) is 40 hours of training spread over six months. Students learn to make rapid changes over time. Lean helps with major value stream processes, while STEEEP helps with more localized tactics and problems. In both academies, teams learn how to measure the right processes and outcomes in the right ways.

Highlights from the FY’13 teams that had a significant impact on Baylor’s quality and finance goals include:

Lean: The Corporate Supply Chain Management team targeted the contracting process. It eliminated two-thirds of the process cycle time, reduced nine of the 12 entry points, developed a decision tree for different types of contracts, reduced errors/re-work, and reduced cycle time for RFQs from 40 days to 13 days. Total saved: $10.9 million.

STEEEP: The Baylor Plano hospital 30-day re-admission team redesigned the patient discharge process to reduce the chances of the patient returning within 30 days, because hospitals with excessive re-admissions will have a Medicare/Medicaid payment reduction. They designated someone to be the Discharge Advocate on each unit, and adopted a teach-back method to help patients learn the steps of their at-home care. They saw a 44 percent decrease in re-admission over six months. This improved the quality of life for the discharged patients, and increased Baylor’s ability to receive reimbursement from the government.

The Baylor Garland Code Blue Nurse/Physician Communication team needed to improve the communication between nurses and physicians to prevent Code Blue situations that ultimately moved a patient from the nursing unit to the more expensive ICU. They benchmarked with a pilot and air traffic controller to learn how they communicated during challenging times. They developed a communication protocol, trained staff, and realized an annual savings of $79,500 by avoiding the higher costs of the ICU for the patient. When this was spread to 13 other units, the savings was $1.2 million.


CHG’s recent challenge has been to move beyond a “training company” and become a true learning organization. No other department has done more to aid the pursuit of becoming a learning organization than CHG’s Wellness department. Three highlighted components of CHG’s wellness and coaching model include incentive-based learning, on-site wellness coaching, and collaboration between Wellness and the company’s formal training body.

The backbone of Wellness’ educational program is Wellness- Pays, an incentive structure that capitalizes on the benefits of game-based learning while allowing employees to earn healthcare discounts by attending classes and other qualifying events. One of these events is the company’s financial education series. The goal of the series is to educate, raise awareness, and boost participation in the company’s 401(k) program. Thanks to WellnessPays, a quarter of the workforce attended these financial seminars, and 401(k) participation increased 4.7 percent.

The Wellness team’s original model focused on the physical, financial, and emotional areas of an employee’s life. But eventually a new holistic model was embraced, adding four additional areas for development, including “Professional.” The addition of this component not only helped validate the efforts of Corporate Training but presented an opportunity for the teams to partner on key initiatives and cross-promote programs.

The first of these efforts involved using WellnessPays to incentivize a Corporate Training class addressing Emotional Intelligence. The WellnessPays incentive provoked a quarter of CHG’s workforce to attend the elective class, a 44 percent attendance spike from the previous employee development offering.

The final component of the strategy was to provide employees with on-site health and wellness coaching. Confidence was placed in the concept that if employees were properly educated on relevant health topics, if health screenings and follow-up coaching sessions were emphasized, and if prevention was a focus throughout, then any costs incurred from the investment in a wellness center would be offset by a decrease in saved claims costs. It turned out to be true. The initial cost of the center required an investment of $50,000 a month, but average savings on claims paid out by the company exceeded $90,000 a month. As the immediate success of the facility justified an expansion to other offices, the monthly cost is now $66,000, while monthly savings have reached $150,000. Some 88 percent of employees responded affirmatively to the statement that CHG’s wellness programs have been beneficial to their overall health and well being (+11 percent from program inception).


Given that technology continues to revolutionize the way McCarthy Building Companies does business, it is a key component of the company’s corporate strategic goal of exceptional project execution. McCarthy has seen an increase in the number of technology rollouts (more than 30) since 2008, requiring it to fine-tune its training approach, which resulted in the Training team partnering regularly with the IT team to ensure success.

McCarthy now takes a holistic approach to support lasting and successful change for each technology initiative. Today, training is just one of five components, but it yields stronger knowledge transfer and decreases time to proficiency.

McCarthy’s approach incorporates two distinct elements:

  1. The concept of “Project Assurance” by Rob Prinzo (as introduced in the Training magazine article, “6 Best Practices to Achieve Implementation Success,” August 12, 2011)
  2. The 5-Step Dormant Change Management Model from the user’s perspective:
  • Advertise
  • Inform
  • Demonstrate
  • Train
  • Support

The Training team partners with the vice president of IT and IT project managers to train on this new approach, focusing on:

  1. The need for a broader approach than just initiative rollout and change management as an element of the critical path of the project
  2. Following the Change Management Model
  3. Integrating the training team at project inception
  4. Measuring results

An example using this new approach is the rollout of BIM 360. This iPad-based Field Management solution was introduced to enhance collaboration and productivity on project sites. Communication began well in advance of implementation, including videos of successful utilization in the field. Training was broken into two six-month phases, separating the training program by functional areas of the application. For each phase of the rollout, the implementation and training team delivered project-specific trainings, including a “discovery” kickoff meeting and setup training, followed by an end-user training session at the time of launch. As a result of the training, McCarthy achieved 912 training completions to date, and its Rancho Mirage project saved 12 to 15 schedule days (equating to 120 man days) and $72,000.


Because Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC) operates in a high turnover industry, the company has defined bench planning as the process of preparing for the replacement of any employee— not just executives—at any time.

With this mindset, the Training Department set out to develop a system capable of determining the readiness of each and every employee in relation to his or her next promotion. Each month, VIOC managers rate all employees on their readiness for promotion to the next level based on a series of objective and subjective criteria. Employees are said to be “ready today” or ready within a certain period of time (six months, 12 months, etc.). Employees who are not capable of developing further are rated as such. Managers set development plans to get each developing employee to the “ready today” level. Ratings are entered into a company-wide system and agreed upon by multi-unit managers before they are finalized.

The system produces reports used by multi-unit managers to identify stores and areas where ready talent is not available and take steps to put better succession plans in place. Managers also can identify “blockers”—employees who are not willing or able to develop further, yet stand in the way of promotion for other employees.

Because the system makes the need to develop employees readily apparent, it has driven training at all levels in the company. Managers ask for help developing assistant managers to the “ready today” level, but they also ask for help developing the technicians who will take their place, and the new technicians they will need to hire for backfill at that level. The Training Department also can look at the system proactively and determine the geography and levels where training is needed, often before the field organization realizes it.

Senior management uses these same reports at a company level to judge the readiness of talent for expansion in a given area. The number of assistant managers ready for promotion immediately has become a key scorecard metric for the company. This number has doubled since the program was implemented.

Since implementation, manager bench strength has increased from zero to 37 percent. “A-rated” managers have increased by 31 percent in the same period. Given the average performance of an “A” manager over a “B” manager, the value of that increase is $2.69 million in operating profit.



Approaching Others About Safety (AOAS) is a training program for all BNSF employees that focuses on peer interaction. It is the single largest training program BNSF Railway has ever undertaken, touching all 43,000 employees. AOAS is the linchpin in providing feedback up, down, and across the organization. The goal is for BNSF employees to be confident and effective when speaking to each other about safety and focus on exposures that are key to staying safe.

AOAS was created with the involvement of many BNSF employees. Focus groups were conducted with union employees within each functional group: Transportation, Mechanical, Engineering, Intermodal, and Telecom. These employees provided feedback on the design of the program, attended pilot sessions, and assisted with the production of videos to ensure that materials were specific to their craft. The program launched in January 2013. To date, more than 26,500 employees have experienced the training.


  • BNSF trained 450-plus BNSF union employees on AOAS content and facilitation skills during an 18-hour train-the- trainer class.
  • Those 450-plus union employees facilitate four-hour training classes, which are available to more than 36,000 union employees across the Operations department.
  • Five versions of both the train-the-trainer and the craftlevel program were developed to help tailor training to the specific craft groups.
  • Training focuses on the exposures that result in 97 percent of injuries, specifically the critical or primary exposure areas, including: line of fire/release of energy, pinch points, ascending/descending, walking/path of travel, and life-saving processes.
  • Employees learn the value of providing feedback in the moment, including positively when they recognize someone is working safely or correctively when they perceive someone is at risk, and pausing work for safety discussions.
  • Employees learn the most effective ways to approach co-workers and how to respond when approached.
  • A separate four-hour training program for BNSF’s Front- Line Supervisor (FLS) focuses on the same concepts and explores their role as leaders in modeling the skills and building a safety culture that supports Approaching Others About Safety.

Results: BNSF’s Reportable Frequency Ratio was .99 YTD thorough August 31, 2013, a 9 percent improvement on a year-over- year basis. Total Injuries were 13 percent lower, meaning 100 fewer employees sustained injuries compared with the same time period in 2012. The Severity ratio was down 16 percent YTD at 22.77 vs. 27.19 YTD 2012. Reportable Rail Equipment Accidents by Train Mile Ratio were down 7 percent year over year.


There is a fundamental shift taking place in the customer service industry as technology increasingly allows customers to self-service. Call centers are experiencing a higher percentage of complicated customer requests in place of their previous “easy calls.”

In 2013, Discover Financial Services began an aggressive program to prepare for the future. The Training Center of Excellence launched a blended self-paced New Hire program called Customer Service 2.0. The program was designed to foster specific attributes in customer service representatives (CSRs), including:

  • Devotion to customer satisfaction
  • Self-reliance and self-direction
  • Creative problem solving

Learners were put in control of their own education as a means of achieving these objectives. Drawing on inspiration from the Khan Academy, Discover “flipped the classroom,” converting 70 percent of the training content from instructorled training to e-learning, video instruction, and self-study.

An online syllabus provided learners with expectations, goals, requirements, and links to access coursework. Learners were connected through an online community, using threaded discussions to ask questions and share experiences; polls were used to gather opinions. Learners were provided with structured on-the-job training (OJT) opportunities upon passing Level 2 assessments for each major foothold of the program.

Instead of staffing each class with a New Hire Trainer whose job was simply to convey information, Discover staffed each Customer Service 2.0 class with a New Hire Advisor, whose core responsibility was to guide learners through the new hire experience, set aggressive individual goals with learners, evaluate employee performance, and provide individual coaching. Advisors used assessment results, OJT performance metrics, and direct observations to form a focused coaching program.

Using Discover’s gaming platform, Discover Rumble, the Training Center fostered productive team-based competition. Each class was broken into two groups, which participated in daily and monthly online “missions” and between-call “micro-games.” Individual points accrued to team scores, which were displayed in real time on leader boards.

Results: When compared to similar employees who have gone through Discover’s standard training programs, Customer Service 2.0 trainees demonstrated dramatically improved problem-solving skills, greater self-direction, and improved key business metrics such as:

  • 8 percent higher customer satisfaction scores
  • 6 percent higher employee satisfaction scores
  • 35 percent lower risk defects
  • 42 percent lower employee attrition


The Six Sigma Accreditation Program represents one of several strategic initiatives under a wider “Fit for the Future” strategy, the objective of which is to raise standards in functional areas across First Data Corporation’s Acquiring EMEA business. The program was designed to address a gap in the company’s Project Manager Capability Framework in terms of technical skill, methodology, and standards.

Program evaluation was tied to ROI, Business ROE indicators, and Human Capital Management, for example:

  • Provide greater alignment with voice of the customer
  • Improve quality of project execution
  • Drive continuous improvement culture change and cross functional best practices
  • Create an accredited Green/Yellow Belt talent pool across EMEA with a common language, methodology, standards
  • Support career pathing and succession planning
  • Foster a Six Sigma Culture and community of practice across the EMEA region

Following consultation with senior stakeholders, executive sponsors were identified and an internal Six Sigma Accreditation developed incorporating Advanced Yellow and Green Belt Tracks, tailored to process improvement for First Data’s industry and project management environment.

Both tracks strive to adhere to the 70:20:10 model offering a blend of e-learning; instructor-led skills development; one-to-one coaching; and on-the-job transfer of learning activities, including performance support, online community of practice collaboration, Six Sigma fair days, Yellow Belt assignments, and Green Belt projects linked to business initiatives with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs). There is also a traceable cascade from business goals to individual projects.

Yellow Belt participants complete an e-learning module and assessment as a prerequisite to attending a skills development workshop followed by a formal examination and transfer of learning assignment.

The Green Belt Accreditation is granted upon the successful completion of a skills examination and project execution. First Data begins with a facilitated Project Selection workshop designed to ensure projects are both Six Sigma and Accreditation appropriate. Green Belt participants then are assigned their projects and join project leads, champions, and line managers on an engagement and project chartering workshop. This is followed by five monthly blocks of technical skills development, project action planning, coaching, project work, and a tollgate review based around the five stages of the Six Sigma DMAIC model. Once all blocks have been completed, Green Belts sit for a formal examination and have their projects reviewed by an external examiner for successful execution and application of methodology.

Results: Green Belt Accreditation projects are on track to contribute a minimum average ROI of 600 percent. Yellow Belt assignments resulted in the number of days to hire decreasing from 75 to 45. Within three months of accreditation, nine of the 70 accredited reported increasing capacity by a full-time equivalent of 17 FTE by focusing on waste, defect reduction, and rework.


First Horizon National Corporation’s Call Center unit traditionally reported higher turnover than other units, and it was revealed through 2012 EVS (employee viewpoint survey) scores that these employees were experiencing low morale. Training reached out to this unit’s business leaders and front-line employees to plan a three-point approach.

  1. Create a task force that members named First Link Implementing Change and Knowledge (FLICK). The objective was to target employee morale in a collaborative, safe environment. The FLICK task force is made up of leaders and direct reports, and an instructor from training facilitates meetings and provides real-time coaching support and training. The task force meets throughout the year and develops ideas to foster teambuilding, including team huddles, one-on-one meetings between leaders and direct reports, fun days, and communication skills. Key metrics from 2013 EVS results show the following favorable increases: Psychological Capital increased from 83 to 90 percent, Loyalty from 67 to 76 percent, Promotability from 61 to 73, and Training and Development from 73 to 82 percent.
  2. Redesign the front-line employee new hire program. The learning strategy needed to foster faster time to proficiency and reduce employee turnover. One challenge was the way Call Center training was delivered. Call Center employees have four levels of learning that must be completed to match the four levels of customer calls received. It often took 18 months to complete the four levels because of wait times for instructor-led sessions. The business unit and Learning strategists implemented a newly designed program in which the blended learning environment delivered computer-based trainings (CBTs), in-person or virtual classroom events, recorded Webinars, game-based CBTs, and role-play in one-on-one coaching and peer-to-peer learning. This new program now allows all learners to complete all levels in as little as 30 days.
  3. Address interactions with internal and external customers. The program, Creating a Differentiated Customer Service Experience: Firstpower on the Move, was tailored specifically for the Call Center. Call Center employees reinforced key skills; explored the LEAD module (listen, empathize, ask questions, deliver message); and identified behavioral styles for themselves, peers, and leaders. Results: Quality scores increased from 92 to 94 percent, and the transfer rate dropped from 10 percent to less that 1 percent. In 2013, First Tennessee Bank was up 11 points and four spots, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study. Average total loans in the regional bank were up 12 percent from a year ago, and average core deposits in the regional bank increased 9 percent year over year.


In 2012, Walgreens realized that in order to overhaul operations, drive the well experience, and transform the role of community pharmacy, it needed to focus development efforts on a crucial yet underserved part of its leadership team: its assistant store managers (ASMs), who run day-to-day store operations and, thus, impact most Walgreens customers.

In response, Walgreens re-engineered its current ASM program and created LEAP (Lead, Engage, Advance, Perform), a rigorous new 12-week Assistant Store Manager Trainee (ASM-T) leadership development program.

In researching the program design, Walgreens identified gaps to becoming a successful ASM, probed the revised ASM role with operations leaders, and collaborated with store operations and subject matter experts to better understand trainee needs. It then mapped all needed competencies to its Walgreens Leadership Model (WLM) and designed learning activities around them. With Training partnering with Field HR, program candidates were selected based on standardized criteria aligned to the WLM.

LEAP development activities are 80 percent experience and exposure and 20 percent classroom training (three workshops focused around WLM pillars). In addition to coaching, mentoring, tailored development plans, on-the-job projects, online learning, role-plays, educational gaming, and setting project goals, LEAP components include:

  • Journaling: Participants receive a journal and are expected to write and reflect on their experiences for developmental planning and personal growth.
  • Movie-type “trailers”: High-energy promos are delivered via the learning management system (LMS) to help introduce and create excitement prior to workshops.
  • Reality-based documentary videos: Learners watch clips on the LMS before and after each workshop. Videos track two program “participants” (played by actors) talking about their LEAP experiences and challenges. This helps learners see their own challenges as normal, alleviating anxiety; for some, LEAP is their first rigorous training.
  • Action learning project: ASM-Ts partner with peers over the course of the 12 weeks to develop a strategic business case addressing a district-based challenge. District and market leaders facilitate key workshop activities. This allows them to share their knowledge while demonstrating a collaborative leadership style.

Following LEAP, ASM-Ts can pursue additional role-specific development activities for up to two years to keep their skills fresh.

To successfully complete LEAP and move into the selection process for ASM, participants must have a cumulative 70 percent for all scored LEAP work.

Results: After more than 220 classes and 3,000 ASM-Ts trained:

  • The average LEAP final exam score is 81.2 percent.
  • Engagement scores among this audience improved 15 percent in a single year, with all development-related questions in the 75th percentile.
  • Participant turnover is 1.15 percent vs. 3.44 percent of team members in the same job but not in the program.
  • LEAP contributed to the 5 percent improvement in customer satisfaction in the last year.
Lorri Freifeld
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.