2021 Training Top 100 Hall of Fame Members

BNSF Railway, Dollar General Corporation, Nationwide, and Sonic Automotive were inducted into the Training Top 100 Hall of Fame in 2021.

Four companies were inducted into the Training Top 100 Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of 14 other companies named to the hall since its inception in 2008. These 18 companies held Top 10 spots in the newly rebranded Training Top 100 for four consecutive years. The new organizations were formally inducted into the Training Top 100 Hall of Fame during the Virtual Gala, held February 8 during the Training 2021 Virtual Conference.

BNSF Railway

Few industries combine the nostalgia for yesteryear with the high-tech potential of tomorrow as railroads do. BNSF Railway is a vital force in the American economy, moving essential consumer goods, energy products, agricultural products, building materials, medical supplies, and more.

When BNSF was formed in 1995, its leaders created its Vision, Values, and Evidences of Success. To define leadership expectations, they created the BNSF Leadership Model, which continues to tie to everything the organization does 25-plus years later. BNSF’s Leadership Model provides a consistent message and common language for leadership expectations. All learning efforts— from technical to executive development—and all talent processes align with this leadership model.

One of the ways leaders shape BNSF’s culture and align its business strategy with learning is through the annual People Leader Training (PLT) program. PLT started in 2001 and drives business and leadership results through the meaningful application of the Leadership Model. More than 5,000 exempt employees experience the same annual, two-day customized training program that is newly designed and delivered each year based on organizational needs.

BNSF’s broader learning strategy aligns and executes through strong training governance, with business leader engagement ensuring learning strategies and programs are delivered with the business needs in mind. By monitoring training initiatives and activities, BNSF ensures the effectiveness of its safety and technical training and leadership development.

BNSF is at the forefront in the railroad industry for advancing innovation for its business, and the same applies to how it designs and delivers learning. BNSF’s Learning and Development (L&D) organization has strong executive support, innovative learning, and integrated talent management. This strong alignment is what truly differentiates learning and development at BNSF. This support has never wavered in the 25 years since the merger of Santa Fe and Burlington Northern that created BNSF Railway.

Dollar General Corporation

Dollar General Corporation has been committed to its mission of Serving Others since the company’s founding in 1939. It strives to make shopping hasslefree and affordable with more than 17,000 convenient, easy-to-shop stores in 46 states. For its customers, this means placing them at the center of all Dollar General does and working every day to deliver value and convenience. For its employees, this means showing respect and providing the opportunity to grow and develop their careers. For its communities, this means helping support them through literacy and education.

Investing in its diverse teams through development, empowerment, and inclusion serves as Dollar General’s fourth and foundational operating priority. Whether an individual works in a store, a distribution center, the Store Support Center, or international sourcing offices, Dollar General provides employees with numerous opportunities to gain new skills and develop their talents through award-winning training and development programs in an environment that respects and leverages the dignity and differences of others. For individuals entering the workforce, Dollar General stores and distribution centers provide a foundation of retail and supply chain skills upon which to build a career. More experienced individuals-joining Dollar General can End opportunities to continue developing their careers with one of America’s fastest-growing retailers.

The company further demonstrates its commitment to being a positive business partner and good neighbor through Dollar General Literacy Foundation grants, which positively impact literacy and education initiatives at local schools, nonprofits, and libraries.

Training and Development (T&D) continues to support new store growth by providing innovative, scalable, and world-class learning to a highly diverse workforce aimed at strengthening Dollar General’s culture and mission of Serving Others by transforming its employees into its leaders of tomorrow.


Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, OH, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and hnancial services organizations in the U.S. The company provides a full range of insurance and hnancial services, offering a broad collection of solutions. It protects what’s most important—having paid more than $17 billion in claims and other benefits to its members in 2019.

Nationwide’s mission statement, “Protecting people, businesses, and futures with extraordinary care,” is both outward and inward looking—for its members, partners, communities, and associates.

The entire company embraces learning— from annual associate development plans and tuition reimbursement to hundreds of resources and training opportunities. The Future of Work Center, launched in 2020, is a great example of Nationwide’s mission in action. This five-year, $60 million investment in up skilling and reskilling is creating opportunities for all Nationwide associates to evolve and grow at a faster pace, enhancing an already strong culture of continuous learning. In 2020, 99 percent of Nationwide’s 28,000 associates met or exceeded their eight-hour goal—logging 260,000-plus hours of learning.

Nationwide knows its people are the key to its success, and the company will continue to make a strong investment in each of them. Nationwide is honored to be part of the Training Top 100 Hall of Fame among other organizations with this same strong focus on the future and continuous learning.

Sonic Automotive

As one of the nation’s largest automotive retailers, Sonic Automotive, Inc., actively invests in the development of industry-leading innovative training and development solutions for its 84 franchised dealerships and 14 collision repair centers representing 20-plus brands. The company’s dedication to providing a world-class guest experience sets Sonic Automotive dealerships apart from the competition and bonds them together in their pursuit of excellence. Sonic’s Talent Management Team, led by Vice President Doug Bryant, is committed to supporting the organizational mission by recruiting, developing, and retaining the best talent in the industry and currently serves more than 7,000 teammates across 14 markets.

The core of Sonic’s training and performance improvement strategy has been the development of operating playbooks that optimize operational efficiencies and standardize processes across roles, brands, and locations. The playbooks also function as the central development model for new hire training, custom sales performance coaching, and leadership academies. In addition, the playbooks preserve the integrity of organizational structures and processes while also actively focusing on refinement. and improvement on all levels. Diligent maintenance of Sonic’s playbooks, along with strategic alignment with business objectives, has produced measurable returns on investments in learning and development.

Sonic was no exception to the list of companies that faced new and unprecedented challenges in 2020. March brought travel restrictions and health risks that required the team to pivot and redesign programs to be delivered virtually without sacrificing impact and effectiveness. This sudden push for innovation in talent development processes yielded positive advancements in the use of technology for individualized training and performance support. The development of new online learning resources allowed for increased independent study, while effective use of virtual communication tools provided opportunities for customized sales coaching, improved teammate engagement, and increased manager involvement. These efforts reinforced the company’s commitment to constant improvement and continued pursuit of excellence in the industry.

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.