Best Practices and Outstanding Initiatives

Training editors recognize innovative and successful learning and development programs and practices submitted in the 2012 Training Top 125 application.


Edward Jones: Practice Makes Perfect (Sales Training)

Each month, Edward Jones hires more than 150 new recruits with little financial background, then trains them to serve clients well. This organic growth is achieved through extensive training, including coaching by veterans, online study, virtual classes, weeklong stints of classroom training, and recorded role-play.

With the Practice Makes Perfect initiative, Edward Jones increased the amount of recorded role-play in all new financial advisor instructor-led courses beginning with trainees who began studying for licenses in July 2010 and started classroom instruction on August 30 or later.

To supplement instructor-supervised role-play during class, the Branch Development division upgraded role-play suites in the St. Louis and Tempe training centers so trainees could practice during any break or evening. Camera-equipped rooms decorated to represent offices, homes, and small businesses were outfitted with jump-drive slots and record buttons, bypassing control rooms operated by veterans and instructors. Trainees paired up to play client and financial advisor, one inserting his or her jump drive into the slot and pressing record. The performance automatically recorded and downloaded into the drive for review later. Trainees practiced and improved throughout a three- or five-day course. Each trainee chose the best performance for peer review, classes voted for the top performance, and visiting veteran advisors selected one Best of the Best winner for the week.

Results for Practice Makes Perfect include:

  • In “Evaluation/Graduation”— the critical class where trainees are first allowed to provide solutions to actual clients— the percentage of trainees who earned Triple Crown recognition for a set list of achievements in client appointments and recommended appropriate solutions and client creation jumped from 68 percent to 77 percent.
  • Training attrition between “Know Your Customer,” a trainee’s first classroom course, and “Evaluation/Graduation”—a period of almost two months—fell from 19.7 percent to 16 percent once 30 percent more role-play was added.
  • Before the initiative, 71 percent of new financial advisors were exceeding performance expectations at four months. By July 2011, some 84 percent of new financial advisors out four months were exceeding expectations.
  • With recorded role-play increased as much as 30 percent in some courses, sales rose 26 percent.

Grant Thornton LLP: Senior Management Development Program

The Senior Manager Development Program (SMDP) is a hands-on skill-building program led entirely by senior leaders. Pre-work includes the Engage-to-Win online sales simulation and is followed by a four-day event that focuses on key actionable skills, including:

Execution of Firm Strategy: Expectations and innovative approaches

Growing the Business: Sales simulation

Managing the Business: Conducting profitable engagements

Exemplary Personal Leadership: Examining leadership journeys

Client Service Cycle: Reviewing key challenge area identified by participants in a pre-survey

Senior executives live firm values by leading or co-leading all sessions (using their own material) and spending multiple days interacting with participants at breaks and meals. The COO delivers the Operational Excellence module, for example, while the CEO leads the session on the five drivers and how they link to Grant Thornton’s values.

In the sales simulation, teams “compete” for business by preparing and presenting a proposal to a “Board of Directors” (GT executives). Teams best aligning proposals to client needs—while demonstrating teamwork and firm values—get the business. All receive executive feedback.

Post-work includes: 360-degree feedback and a development plan based on results; participation in the Community of Practice (COP), a portal with related learning, content, and interaction; a monthly bookcast series; and a quarterly “Leadership Series,” suggested continued learning in different modalities.

Comparing FY’09 graduates with their peers 18 months later reveals excellent revenue results:

Win rate: Nearly double (84 percent vs. 43 percent)

Average win size: Triple

Average total wins: Triple

Additional revenue since 2008: Approximately $12 million

ROI: 1,000-plus percent

Similarly, FY’10 participants’ win size was double that of their peers, driving an additional $17 million over 18 months. The average FY’11 SMDP participant bonus was 3.3 percent higher than their peers’ (higher sales=higher bonus). FY’11 turnover rate for SMDP participants was half the firm average for all senior managers (7 percent vs. 14 percent).

MetLife, Inc.: Top Advisor Business Coaching

Due to their experience and product expertise, MetLife’s top advisor group is a critical source of sales revenue and growth potential for the company. The Top Advisor Business Coaching Program provides highly personalized development by matching top advisors with industry-leading business coaches based on a personalized development needs assessment. The goal of the program is to optimize the individual advisor and his or her team’s performance to achieve even greater business results and production.

The program incorporates a five-phase coaching model beginning with the needs assessment. The results inform the matching of the advisor with his or her coach and are used to build a custom development plan. The coaching engagements consist of on-site meetings, virtual development sessions, weekly and bi-weekly status calls, and quarterly team meetings. During these events, business coaches help advisors analyze their practice, identify opportunities, and establish growth plans. The coaches also guide the advisors throughout their plan execution and hold them accountable for meeting their development goals.

Business Coaching was designed to be a cost-neutral program based on a reimbursement model. Advisors who participate pay the coach fee up-front; they are reimbursed up to 100 percent based on production growth against their baseline performance at the start of their year-long program, so production gains fully offset reimbursement costs.

Program participation has been directly linked to sales performance, resulting in $1.5 million in additional revenue to date. After the most recent nine-month production cycle, participants yielded a 21 percent increase in production compared to a 2 percent increase for the non-participating, peer control group. This control group of 750 top advisors had comparable production goals to those of the participating top advisors and also the same number of working weeks and opportunities as the participating group.

Some 94 percent of program participants rated their experience with their business coach as very satisfying, and 100 percent would recommend business coaching to their fellow advisors.

Sprint Nextel Corp.: i-Comply

Employees usually react to having to take legal, ethics, governance, and compliance training with a resounding groan. Traditionally dry and full of legalese, compliance administration and training also is often manual and costly. With the creation of i-Comply, a training compliance practice that educates employees on ethics, compliance, governance, and Sprint policies, Sprint University (SU) broke this paradigm.

In partnership with Sprint IT, SU developed a knowledge management portal on the corporate intranet that consolidated the content of 15 training courses, 10 Websites, and two manuals. Employees access policies, resources, compliance education, and annual certification by simply typing “icomply” in their intranet browser. It is a one-stop shop and educates employees about company policies in the environment where the policies are housed versus discussing the policies in separate documents or courses. The platform allows employees to access resources when the need arises, versus previous compliance training, which used multiple, unrelated, and unconnected Websites, manuals, and courses. i-Comply implies ownership, setting an expectation for employees to be active consumers of training.

Content is straightforward and actionable to help employees recognize the dos and don’ts and how to apply policies on the job through practice exercises. Learning components have included interactive puzzles, a graphic novel, a comic strip, a game show, a scenario-based video, a news show, a virtual superhero, a soap opera, a digital short, and podcasts employees can download to mobile devices. i-Comply learning is sometimes viral as employees talk and share e-mails about their favorite components.

Since implementing i-Comply, compliance has increased from approximately 70 percent to 100 percent, while the time employees spend in compliance training has decreased by 60 percent—a cost savings of $6.3 million. Recent Sprint Employee Survey results indicate ethics training from i-Comply resonates with both front-line employees and management.

Verizon: Customized Certificate Programs

In support of Verizon’s goals to develop a workforce as strong as its networks and to lead in shareholder value, the company leveraged its tuition assistance program (TAP) as another means for developing employees for key leadership positions (i.e., retail store managers/assistant managers, and customer service supervisors) through customized certificate programs.

In 2009, Verizon introduced a customized online certificate program, “Professional Retail Sales & Management” (PRSM), which is fully funded through LearningLINK, the company’s TAP. PRSM was designed in partnership with Bellevue University and 37 Wireless retail sales and marketing subject matter experts to create a new talent pool for first-line retail store leadership positions and to increase retail key performance indicator (KPI) attainment.

A customized co-branded Website was created and hosted by Bellevue University to allow employees to learn more about the program and to enroll in the classes. The university also created a promotional video featuring testimonials from several PRSM graduates viewable via Verizon’s AboutYou employee portal. Since PRSM’s launch, more than 1,700 employees have enrolled in the program, and three cohorts (217 employees) have completed the two-year program.

Bellevue University recently concluded a multi-variant linear regression analysis based on retail KPIs to determine PRSM’s business impact. Its findings demonstrate that PRSM participants, when compared to non-participating employees of a like profile:

  • Measure 23 percent higher in the “Performing” and 50 percent higher in the “Leading” performance rating categories.
  • Are 50 percent more likely to receive in-band promotions.
  • Increase their sales by up to 11 percent, including a 7 percent increase in Gross Adds, a 5 percent increase in EIS Adds, and an 11 percent increase in Business Adds.
  • Generate additional annual revenue exceeding $28,000.

When these results were compared to the $7,470 annual PRSM tuition, the resulting annualized ROI is 280 percent.

Based on the success of PRSM, Verizon launched a similar online certificate program in Call Center Operations & Management (CCOM) in March 2011.


Baptist Health Care: Be Ready Suite of Educational Tools

Baptist Health Care’s purpose is to provide unparalleled patient-centered care, and the by-product is to be in compliance with the survey by The Joint Commission (TJC), the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. One of BHC’s systems quality goals for 2011 was to achieve unconditional accreditation in The Joint Commission Survey.

After town hall meetings, a leader and team emerged for every topic; teams worked together to further assess needs, poll staff, give and receive feedback about processes, share best practices inside and outside the organization, and create a plan to identify possible patient-care opportunities. During a quarterly Baptist University (BU) session for leaders, BHC unveiled the Be Ready suite of tools, which included:

  • The “Are You Ready” survey with directions for the leader to fill it out for a self- assessment
  • Pocket Pals, a pocket-sized resource book with standards questions, resources, and guides
  • Leaders’ guide to the Pocket Pal with answers and creative ideas
  • Games such as word searches, scavenger hunts, role-plays, and computer-based Jeopardy
  • Educational presentations

Based on the survey results, the leaders created action plans, and employees from all departments and all levels were engaged in the learning process. The education took place in role-playing, germ and hand-washing simulations, Blue Tube Videos, computer-based training, concurrent chart audit feedback, scavenger hunts, Stump the Panel, pop a question, preparedness demonstrations, data analysis, and more. More than 170 process improvements were initiated in one year. Staff audited and analyzed measurements of success, which were documented daily, weekly, and monthly.

As a result, during the exit conference June 10, 2011, TJC surveyors shared that BHC was unconditionally accredited and continues to maintain its Gold Seal of Approval. Furthermore, surveyors shared with the BHC team that they have never met “a more dedicated and caring staff.”

BB&T Corporation: Asset Resolution Group Curriculum

One of BB&T’s key strategic objectives is to effectively manage through the credit cycle. Due to the weak economy and the resulting increase in troubled assets, BB&T’s problem loan department significantly changed many of its processes to mitigate the risk of loan losses.

In late 2010, in response to a request from senior leaders in the department, BB&T University designed an advanced curriculum for this highly specialized line of business. The curriculum consists of four programs: a systems acclimation course, a sales and service course, an advanced industry course, and a capstone course. The acclimation course includes asynchronous, self-paced components (online coursework, recorded Webinars, and job aids), along with an instructor-led classroom session. The sales and service course is an instructor-led virtual session that utilizes role-plays and provides real-time, one-on-one coaching and feedback to participants. Due to the complex subject matter, the University collaborated with external legal counsel for the remaining two classes, which cover the intricate legal processes and procedures for resolving problem assets.

Utilizing videoconferencing technology for the advanced industry course, BB&T alleviated employee travel and so far has saved nearly $70,000.

The capstone course is a bankruptcy trial facilitated by BB&T’s partner law firm. The mock proceedings take place in an actual courtroom and engage a local judge. Employees play roles (i.e., defendant, plaintiff, witness, etc.) in the trial, which allows them to gain firsthand knowledge of the impact of their decisions on the company’s legal remedies. Participants demonstrate their system knowledge, servicing skills, and industry expertise to validate their actions and prove their case.

Due to a more rapid disposition of problem assets, BB&T’s provision for loan losses has decreased 6.2 percent for the first time in this down economy. Senior leaders would like to expand the scope of the training to include regional credit personnel with the objective of further mitigating loan loss.

LQ Management, LLC: Here For You Field Deployment

After 12 months of consumer interviews, data analytics, and an introductory overview at its annual general manager (GM) conference, La Quinta’s Training department launched the largest brand-wide field training initiative in company history. Here For You training sought to reach every front-desk service representative (FDSR), general manager, and franchise property owner to introduce LaQuinta’s Guest Service philosophy.

Training partnered with a creative development team to cultivate three sets of training materials: the Mentor Guide, the GM Kit, and the Hotel Certification Kit. The Mentor Guide was a study on the strategies for deployment, including slides, prompts, and discussion topics.

Each GM kit contained a pictorial (reusable) sticker board, prompts for staff discussions, and feedback forms to aid in coaching. For future new hires, GMs had an 11×17 glossy stand-up visual aid.

Ten weeks after the regional sessions, Here For You-certified hotels received the Certification Kit, containing a DVD of videos, posters for displaying compliments in a hotel break room, pens for the staff, and a certificate from the executives recognizing the staff and the property as Here For You certified.

In collaboration with regional executives, the Training department developed the nine-week, 144-session field training schedule, associated invitations, registration forms, and reminder e-mails. In the weeks preceding the deployment, executive conference calls were conducted to encourage property participation in the sessions.

Each two-day field session opened with a discussion of the origins of Here For You and the GM leadership role in the continuation of the service philosophy. The afternoon of Day 1 and the morning of Day 2 introduced La Quinta’s core values, Here For You, and role-playing exercises for front-desk service representatives. In the closing session, GMs created an action plan for their property, including how to train Heart of the House employees (maintenance and housekeeping) and reinforcing brand loyalty strategies.

Immediate results are clear: an 11 percent drop in complaints and a nearly 28 percent increase in compliments.

Miami Children’s Hospital (MCH): Life Wings

To reduce errors in the Operating Room to zero, MCH partnered with LifeWings, a patient safety consulting firm run by a group of physicians, nurses, fighter pilots, NASA astronauts, airline captains, and medical and insurance experts. LifeWings applies standardized aviation checklists and procedures to health care and emphasizes enhancing communication and creating better teamwork among surgeons, physicians, residents, nurses, clinicians, and patients/families. Since its inception, the program has progressed from the Operating Room/Surgical Services to the Emergency Department, Urgent Care Center, Pulmonary Care Center, and 10 other units.

The training’s basic focus is on Crew Resource Management. The program consists of five phases and delivers a systematic, repeatable, and sustainable implementation process that is driven by front-end staff to manage safety checks. Training is provided by MCH staff, who complete a five-day certification in Crew Resource Management Facilitation.

The training plan starts with a comprehensive Risk Assessment of the area, completed by a licensed risk manager and LifeWings facilitator. Safety issues are identified, and a review of available and possible checklists, tools, and protocols is documented.

Leaders attend a leadership development seminar to help them gain a better understanding of the program goals and the role they play in supporting this strategic initiative. Staffers are offered six modules ranging from team activities and conflict resolution to operational and safety procedures. Upon program completion, each team meets monthly to discuss progress and revise checklists, protocols, and tools.

To ensure sustainability, administrators do rounds with physicians and LifeWings facilitators to solicit feedback from staff. Each department head is tasked with reporting monthly results to the LifeWings Council using organizational metrics.

Training results to date:

  • When surveyed, staff from 14 departments rated their trust index with safety at 94 percent compared with 62 percent in 2009.
  • The Operating Room has witnessed zero patient errors in the form of wrong surgery, patient, site, or process for 18 months.
  • Psychiatry’s Baker-Act protocol was reduced from 16 hours to 90 minutes.
  • Approximately 100 checklists have been created for different medical interventions.
  • Community physicians were included in training to extend safety to community programs.

SpawGlass: Phase 2-CMiC Software Training

In late 2008, SpawGlass bought a new integrated computerized management system that combines project management, accounting, and human resources. In 2009, SpawGlass super users were trained in the overall software, and then each super user was trained in specific modules. In phase one of training, these super users trained all team members in the overall use of the software and then conducted specific training based on job positions and needs of the software.

After a year, SpawGlass realized people were not using the software properly, and this was causing errors, workarounds, and many hours of rework.

Abandoning the super user approach, SpawGlass asked one of its high-potential project managers to developing a training program that would:

  • Focus specifically on the needs of each different position and have class attendees with the same title or position.
  • Be consistent across the four company regions.
  • Include an overview of the system and any general training on other modules the participants needed.
  • Provide a simple job aid employees could use after they went back to work.
  • Run from January 2011 to June 2011 and not disrupt construction on any project.

Completed by June 15, the ensuing program trained more than 250 employees in four offices on 50 projects via classroom sessions, GoTo meetings, videoconferencing, and some one-on-one sessions. Eleven different positions were trained in 12 different modules; at least two sessions were held for each module and each different position. The trainer asked each regional CFO to act as an assistant in the class when available.

As a result of the training:

  • Proper owner billings increased by 45 percent since June.
  • Time to set up a project decreased by more than 50 percent.
  • Financials now are completed on time each month.
  • Field and internal accounting are exact on 97 percent of projects.

2012 Special Training Top 125 Awards

Top Training Programs/Scope Score
Miami Children’s Hospital

Top Evaluation/Business Metrics Score
The PNC Financial
Services Group, Inc.

Top Human Resources Score
American Infrastructure

Top Qualitative Score
Farmers Insurance

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.