2014 Top Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives

For the first time since the creation of the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame in 2008, Training magazine required all Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that would be judged by each other and shared with our readers.

For the first time since the creation of the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame in 2008, Training magazine required all Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that would be judged by each other and shared with our readers. Aside from ensuring Hall of Famers aren’t “resting on their laurels,” this provides an opportunity for the Learning & Development community to learn from the “best of the best” and see some innovative solutions for challenges many face today.

Each Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiative submission could achieve a maximum of 15 points (half-point increments could be awarded) as follows:

  • Level of project difficulty/challenges faced and scale: 0-4 points
  • Innovation of training: 0-5 points
  • Results: 1 point for specific results stated in each of the first 3 Kirkpatrick levels; up to 3 points for specific results stated in the 4th level: 0-6 points

The initiatives that achieved the highest scores are detailed below (Booz Allen Hamilton obtained the highest score; KPMG and PwC tied for the second highest score). The other eight submissions will be profiled in the five remaining issues for 2014.

Booz Allen Hamilton: Cyber University

Booz Allen Hamilton has established several strategic initiatives that form a core set of business strategies and plans for business growth, development, and revenue generation. Cyber security and technology is one such initiative. Cyber technology and its application continue to evolve. As a result, training is a critical component in keeping staff current. Moreover, cyber security is a competitive marketplace where there are more jobs than qualified staff.

To close this gap, Booz Allen Hamilton four years ago created Cyber University, which works to build an expert and stable workforce through continuing education, industryrecognized certifications, and graduate-level academic programs. Cyber University is designed to have an impact across Booz Allen Hamilton’s four business groups, and it supports the firm’s market areas: Strategic Innovation, Defense, Security, and Civil. These include government, Department of Defense, civil, transportation, energy, and the commercial and financial services business.


A wide range of learning content across technical capabilities was required. The university focused on a multi-tiered model for content, leveraging build and/or buy: instructorled training (including virtual), core certifications, online learning, academic programs, resources, and experiential learning activities. Metrics are difficult to gather when training or certifications are obtained independent of the Cyber University. To overcome these challenges, a requirements review process was developed to focus resources on the development of relationships with providers having core competence in critical need areas, as well as to develop institutional content focused on proprietary intellectual property and intellectual capital.

Content Development

Booz Allen Hamilton implemented a new organization called APP: Academic and Professional Partnerships. This group developed a structured strategy to define external relationships in alignment with business imperatives, with top-tier relationships being true business partners. These partnerships were developed to teach areas of technical specialty, provide industry-recognized content (predominantly leading to a certification), and provide graduate-level expertise (while obtaining a graduate certificate or Master’s degree in cyber security).

With solidified vendor partnerships, internal resources narrowly focused on the development of learning solutions that address unique content not available in the marketplace— specifically areas of Booz Allen Hamilton intellectual property or proprietary intellectual capital.


Learning content is offered across a variety of platforms to accommodate various learner needs and styles. Graduate-level courses are offered through a blended learning platform; staff is responsible for preparation of virtual instructor-led courses. Certification preparation courses are offered in this blended learning format for staff not centrally located or those unable to leave client engagements during the day. These blended learning solutions are offered after core business hours to accommodate client requirements. Other courses are offered in a traditional classroom environment to accommodate lab work. In addition to these interactive options, staffers have access to hundreds of self-paced courses and virtual reference libraries to support their learning needs.

Staffers are encouraged to continue development in this area to stay current on technical developments and to maintain certifications. Career managers reinforce this messaging through regular conversations and performance objectives.

To date, 4,478 learners have been trained. The program is ongoing and in its fourth year of alignment to business strategic imperatives. Initial deliverables were available in the first year. In the following years, the program has undergone continued content and delivery improvements.

Booz Allen Hamilton tracks metrics including staff enrollments, successful completion of certification exams (delineated by method of instruction), number of staff holding certifications, and the retention rates for staff who engage in these programs. Once a month, a searchable dashboard is provided to all Cyber leaders, allowing them to search for staff by location, pay band, and certifications held. This tool has allowed the business to leverage skilled staff to their maximum potential and identify staff for proposals and other efforts, and has driven increased staff retention by keeping them fully engaged on projects that grow their interests and skills.


Staffers consistently rate these courses above the industry benchmark, due to their technical depth and flexibility of scheduling. Overall Kirkpatrick Level 1 satisfaction measures 88 percent. Staffers in this program have an 89 percent industry exam pass rate, well above the 70 percent industry average (using KnowledgeAdvisors/Metrics That Matter data).

For Level 3 behavior change, feedback from surveys of career managers, program managers, and staff indicates the program has 80 percent learning effectiveness overall.

As a result of the implementation of Cyber University and the effective alignment of courses meeting defined business needs, Booz Allen Hamilton has documented an increase in retention (87 percent of staff who completed the graduate program were still with the firm two years later), a pass rate of industry certifications well above the industry average, and higher billability for staff completing the courses.


To help its professionals become better at understanding their clients’ issues and aligning their messaging and approach, audit, tax, and advisory firm KPMG last year launched an innovative new program called MarketEDGE. In its first year of deployment, MarketEDGE has resulted in stronger, deeper, and more meaningful client relationships. At the heart of this success was a creative, multifaceted learning initiative.

What Made the Training Work?

  1. The MarketEDGE learning initiative extends beyond the classroom. Anchored in an engaging two-day core training course that’s been delivered to KPMG’s 2,000-plus partners and managing directors, the learning also is reinforced over time. Pre- and post-course activities help participants apply learning to actual client situations. What’s taught in the classroom is reflected in a variety of business processes, tools, and performance measures. Additional courses expose more junior professionals to the approach and their role in supporting it. And firm-wide and local communications regularly reinforce best practices.
  2. KPMG leaders have actively and visibly participated in the training. Leaders from all of the firm’s practice areas promoted and attended the core training program, ensured the participation of their partners and managing directors, and actively engage in the reinforcement. Through their communications and their actions, leadership conveyed the importance of learning and applying MarketEDGE principles.
  3. Learning has been measured and monitored at multiple levels. This measurement strategy helped the Training team make real-time adjustments to the initiative. It also helped validate its success. Post-course surveys administered to the core training participants showed overwhelming satisfaction:
  • Some 94.7 percent of respondents agreed that “I anticipate using MarketEDGE.”
  • Some 91.2 percent agreed that “deploying MarketEDGE will enhance my personal success.”
  • Some 93.5 percent agreed that “overall, I would recommend this program to others at the firm.”

The core training program culminated in activities that tested knowledge and skill gain, helping ensure that 100 percent of participants left with the requisite ability to apply the MarketEDGE approach to real-world situations with clients.

A program of measurement and monitoring of MarketEDGE was developed and has been embedded in the infrastructure. It includes having senior leaders and MarketEDGE “champions” work closely with account teams to conduct client issue reviews and ensure that MarketEDGE concepts are being adopted. These reviews served the double purpose of validating learning transfer to behavior and providing an opportunity for additional coaching.

Early results have far exceeded KPMG leadership’s expectations. And there’s clear commitment to continue to reinforce the concepts, measure progress, and maximize the long-term impact for many years to come.

PwC: Discover

Discover is one of PwC’s signature leadership development programs. It recognizes the firm’s newly promoted senior associates on their milestone achievement and focuses on increasing their ability to make effective choices. More than 4,600 professionals have participated in Discover to celebrate their promotion and explore self-leadership. The program uses life’s domains—self, family, community, and career—as the lenses for good decision-making and includes virtual, face-to-face, and life coaching experiences.

The Challenge

In designing Discover, the PwC Learning and Development (L&D) team sought to engage thousands of young professionals in their development as the firm’s next generation of leaders. These individuals are typically in their late 20s and are at a time in their lives when balancing careers with family, community, and personal choices is becoming increasingly challenging. The program had to be scalable up to 400 participants per session while allowing individuals to create custom learning experiences through executive coaching and small peer groups.

To meet these requirements, the L&D team fashioned Discover around four themes:

  • Maximize your energy: Energy is fuel for making good choices and thriving vs. surviving. Thriving individuals take advantage of opportunities they see.
  • Clarify your purpose: Individuals with purpose know what’s important to them—their values. Purpose provides a compass to help guide choices.
  • Sharpen your focus: Focus is an individual’s ability to channel energy by focusing their attention on something. This is how we add value to our lives.
  • Act with intention: Intention is the ability to make conscious decisions rather than reactive choices. Individuals who act with intention do things on purpose.

Discover eschews the typical learning objectives most professional services firms embed in their development programs, which usually focus on practical application of methodology, structure, and process. Instead, the program emphasizes the development of values, belief, and character. The result is a highly personalized experience with three phases: Explore, Celebrate and Learn, and Sustain.

Embarking on a Journey of Self-Discovery

Discover’s unique design allows participants to tailor an adventure, make key choices to direct their experience, and have fun while appreciating how their decisions influence various outcomes. In the Explore phase, participants complete pre-work assignments such as an online “Discover Your Values” exercise, which sets up a virtual conversation with an externally certified life coach. Participants work with their coaches to create their “Who am I?” stories. In addition, participants use a microsite with resources to prepare for their journey.

Face-to-face learning experiences take place in the Celebrate and Learn phase. Here, participants travel to a picturesque resort in California for four days of celebration and reflection on their promotion to senior associate. Everyone is encouraged to make the most of the location, the partner support champion network, and onsite workshops. Gary Hrechkosy, a recent Discover alum, was pleased he did both. “It was great to get one-on-one advice on this new phase of my career from my Discover coach. And we did a lot of fun activities that made our discussions about what’s working and what’s not more valuable.”

The final phase, Sustain, begins when participants return from the resort. Discover alums use the program’s networking site on PwC’s social collaboration platform to continue the dialogue with their partner advocates and peers on life leadership.


Since its introduction, Discover continues to receive high marks in participant evaluations. More than 90 percent felt the program was effective and enjoyed the learning experience.

A few key highlights:

  • Some 83 percent felt Discover was a celebration of a significant career milestone.
  • Some 87 percent felt Discover made them feel more prepared to identify and make effective choices that affect self, family, community, and career.
  • Some 84 percent felt Discover helped them to understand the importance of a support network.
  • Some 90 percent have made one commitment to themselves that they’re eager to realize.

In a three- and 13-month post-program survey, 86 percent of participants indicated that they’ve made behavioral changes based on their program experiences. These include efforts to improve work/life balance, as well as placing a greater emphasis on health and exercise.

The program also is significantly affecting senior associate retention. Prior to the introduction of Discover, the voluntary turnover rate of the firm’s senior associates was 23 percent. Today, it’s less than 10 percent for first-year senior associates who attend Discover. While this dramatic reduction in turnover cannot be entirely attributed to Discover, the program’s impact is a key contributor to the increased retention of PwC’s senior associates. More importantly, participants feel celebrated and recognized as future leaders, knowing that their journey has just begun.