Best Practice and Outstanding Training Initiative Awards (March 2023)

Training’s editor and Training Hall of Famers recognize innovative and successful learning and development programs and practices submitted in the 2023 Training APEX Awards application


AAA Northeast: GROW Coaching Program

In partnership with HR and business line trainers and leaders, AAA Northeast’s Learning and Development (L&D) team developed a new companywide approach to coaching following the GROW model. All managers across the company are required to participate in the synchronous, instructor-led, two-hour Coaching for Performance course. Managers also complete a pre-assessment to help them understand their approach to coaching prior to the session, and then participate in role-plays that allow them to give and receive specific feedback. This is reinforced with 30- and 90-day surveys to identify what is going well and any new challenges.

New for the company was the use of Vyond, a cloud-based video animation tool that allows use of thousands of props and characters to reinforce learning. AAA Northeast used it to create avatars of its corporate trainers. When going through the reinforcement microlearning modules, participants were instructed by an animated version of the same trainer they had initially.

Additionally, leveraging technology to integrate AAA Northeast’s Power BI Dashboard directly into its GROW Coaching form allowed for real-time data, resulting in more targeted and impactful coaching conversations.

Results: A specific goal of coaching within Branch Operations was to exceed the new Digital Membership Experience (DME) goal of 35,160 DME enrollments in 2022. Through August 2022, Branch Operations had enrolled 24,638 members and was on pace to exceed the goal by the end of the year.

Edward Jones: JonesSpark

JonesSpark is a crowdsourcing tool that allows Edward Jones to engage a large number of associates firmwide to rapidly generate ideas and prioritize solutions to complex challenges. JonesSpark begins with a general partner sponsor issuing a challenge to hundreds, or even thousands, of field or home-office associates. The challenge must have a clear business outcome in alignment with a firm strategy.

Participants submit their ideas directly to the JonesSpark platform. Other participants can see what’s been submitted, and the “crowd” comments on and rates ideas. JonesSpark provides a process to prioritize, select, and advance those ideas, culminating in head-to-head voting using Pairwise, which supports voting for ideas in pairs (one idea vs. another). The result is a prioritized list of top ideas delivered to the challenge sponsor.

JonesSpark is in such high demand that the firm trained 2.5 full-time equivalent associates as administrators to design, build, launch, and support challenges.

Results: In 2022, 25 JonesSpark challenges resulted in 13,758 site visitors submitting 1,946 ideas, with 6,126 associates registering 100,774 Pairwise votes. Seven ideas advanced and were on track to be implemented or influencing work related to the challenge. Using JonesSpark challenges has reduced the traditional idea-to-implementation pipeline from approximately two years for ideas originating from the home office to advance to production to two months post-JonesSpark challenge. This is a nearly 92 percent reduction in time to pipeline.

The Haskell Company:Haskell Field Focused Safety-Based Training

Field Focused Safety-Based Training at The Haskell Company covers jobsite hazard identification, risk mitigation processes, and principles and techniques designed for maximum jobsite safety. The multi-format curriculum includes: 60- to 90-minute live in-person and virtual instructor-led sessions; prerecorded sessions; annual conferences; and 3- to 15-minute chunked, self-paced, mobile-friendly online learning available worldwide (typically delivered to jobsites via QR code). Testing follows all sessions. Examples include:

  • Safematters Jobsite Safety Training: Online orientation
  • Weekly Field Focused Safety Toolbox Talks: Self-paced offerings in podcast format delivered via jobsite-placed QR codes that cover hazard elimination and technical processes
  • Haskell Annual Superintendents Meeting: Inperson, two-day event that brings field and project teams together for leadership, technical, and safety-related training
  • Prevention by Design: Six-part training created and delivered virtually by Safety and Architect- Engineer (AE) business units; it covers safety-enhancing technical processes in building design and construction
  • Utility Strike Prevention Program: Addresses a critical rise in construction excavation utility strike incidents

Results: Team members reduced jobsite recordable incidents on average 47 percent and jobsite incidents from underground utility strike events by 18 percent year-over-year. The Recordable Incident Rate was reduced 53 percent year-over-year to 0.17, below the 2.30 industry average. The Work-in-Place Recordable Incident Rate was lowered to 1.14, down 21 percent year-over-year and 51 percent below industry average.

HD Supply: GREAT Customer Experience Training

The GREAT Customer Experience program is a joint initiative launched by HD Supply’s Training and Coaching (Quality Assurance) functions for its contact center associates. The opening of a new contact center in Monterey, Mexico, required several innovations to get the GREAT training up and running there. HD Supply selected bilingual associates from the Training team to travel to Mexico and train the teams in the company’s systems and philosophies. It also set up international support channels through Microsoft Teams, allowing U.S.-based subject matter experts to support and solve customer service issues on the fly with international associates.

Within this program, supervisors, team leads, and coaches randomly select and rate three calls per associate each month. If behavioral goals are not being met, associates are provided one-on-one coaching. Individual scores are reported monthly to the business leaders, with special recognition for associates who achieve 100 percent ratings. Reinforcement comes in the form of regular sales competitions and the Customer Care Incentive Program (CCIP), which allows associates to earn a percentage of their monthly sales financially.

Results: HD Supply exceeded its goal of maintaining a Voice of the Customer score of 82 percent, earning a 91 percent score. The company also saw individual average performance scores of 93 percent for GREAT customer service as monitored and reported by its Coaching (Quality Assurance) team for both the U.S. and Mexico-based teams.

Long & Foster Real Estate: LAUNCH Sales Training

Because Long & Foster Real Estate (L&F) has a large footprint (seven states and Washington, DC) and real estate contracts/customs vary regionally, agents need location-specific training. Previously, LAUNCH Sales Training was left to overly burdened sales managers in offices. In 2017, the Professional Development (PD) Team overhauled the new agent training program into the two-step LAUNCH Sales Training that provides a level of content customization for thousands of learners that is not often seen in the real estate industry.

In STEP 1, learners attend five six-hour foundational knowledge classes specific to their region. There is extensive discussion, roleplay, and daily homework. STEP 2 is a spaced learning program providing group coaching, accountability, and training on essential skills such as communication, relationship building, time management, marketing, and negotiation. Learners learn the home buyer/seller transaction processes with exercises, role-plays, and practice scripts, and they prospect live during class. Due to COVID-19, beginning in March 2020, all classes were delivered virtually via Zoom, utilizing breakout rooms, collaboration groups, polls, quizzes, follow-up activities, homework, and group coaching.

Results: Average new listings per agent increased by 8 percent, and average contracts written per agent rose 47 percent. As a result of LAUNCH and other training programs, average agent production companywide increased by 7 percent.


Ascend Federal Credit Union: Financial Counseling Certification Program

Ascend Federal Credit Union’s Financial Counseling Certification Program is the first industry certification the company has sought for front-line staff. The credit union also chose to certify internal trainers and develop its own training program to prepare employees for certification instead of utilizing the certification training offered by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

Instructor-led sessions prepare employees for the certification process to earn the designation of Credit Union Certified Financial Counselor. An in-person kickoff session allows cohort participants to interact and build relationships. The next seven weeks consist of self-study (reading assignments, study guides/worksheets, and recorded content) and weekly Webinars to dive deeper into the material. After the study program is complete, employees earn their certification through an exam hosted by CUNA.

A final celebration and program debriefing session are held with participants to discuss what comes next with their new qualification.

Results: Ascend attributes progress in the following metrics in 2022 to the consultative sales skills built in this program:

  • Deposit growth: 12.5 percent vs. 6 percent goal
  • Loan growth: 8.4 percent vs. 10.3 percent goal
  • Net promoter score: 67.7 percent vs. 65 percent goal

ESL Federal Credit Union: Zelle Overview

In January 2022, ESL Federal Credit Union changed its person-to-person money transfer solution from Popmoney to Zelle. What was assumed would be an easy transition turned out to be a source of confusion and frustration for customers and employees alike. In response, Learning and Development (L&D) created a comprehensive, self-paced curriculum that became required training for all 22 branches, ESL’s contact center, Internet banking center, and select support areas.

Digital Engagement, Marketing, and L&D collaborated on developing a suite of self-directed microlearning tools and resources. The curriculum contains an educational video; an online system demo; a series of hands-on simulations; and a suite of performance support tools, including a troubleshooting guide and infographics for both the mobile and online banking platforms. The Zelle simulations are fully interactive, immersive, and realistic, marking the first time ESL has been able to offer true simulations as a learning methodology.

Results: In the two months between the launch of Zelle and delivery of training, ESL’s technical Help Desk received 1,591 Zellerelated calls from employees. The month following the completion of training, that number dropped to 209 calls to the technical Help Desk, exceeding the 70 percent reduction goal by 16 percent. Negative Zelle-related customer comments dropped from 17 after launch to 1 in July.

Transworld Systems Incorporated: Brilliant in the Basics

After Transworld Systems Incorporated (TSI) acquired multiple competitors with different types of business, the Talent Development, Training team was tasked with creating a new orientation, culture, and compliance program that could be facilitated to all new employees regardless of their business type. TSI’s Brilliant in the Basics Program is the unified new hire orientation, culture, and communication program.

The program begins with the TSI Orientation Roadmap—a visual representation of the onboarding process. The orientation content is presented in the form of YouTube-type videos, each with a short facilitated debrief to follow.

The second portion of the program is the TSI Strong Vision and Values lesson, which introduces the learner to TSI’s core values and provides real in-the-field examples of how employees can demonstrate the values in their daily work life.

The final portion of the Brilliant in the Basics Program is the Global Communication Skills lesson, which takes place in a series of micro-learning videos followed by case study activities and digital artificial intelligence role-plays using an avatar and a complex response tree. This new type of activity allows new hires and tenured employees to navigate a full call conversation while receiving feedback on the choices they make.

Results: In 2022, all newly acquired entities had an attrition rate of less than 8 percent, with the overall attrition rate of the company coming in at an industry-leading 6.14 percent.

Veeam: Product Launch Enablement

In 2021, Veeam transformed the process for the development of enablement to better support frequent product launches, diverse audience needs, and scalable deliverables. A series of workshops were run to identify the pain points in the process. A matrix of owners, approvers, reviewers, and participants (OARP) was created from the workshop output. From there, an eight-step process was devised with inputs, outputs, roles, and responsibilities for each stage defined. Upfront planning would include a bill of materials based on desired outcomes (rather than historical launch assets). Dedicated review cycles would ensure visibility for relevant parties, who would be clearly defined by the OARP matrix. Conversation training sessions now are held in each geographic area to support sales roles in putting new knowledge into practice. A playlist is created on the Athena LMS (learning management system), which houses a range of enablement items designed to support and reinforce the use of the new product knowledge. These include evergreen product curricula, along with “What’s New” curriculum related to targeted product launches. Product updates are cascaded into the onboarding curriculum to ensure accurate and up-to-date information is provided to new employees.

Results: Pipeline growth related to new product launch increased by 15 percent (5 percent over goal).

WellSpan Health: Inclusion Champion Program

Over the last three years, WellSpan’s president and CEO has led WellSpan Health’s most intentional period of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) positioning and strategy in the history of the organization— including her support of the Inclusion Champion Program. The six-week-long cohortbased program requires a minimum commitment of two hours per week. Coursework comprises several virtual instructor-led shared learning sessions with simulation and role-playing for courageous conversations and the role of an ally, plus an array of self-paced online learning modules.

Participation in the program is determined through an application, interview process, and direct supervisor/leader support. Graduates are expected to complete quarterly required education; attend regularly scheduled meetings with region and system Inclusion Champions; and share their experiences as an ally, bias interrupter, and promoter of equity to maintain the designation of Inclusion Champion.

An ongoing chat group shares resources and experiences, and builds an Inclusion Champion support network. A 90-minute cohort touchpoint is scheduled within 12 weeks of program completion to discuss participation in ongoing quarterly training infusions and bi-annual regional Inclusion Champion gatherings.

Results: The Inclusion Champion Program achieved a rating of 79 (above the benchmark of 72) in the Glint employee engagement and satisfaction survey response to: “WellSpan makes it easy for people from diverse backgrounds to be accepted.” Some 25 percent of participants had at least one opportunity to disrupt bias in the workplace during the six-week training program. And 54 percent of participants coached a colleague in having a courageous conversation related to DEI during the program.

Edited by Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. 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.