2019 Best Practice & Outstanding Training Initiative Award Winners

Training editors and Top 10 Hall of Famers recognize innovative and successful learning and development programs and practices submitted in the 2019 Training Top 125 application.



BayCare Health System embarked on a companywide journey of high reliability to provide patients with safe, high-quality care. This leadership-supported effort was designed to provide knowledge, skills, and techniques to promote error prevention and create a “learning organization.”

The curriculum includes sessions directed at team members and leadership. A two-and-a-half-hour Leadership session provides characteristics of high reliability and tools and techniques to reinforce skills being taught to team members. Team members attend a four-hour training class that explains the relevance of the topic and engages them in the goal of “zero preventable harm” for patients. They are provided specific error prevention techniques for use in their day-to-day work. Leaders are encouraged to attend at least one session with their team members so they can reinforce and encourage the ongoing use of these techniques.

A baseline safety culture survey and quality metrics were developed to measure the effectiveness of the training. Rounding tools are provided to leadership to guide, reinforce, measure, and reward appropriate use of error prevention techniques. Leaders give team members a “high five” award and publicly recognize them when they report a potential error that could cause harm to BayCare patients or staff.

Every department is allotted a “safety coach” team member, who acts as a subject matter expert at the unit level. Safety coaches are given an additional four hours per pay period to do safety-related work for their unit (i.e., intense analysis of events, education, observation, and monitoring of error prevention techniques). They also meet monthly to review data and discuss best practices and barriers. The annual Safety Coach Retreat was implemented in year two of this initiative. It is an opportunity for all disciplines to share experiences and best practices, and collaborate on issues across the system.

Safety Huddles are held daily at the hospital level and on every unit to raise situational awareness and reinforce safe patient care. Safety Huddles look back at the previous 24 hours and the upcoming 24-hour period to resolve or identify any potential barriers or safety concerns. Team members can use STAR (Stop, Think, Act, and Review) to remind others at the bedside when things may seem hectic or rushed.


  • An increase in event reporting of more than 100 percent at the first hospital trained and a 20 percent increase in event reporting across the system.
  • After the first year, there was a 50-plus percent increase in reporting across the system.
  • A decrease in hospital-acquired infections by 19 percent.


CenturyLink’s Lean Applied to Business Process Program aims to provide decision-making employees with the tools necessary to reduce waste in everyday processes. A continual focus is on the question, “What will the customer pay for?” It requires employees to think about the steps in their process that are not value added. By reducing waste in processes, CenturyLink saves time, money, and frustration for employees and customers.

The class is a five-day instructor-led experience that includes lecture, activities, value-stream mapping exercises, and creation of action plans that result in cross-functional projects to reduce waste.

The program is reinforced in a variety of ways. Leaders assign Lean projects to key employees throughout the year. Lean principles are discussed in staff meetings and on project teams. Online training has been created for those who would like to learn more about Lean principles and practices. Lastly, employees are invited to the monthly Whetstone Community of Practice group to “sharpen the sword” by discussing key topics, sharing best practices, networking, and celebrating project results.

A condensed version of the five-day program is now part of the Executive Development Program. As a commitment to implementing Lean, North America Operations Executive Vice President Richard Batelaan held a two-day engagement with his vice presidents to create and prioritize the list of Lean project opportunities that have the highest business impact potential. There is also a department set up within this business unit focused on both Lean and Lean Six Sigma initiatives.

Results: Employees have taken the skills they’ve learned to initiate more than 66 Lean project initiatives. Business impact results reported from those projects include reductions in touch time (45 minutes), cycle time (three days), and new hire processing and manual work (96 hours).

Training attendees also are encouraged to pursue a green belt certification. To date, CenturyLink has six certified green belts, resulting in a 30 percent reduction in service intervals in those projects tied to certifications.


After integrating several new companies within Haskell’s operations over the last few years, Consumer & Packaged Goods (CPG) leadership realized that both newly acquired and current team members needed a better understanding of the company’s project delivery model and best practices. They asked to revive a long-standing technical training program for construction and design professionals, the Program for Management Development (PMD), and reintroduce it for CPG.

PMD gives team members a strong foundation in Haskell’s five primary markets; the “drivers” for each; and Haskell’s overall structure, operations, resources, and capabilities. The coursework starts broad, covering the Haskell Organization and Operations Group(s) Structure, and then breaks out into discipline-related areas within operational units.

PMD provides blended learning, with 44 online modules construction personnel can access on computers in jobsite trailers or on any mobile device. The program combines 22 months of two-hour meetings, two classes per meeting. Each 45-minute class is followed by a short pass/fail quiz.

Subject matter expert (SME) instructors, who are the most senior specialists at Haskell in their field, train via the company’s video Web-based classroom in Haskell’s Jacksonville L+D Development Center, which connects to 20-plus office locations and multiple jobsites. Participants attend in real time, and videos are available on Haskell’s intranet. On-the-job teams spend up to two hours following each virtual instructor-led training (VILT) to brainstorm how to apply the learning.

During the three Project Delivery Groups’ quarterly meetings, group presidents and division VPs share PMD learnings and results.

Results: The newly revived PMD was so successful that it has again become enterprise-wide fundamental training for all three project delivery teams: CPG; Infrastructure & Transportation (I&T); and Federal, Healthcare & Energy (FHE). Since January 2018, PMD has delivered more than 1,800 hours of training to 141 employees with results including:

  • CPG’s project revenue contributions exceeded 64 percent of target.
  • The number of checks voided by Accounting because project managers didn’t correctly file project documents (e.g., lien waivers, certificates of insurance) dropped by 30 percent by the end of 2017.
  • PMD has helped boost Haskell’s quality scores, including speed of project execution and client satisfaction, which now exceed 90 percent and are tied directly to repeat business exceeding 85 percent enterprise-wide.


The purpose of Paychex’s DevelopU program is “inspiring leaders to inspire others.” The approach is intended to increase learning and reinforcement of key leadership behaviors by actively connecting leaders to learning activities leveraging multiple social tools. This allows leaders to consume content at their convenience.

DevelopU provides ongoing and on-demand learning with targeted development opportunities that drive the integration of competencies, culture, and values. Participation is driven and measured through social media, leveraging external platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Exposure to DevelopU begins at the onset of a leader’s career. All new leaders are introduced to DevelopU and enrolled in Paychex’s various social learning tools during their new leader onboarding. DevelopU is integrated into the classroom experience to help drive engagement by using class photos, conducting live Facebook check-ins, and posting videotaped interviews of new leaders.

Blog-style e-mails are delivered to leaders weekly, and content on a specific competency is shared each month. Leadership competencies such as Managerial Courage, Leveraging Partnerships, and Agility are authored by current leader role models.

DevelopU also releases biweekly podcasts, and Facebook Live events are leveraged to release timely information pertinent to a leader’s development. Senior executives participate as facilitators. WebEx sessions are offered to highlight “Voice of Experience” guests to speak on the topic of the month, and help facilitate peer-to-peer mentoring. Current Paychex leaders are selected based on their level of proficiency to play an active role in these forums as interviewers, interviewees, and presenters.

Once a competency is featured, content is available on demand via a curated learning management system (LMS) library for reinforcement. Leaders looking for a specific result or development support in a needed competency can access the library on their own, or with consultative support from their leadership development partner, who meets with them frequently in their first year. Resources in this library include leader-led guides, links, videos, quick reads, and access to previously released content.

Results: Since inception, DevelopU has resulted in:

  • More than 2,000 participants
  • 70 percent Facebook users deemed “active”
  • 78 percent of survey participants saying they were immediately able to apply learning
  • An increase in overall leadership competency scores in six of nine competencies in fiscal year 2018
  • Overall company employee engagement improvement from 71 percent to 77 percent in FY’18


When Michael and Amy Walden started Walden Security nearly 30 years ago, they did so knowing they wanted to create a company where the employees were treated like family, and, in turn, those same employees always gave their best and never wanted to leave. As years passed, they continued making every effort to maintain a culture where employees feel valued, always have a voice, and, more importantly, understand that Walden Security cares about them.

As the company grew, so did the challenge of maintaining this culture. Eventually, Michael and Amy could no longer meet and speak with every new security officer to talk about these values and help officers understand how vital they are to Walden Security. They entrusted these responsibilities to managers, supervisors, directors, trainers, and others. Subsequently, Walden Security’s turnover rate began to creep up.

L&D and Human Resources partnered together to take on the challenge of correcting this trend. The teams met and worked with Michael and Amy, along with every department head and every executive leader to develop every piece of content. Ultimately, this quest drove the creation of Walden Security’s new orien-training program: The Walden Way.

This three-day immersive program includes:

  • Discussions with President Michael and CEO Amy Walden
  • Instructor-led training sessions developed and facilitated by the executive vice presidents (EVPs) of Operations and Sales & Marketing
  • Technology workshops with the director of L&D
  • Role-play exercises organized and led by the EVP of Human Resources
  • Teambuilding activities with various department heads and support staff

Walden Security’s values, behaviors, and skills are regularly reinforced through just-in-time development sessions and performance reviews with the participant’s immediate supervisor and held at the participant’s home office. Just-in-time sessions and performance reviews continue throughout his or her career.

Results: Based on feedback from participants and leadership involved:

• More than 93 percent understand the culture of Walden Security.

• 98 percent have directly applied skills and knowledge gained from The Walden Way.

In addition, the program has resulted in 130-plus security officer promotions and an 8 percent reduction in turnover.



In order to thrive in an increasingly challenging consumer electronics industry, Best Buy had to improve its ability to serve customers and shift from transactional interactions to lifelong relationships. This was the intended outcome of the company’s goals to “Evolve How We Sell” and “Expand What We Sell.”

To accomplish this goal, Best Buy set out to improve the store training experience. It created Best Buy Certified to improve onboarding training and reduce turnover, create a clear path of development for future roles, and implement a continuous education requirement.

Best Buy Certified includes:

  • The launch of new onboarding learning plans for 260 different roles supporting Retail employees, corporate teams, and Geek Squad agents (more than 90,000 employees)
  • The build of 250-plus new onboarding training courses—the majority of which are bite-sized videos featuring company executives as facilitators
  • A continuous learning expectation to maintain certification
  • New reporting for validating onboarding and postonboarding training

The onboarding program takes place over a full month (160 hours) and consists of required self-paced training via e-learnings, videos, documents, and a new “activity” content type where learners are required to complete on-the-floor discovery experiences and then enter knowledge validation or reflection answers into the learning management system (LMS).

Reinforcement of learning during onboarding occurs through a role-specific required virtual and in-person training (Sales = 32 hours, Geek Squad = 32 hours, Operations = 4 hours) that is attended after all self-paced training is completed, so new onboarding knowledge can be applied to real-life customer situations. Onboarding reinforcement also occurs through required quizzes and leader behavior validations.

Retail employees are required to maintain Best Buy Certification by completing monthly training on their job responsibilities, current business strategies, or content they desire for personal growth. Two hours are budgeted for each employee to do this each month; if not completed, they lose their certification.

Reinforcement of Best Buy Certified occurs systematically through LMS enhancements, including gamification elements such as points and virtual badges.

Results: Since the launch of Best Buy Certified:

  • Company-wide Customer Satisfaction Scores (Net Promotor Scores) increased by 270 basis points, and the specific NPS metric of Associate Knowledge increased by 390 basis points.
  • Best Buy’s annual employee engagement scores increased by 30 basis points, with a 110-basis point increase specifically in the area of training, learning, and development provided by the company.
  • Year-over-year, 90-day turnover decreased significantly.

The company believes Best Buy Certified played a key role in contributing to last year’s comparable sales year-on-year increase.


Succession is like a relay race, Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) believes. Dropping the baton will cost a team the race—and the gold medal.

As such, BWWB’s Training and Organizational Development Department (TODD) works closely with multiple departments on succession planning. The Water Resources Department (WRD) operates Pump Stations that draw water from rivers/lakes. More than 55 percent of those in supervisory roles will be eligible for retirement within the next two years.

The WRD has two roles that require “passing the baton.” The superintendent oversees all Pump Stations, while supervisors manage individual Pump Stations. To equip candidates for the superintendent role, TODD provided more than 300 hours of instructor-led training in 2017. Candidates each also spent an average of 40 hours experiencing job rotations at different worksites to get a big picture view of how the WRD works.

The manager of the WRD asked TODD to help co-design succession planning for supervisors. The resulting strategy has two rails like a train track:

Rail #1: Leadership Certificate. Supervisors recruited qualified candidates to onboard in the pre-supervisory certificate program.

Rail #2: Mentoring. Through group discussions with the leadership team, TODD identified the top 10 skills candidates need to competently manage a Pump Station. Supervisors mentor their candidates, with a timeline for them to be competent in each of the top 10 areas after a year of mentoring.

Group coaching was used to reinforce the program. The Organizational Development specialist meets up to six months with WRD management and during their WRD leadership monthly meetings. This provides just-in-time coaching and training, ensuring success for their next steps.

Results: As a result of this succession strategy initiative, BWWB now has approximately 200 percent more candidates on its pre-supervisory process than supervisors who will retire from the Pump Stations. Furthermore, 100 percent of the supervisors have cross-trained at one or more of the WRD facilities to learn the skills for the superintendent role. Succession planning is enabling the company to achieve its strategic goal to “recruit, develop, reward, and retain a high-performing and innovative workforce committed to achieving BWWB’s vision and mission.” This approach directly impacts BWWB’s internal promotion rate of 68 percent.


CarMax, Inc., works to “Drive What’s Possible” every day. The company constantly listens to customers and associates to develop new and innovative ways to improve their experience. One example is CarMax’s recently piloted Empowerment Program, comprising models that empower associates to quickly provide resolutions for customers. These models indicate the type of solutions an associate can offer a customer without further manager approval, greatly streamlining the process for associates.

To support the Empowerment Program, CarMax developed a Customer Issue Resolution Process that details the steps an associate should use to discover a customer’s situation, connect with them, conduct research, and determine and present a resolution.

The Customer Relations team, in partnership with Talent Management and the department learning teams, developed a training program in April 2018 that consisted of:

  • Introductory video by CEO Bill Nash
  • Meetings with the regional senior management team and senior managers in each store
  • Instructor-led training for all store associates, led by store managers
  • Training video by the SVP of Store Operations and VP of Regional Service Operations
  • Process Overview Guide and Observation Job Aid
  • Customized training videos
  • E-learning simulations that take associates through multiple scenarios (each tailored to the associate’s department)
  • Dedicated landing page within the LMS

After the initial training, CarMax embedded the training into each department’s new hire onboarding programs and created quarterly customer issue scenarios, so associates can practice the process with each other. A Job Aid makes it easy for associates to record the steps they took while solving an issue for a customer and to debrief that scenario with their manager. Customized reports help leaders and associates track their performance against Key Performance Metrics (KPMs) and help CarMax measure the overall program.


  • Reduced complaint-to-sales rate by 100 basis points
  • Achieved 40 percent reduction in the time it takes to resolve customer issues
  • Increased customer satisfaction when they experience an issue by 400 basis points

In addition, store managers and sustainment leaders observed improved behaviors for associates in every department. CarMax plans to roll out this program companywide in 2019.


To streamline the way it processes business and better serve members, Forum Credit Union needed to upgrade its core system, which had been in place since 1977. This change initiative—which affected the strategic goal of employee retention and aimed to improve the new membership application process, increase new retail households, and simplify how employees could cross-sell products and services— affected 99 percent of FORUM’s employees and 100 percent of its members.

FORUM developed a thematic approach, “Member Service Is in Our DNA,” for this initiative, complete with the design of two custom DNA (i.e., computer training) labs, and a “Decompression Chamber” (relaxation station). At Day of Discovery, senior leadership and Organizational Development (OD) rolled out the initiative by transforming the conference room into a DNA-themed science lab. The executive team appeared in white lab coats and goggles, and all employees were given thematic bling.

For the classroom training, participants learned through demonstration, hands-on practice, simulations, and assessments. Fun, competitive learning and review games included new system terminology introduced through “LINGO”—a take on traditional BINGO—and system troubleshooting introduced through a customized “Crack the Code” game.

A portion of employees’ training needed to take place on the job, so department-level subject matter experts and “super users” were tapped to deliver department-specific training and collaborate with OD to develop job aids and document procedures.

The OD team conducted branch visits and led team review activities, including a “branch vs. branch” DNA trivia game. A library of more than 550 job aids, FAQs, recorded Webinars, and other resources was developed and available on the intranet. A scavenger hunt enabled rapid retrieval of resources. Following the launch of the scavenger hunt, page “followers” more than quadrupled, ensuring that employees were receiving real-time updates in preparation for the system launch.

All employees received weekly review worksheets to ensure continued hands-on practice two to three times per week. Additionally, call center agents would complete a member call in the old system, then immediately replicate that interaction in the new training environment.


  • 94 percent of training participants indicated they were able to successfully perform the system functions introduced in training.
  • 9 out of 10 participants found their learning experience to be valuable and prepared them to use the new system on the job.
  • 30-days post-conversion, the employee retention rate was 98.75 percent.


Van Meter, Inc., launched a new yearlong employee onboarding program last year that is designed to teach new hires the basic aspects of the company, culture, their role, and business goals and initiatives.

Utilizing gamification, the program is divided into six primary achievement badges that align to Van Meter’s company values. To successfully complete a “badge,” learners must complete numerous learning activities within the badge category.

There are 49 total learning activities that utilize a blending learning approach. Learners engage with the content in one of four ways:

  • In-person training (several of the sessions are facilitated by leadership team members, including the chief growth officer, chief organizational effectiveness officer, chief development officer, and president and CEO)
  • Online e-learning via the company’s learning management system (LMS)
  • Self-guided activities
  • Personal essay

To bolster learner understanding, retention, recall, and application, Van Meter developed a professionally produced, customized 200-plus-page journal. The journal is given to new employees at the in-person orientation training held during their first 30 days of hire. The journal contains unique learning content, space for notetaking, and reflection on each learning activity.

Van Meter also implemented automated scheduling and delivery tools to initiate learner contact via Microsoft Flow. When a new employee achieves predetermined learning milestones and/or length of time in training, a contact with him or her is initiated automatically. Connections are made with learners as follows:

First Month Post-Hire:

  • In-person orientation
  • Badge program e-learning and self-guided coursework

Months 2-6

  • In-person two-day Foundations Training
  • Leader reinforcement conversation
  • 60-day automated survey
  • Continue badge program e-learning and self-guided coursework

Months 7-12

  • Additional leader reinforcement conversation
  • Nine-month check-in automated survey
  • Finish badge program e-learning and self-guided coursework

Year 1

  • Complete the badge program
  • Attend a Commitment Ceremony to celebrate completion

Results: The success of this program is measured by seeing all learners engage in 35 percent more e-learning programming and completing learning activity coursework within their first six months than in the previous onboarding program.

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.