Best Practice and Outstanding Training Initiative Award Winners (March 2021)

Training editors and Training Top 100 Hall of Famers recognize innovative and successful learning and development programs and practices submitted in the 2021 Training Top 100 application.

AAA Northeast: AAA Northeast Ambassadorship

The AAA Northeast Ambassadorship program trained and engaged all 2,770 employees in the organization to become Club Ambassadors. Taking the traditional idea of a testimonial and turning it into an animated graphic of a real employee with a real success story to share, the program aimed to build cross-departmental awareness and educate all AAA employees about the company’s business line products and services.

Following the initial self-paced asynchronous training, Learning and Development (L&D) captured stories from employees explaining how they served as a AAA Ambassador or specific stories about how they referred products and accomplished a sale. Employees then were turned into “cartoons” using authoring tool Vyond to create their story. The employee’s own voice telling his or her story was paired as the audio script.

Monthly contests were held, and prizes were awarded for Ambassador story submissions and sales referrals (using the internally designed AAA Ambassador app that is synched to the company’s customer relationship management system). Interviews with senior business line leaders likewise were turned into cartoons and used in the training. A weekly communication was sent to all employees highlighting a different product, service, or benefit, along with an infographic providing examples of conversation starters, pivoting messages, or objection-handling suggestions.


  • The efforts of the employee referral training using the AAA Ambassador app yielded a 37 percent increase in the number of employee referrals from the baseline to four months following training.
  • Through August 2020, membership grew 0.93 percent, exceeding the goal of 0.33 percent growth.

Hackensack Meridian Health: The Hackensack Meridian Maze

The Hackensack Meridian Maze focused on developing and certifying Hackensack Meridian Health team members and leaders (including include those selected to be Specialty Scholars), and physicians in a structured, yet creative problem-solving methodology based on Six Sigma principles.

During this program, which launched with 50 percent of employees, participants are presented with an “A-MAZE-ING” dilemma that takes them on a journey with a designated team through a simulated maze experience. Participants learn they will be going into another room with a carpet maze and electronic grid, and that they need to successfully get through the maze as a team without any buzzes going off by using creative problem-solving techniques.

Once the problem is framed, participants go into the Maze room a maximum of four times. During the maze sessions, participants are rated on their team dynamic skills and failures (buzzes) as the maze sessions are tracked. This data is used by participants to create a “before” and “after” picture through the use of run charts, pareto diagrams, and root cause analysis. At the end of the session, participants take all the information they tracked to create a living storyboard that can be shared with other teams.

This program is available in a variety of formats, including a multi-month project approach, nine- week challenge, and half- and full-day sessions.


Examples of Specialty Scholar project outcomes include:

  • Reduction of hospital acquired pressure ulcer rate from 5.5 percent in March to less than 1 percent in December; maintained 0 percent for 6 months
  • 60 percent increase in documentation of pain reassessment

Haskell: SafeMatters Jobsite Safety Orientation

Custom-developed internally using Haskell’s Code of Safe Practices (COSP), the SafeMatters Jobsite Safety Orientation program is required training companywide and inclusive of the company’s contract partners (8,300-plus) in the U.S. and 12 countries.

Haskell retooled the original 90-minute online curriculum into seven chunked Web-based lessons (5 to 10 minutes each) accessible via mobile device (a fairly new development for the construction industry), with comprehension testing following each. Course content is narrated by Haskell colleagues, both safety experts and selected safety champion employees, including the CEO and COO and other executive leadership team members. The program also is moving into virtual reality. Haskell’s internally developed virtual reality assessment tool, HERO — Hazard Elimination/Risk Oversight, assesses field team members’ ability to recognize jobsite hazards using their personal smart device (mobile phone/tablet).

SafeMatters orientation content is revisited and reinforced on every jobsite (project lengths typically average between six months and six years). There are also weekly/monthly featured topic toolbox talks on safety issues.


  • The Recordable Incident Rate (RIR) for first quarter 2019 improved 69 percent to 0.36, three times better than the average construction industry rate (2.7).
  • The Work-in-Place Incident Rate (WIP) improved 65 percent since rollout and hit a historical low (0.74) through first quarter 2019.

Paychex, Inc.: Culture Shaping Training

The Paychex Culture Shaping training program serves to inform and influence all Paychex, Inc., employees to more fully live the company’s six values: integrity, partnership, accountability, respect, innovation, and service. The program has 1,200- plus Culture Champions (more than 8 percent of Paychex’s employee base) who serve as catalysts for change and partner with location leaders to lead weekly and monthly team conversations and activities that drive more awareness of culture and the importance of living Paychex values.

The Virtual Employee Culture Orientation (VECO) program is offered twice a month and is highly encouraged for new employees. The program includes a monthly e-mail with a variety of delivery methods for exploring the culture message and monthly Paychex value; professional videos featuring culture stories highlighting Paychex people, places, and events demonstrating the value; podcasts of Q&A sessions with members of senior leadership having a casual conversation on what the value means to them; a well-being and performance platform and app called MeQuilibrium that is customized to Paychex values and monthly culture concepts; and a new EPIC (Engagement Partnership Inclusion Culture) team that looks for opportunities to align and design strategies, communications, and measurements.

Editor’ Note: Paychex provided Level 3 and 4 results in the Training Top 100 application but did not make those results available for publication.

Visa Inc: Payments Everywhere

The two-month Visa Payments Everywhere Certification Program is open to all Visa employees globally and has three major components:

Kickoff event: Teams of seven compete in a daylong simulation, designing “the best payments product” as they learn new industry concepts, market dynamics, and trade-offs. The simulation uses a game board with industry term stickers and playing cards featuring Visa products and solutions. Participants learn through hands-on, discussion-based interaction, ending with a virtual reality game where teams of players solve payment industry challenges together. One participant wears VR goggles as teammates collaborate to control iPad-based game elements and coach/direct toward correct answers.

Online learning paths with assessments: Over the next eight weeks, participants complete seven learning paths involving two to three hours of blended content. Each path concludes with a 15- to 20-question assessment. Learners can “test out” of a learning path by attaining an 80 percent passing score.

Team innovation project: Teams collaborate to solve a real-world Visa business challenge by developing a solution and submitting it for judging. Visa employees vote online for favorite submissions, and Visa’s president views each region’s top videos and selects a winner. Winning ideas receive funding for market exploration and potential product incubation, with winning teams participating in the process.


  • Payments Everywhere certified 2,550 participants (more than 12 percent of the company) in two years (one year ahead of goal), and 21 projects were selected to advance in 2019.
  • Turnover dropped to 8.4 percent in fiscal year 2019.


MasTec Utility Services: Leadership Excellence & Development (LEAD)

The Leadership Excellence and Development program (LEAD) is available to all employees across all levels of MasTec Utility Services. The program is made up of four progressive curriculum tiers.

The courses and activities include e-learnings, instructor-led classroom training, structured discussions with mentors and HR managers, and self-paced reinforcement activities. The learning objectives are mapped to 20 core leadership competencies (which vary by tier).

The LEAD program is the first, within the organization to leverage SMS text messaging via Outlook to assign self-paced practice exercises to each participant. MasTec Utility Services employees are spread out throughout the country and most work outdoors without access to laptops or Wi-Fi. The SMS text message solution enables MasTec Utility Services to reach its employees on their devices in real time. Participants also spend time with leaders from outside their direct group and visit projects run by other parts of the business to learn more about other divisions within MasTec Utility Services and how they all fit. together.


  • Graduates’ overall performance, based on supervisor ratings, increased 21 percent from an average of3.68 (out of5) to 4.46.
  • The total safety incident rate decreased nearly 34 percent to 1.39.

Rollins, LLC: Conversion of LDP Classroom Training to VILT

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rollins, LLC, converted all classroom training for its four- stage Leadership Development Program (LDP) to virtual instructor-led training (VILT) for approximately 200 Orkin Branch and Service manager trainees across the organization within two months.

The Training team partnered with consultants at Georgia State University to think through virtual options. As a result, each class has a minimum of two roles: The instructor focuses on delivering the key concepts and engaging learners; and the producer sets up breakouts, monitors chats and reactions, and cues up videos and other learning assets.

Key learning points are condensed into two- minute snippets that are shared post-workshop with learners. The Training team conducted quick polls with the class each day and then gathered for a debrief to make “in-the-moment” changes to content, create knowledge checks for the next day, and make adjustments to the schedule. The team also created a course-agnostic 60-minute lesson called “Intro to VILT” that was offered as a prerequisite to the LDP workshop to help participants get all their technical needs addressed and questions answered ahead of time.


  • Rollins was able to meet and exceed its business goal of having nine “ready” Service managers and 19 “ready” Branch managers.
  • 12 of the 19 Branch managers are assigned, and 50 percent are exceeding the company’s target on revenue growth (8 percent) and operating profit (15 percent).

State Compensation Insurance Fund: The Case of the Missing Case

The Case of the Missing Case was designed to raise awareness for all 4,200 State Compensation Insurance Fund employees about enterprise risks companywide, and teach appropriate behaviors to enhance enterprise security.

Training disguised as a fun whodunit, this 5-part video series stars the organization’s CEO (whose computer case containing his laptop computer, company credit card and cell phone, and conhdential documents disappeared) and members of the executive committee and Computer Incident Response Team. Over the course of the series, the Computer Incident Response Team investigates, identifies numerous security risks, and tests various theories before solving the case.

Each episode was a cliffhanger, which encouraged employees to tune in the following week. Following each video release, viewers were given access to a discussion board, where they wrote comments, predicted who the thief was, shared additional things to consider, and provided feedback on the training. A blooper video showed outtakes from the videos, reinforcing the important parts of the training and the culture at State Fund—that it is OK to make mistakes and everyone can have fun.


  • Since the training launched, the reporting of suspected phishing attempts has gone up more than 220 percent.
  • The Workforce Engagement score is 76.7 percent (above the goal of 74 percent).
  • The Customer Focus Index is 66.1 percent (above the goal of 64 percent).

United Wholesale Mortgage: Virtual P5 Training Blitz

All 6,732 of United Wholesale Mortgage’s (UWM) team members participated in its Virtual P5 Training Blitz, a work-from-home (WFH) training completion contest that pitted its six business lanes (Sales, Underwriting, Operations, Information Technology, Support, and Leadership) against one another to see which unit could complete the most Continuous Improvement (CI) Training while working remotely.

At a minimum, every day, Corporate Training enrolled each UWM team member into one half-hour CI Training module that was required to be completed by all team members (including leaders). Business units were empowered to create and enroll their units in additional daily CI Training to “win” the contest, so long as the training was delivered via the learning management system (LMS). All subject matter had to be business specific to the company or business area. Employees throughout the organization were asked to recommend topics, participate in creating reality-based documentary videos for instruction, cofacilitate virtual instructor-led/Zoom courses, and be part of the learning process.

The winning business unit—Underwriting, which completed 40,855 modules—was crowned and recognized as the Virtual P5 Training Champion for 2020.


  • Team members completed 125,840 hours of CI Training (30 percent of the 2020 total).
  • Retention improved by 4 percent in 2020, and UWM’s eNet Promoter Scores increased from 81 percent to 85 percent in 2020.

Walden Security: Virtual Walden Way

When COVID-19 struck in 2020, Walden Security was forced to transform its immersive in-person orientation program, The Walden Way, into a virtual experience. The company focused on finding the right tools (partnering with Adobe Connect to create a virtual immersive platform for the program and investing in technology such as laptops, headsets, and cameras to distribute across all departments and branch locations); training the trainers (creating a program consisting of videos, read and reviews, and virtual instructor-led training (VILT) to develop the skills needed to keep participants engaged remotely); and making employees want to participate (building quick engagement activities, group discussions, reviews, and games into all existing content utilizing the new platform).

Virtual Walden Way is experienced over four weeks (one three-hour session per week) and includes:

  • Discussions with founder and President Michael Walden and VILT sessions developed/facilitated by the CFO, EVP of Sales & Marketing, VP of Legal, and VP of Risk Management
  • Virtual technology workshops with the L&D director
  • Teambuilding activities with department heads and support staff
  • Engagement incentives where participants earn chances for gifts whenever they participate in discussions or ask and answer questions


  • Turnover rates continue to beat the industry average (200 percent) at 49 percent.
  • Promotions increased 14 percent over the previous year and 69 percent since 2017.
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 Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders.