Training APEX Awards Best Practices & Outstanding Training Initiatives (March 2022)



Medical Solutions: Medical New Hire Training

The Medical New Hire Program focuses on all three of Medical Solutions’ business units, with an emphasis on the sales and support departments. The program features four weeks of blended training tailored to the individual employee experience on the job and the respective medical industry to which they were hired to recruit.

  • Virtual instructor-led training takes place the first four weeks of training with a total of 28 session ranging between 30 and 90 minutes.
  • Virtual on-demand training occurs simultaneously during the first eight weeks with a total of 111 online courses ranging between short microlearning videos and two-hour module-based learnings.
  • On-the-job training happens at a minimum of four sessions, each running approximately two hours.
  • Sales trainer one-on-ones occur in the weeks following instructor-led training for 30 minutes each.
  • During all weeks, the employee meets for 30 minutes with their direct leader and training manager.


  • Some 75 percent of regional or branch managers report that new hires achieved their first point of production (POP) within their first week of training (a week earlier than previously).
  • Some 90 percent of leaders reported their teams hit 7 percent over their weekly POP goal.

MTM, Inc.: Bench Program

Available to all employees organization-wide, MTM, Inc.’s Bench Program continues to create a steady pool of leadership candidates. Recently expanded to 18 months, this leadership program combines multiple learning strategies, including:

  • Virtual instructor-led classes
  • Flipped classrooms
  • On-demand submissions
  • Job rotation
  • Role-play
  • Individualized development plans
  • Behavior- and knowledge-based assessments
  • Mentoring

Participants learn through activities including vision boards, presentations, cross-departmental assignments, and video submissions. Last year, MTM implemented surveying focused on which methods participants were learning from most, allowing the organization to build out elective, “create your own journey” courses on top of the predetermined coursework.

Bench graduates are added to a Bench Alumni group, providing networking opportunities between graduates from different classes, and meetings with the Talent team to share additional higher-education opportunities offered through MTM.


  • Some 52 percent of participants were promoted as a result of the Bench program, which contributed to a 5 percent increase in internal promotions companywide.

Pilot Company: Service Leader Development Program

Pilot Company’s Service Leader Development Program impacted more than 65 percent of the overall service leader population (2,363). The organization redesigned the program to be delivered virtually in 2020. After watching recorded presentations, participants gather on live virtual instructor-led sessions for immediate reinforcement and expanded teaching on various topics. The Service Leader Development Program has four primary components:

  1. Initial training: This four-week training outline simplifies training by position and focuses on operational areas such as shift readiness, guest services, facility services, deli operations, and food safety.
  2. Time with peers: This includes collaboration with peers who have been in or are going through similar situations and brainstorming solutions to everyday problems.
  3. Time with upper management: This includes classes taught and attended by regional managers, and divisional VPs, for example.
  4. Ongoing development: Service leaders participate in activities designed to improve their ability to execute new skills and handle difficult situations by practicing in a safe environment.


  • Together with their managers, participants create an action plan on how learning will be applied in their day-to-day job. Feedback collected indicates approximately 80 percent of participants complete an action plan, and 70 percent of those action plans are completed within six months.
  • The turnover rate for those who completed Service Leader training is 50 percent less than that of those not trained (prior to the pandemic).

State Compensation Insurance Fund: Experiences by Design

Experiences by Design is a continuation of State Compensation Insurance Fund’s customer service training, EDGE (Everyone Drives Great Experiences). Utilizing Design Thinking, the program aims to equip employees with insight and tools to drive great experiences by developing innovative solutions to customer problems and make the organization more efficient.

An in-depth course—which was open to all employees and was attended by more than 65 percent of State Fund’s individual contributors—taught the steps and details of the Design Thinking process. In a second class, leaders developed a plan for something they wanted to implement while practicing the Design Thinking steps.

For the first time, State Fund used phones and laptops instead of workbooks to complete activities and earn badges. During the pandemic, State Fund transitioned to teaching this program virtually.

Following the training, Learning and Development (L&D) held eight-week team Design Challenge competitions to solve an identified problem or inefficiency. Teams were coached by the Office of Continuous Improvement leaders. The team with the highest score at the end of the challenge was awarded trophies and provided assistance to implement their solution.

Results: To date, there have been five Design Challenge cohorts; 20-plus processes have been improved or ideas implemented.

  • Following Experiences by Design, the percentage of employees who felt they had the ability to do what was necessary for their customers increased from 63 to 73 percent.
  • Customer satisfaction scores increased 13 percent from the prior year.

Visa Inc.: Visa Inside Track Challenge (VITC)

Initially launched for account executives (AEs) before being offered to the entire company, Visa Inc.’s Visa Inside Track Challenge (VITC) aimed to drive value-added services and deepen relationships with clients.

VITC is an online, on-demand gamified way to learn about Visa products and how they can be combined to form the right solutions for clients. Modeled after the classic “Ticket to Ride” board game, VITC features a Visa product “network map.” Each “stop” on the map represents one Visa product, and players earn points as they complete activities.

As players move through the network, they apply their learning to simulated client scenarios. Players earn points by using the information to identify unspoken client needs. Next, players compile a custom solution from a selection of products. A leaderboard shows players’ points and ranking and hosts periodic tournaments with prizes such as iPads.

Content was created in three- to seven-minute segments so the program could be assimilated into learners’ flow of work. VITC provides personalized content recommendations based on the learner’s demographics. Recommendations include additional product resources and connections to internal experts who can provide further assistance.


  • Six to nine months after the program launch, 76 percent of learners’ peers and direct supervisors saw an increase in the number of products being recommended or sold to clients.
  • Participants created 23 percent more new sales opportunities and closed deals that generated 18 percent higher average annual net revenue.


Applied Materials, Inc.: Using Immersive Technology for Next-Generation Training

With Applied Materials, Inc.’s global customer engineer (CE) pool rapidly approaching a headcount of almost 7,000, a new training delivery mechanism was required that would offer a cost-effective and on-demand localized training experience for newly hired engineers.

Using the latest in game engine 3D software, Applied Materials created virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) training environments from the ground up.

VR training provides the ability to perform systemwide cross-sections, allowing learners to see the internal components of the system and how they all come together and operate; watch as fully animated robots perform their required functions; and with the use of Unity 3D’s Particle System, see exactly how gasses flow through the systems. Learners also can use VR controllers to manually pick up and remove or install parts and tighten fasteners with wrenches, for example.

With unanchored AR, engineers now can practice/ refresh their knowledge on any upcoming preventative maintenance (PM) activity right at their desk. In the customer cleanroom, the AR procedures seemlessly transition to a digital checklist, with each step fully animated for those who need it and the ability for more advanced engineers to turn off the feature.


  • VR now is being used across the company, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars due to reduced travel.
  • Based on the reduction of PM/CM activities in the fab, Applied Materials is seeing a savings of more than $1 million based on the field workforce and production tool numbers.

Bell and Howell: FSM Project

Last year, Bell and Howell transitioned to a new Field Management System and Field Service deployment app called Field Service Lightning App (FSL) that allows for a streamlined experience for Customer Service engineers (CSEs). This required onboarding and training for all field associates, Finance department, Parts department, Customer Care Center (CCC), Network Operations Center (NOC), Technical Operations Center (TAC), as well as specialized training for district service managers (DSMs) and district service supervisors (DSSs)—totalling 820 employees.

The Field Service management project (FSM) consolidated 11 applications, including SAP, Jitterbit, Azure, and Vimeo. Prior to launch, employees had three hours of virtual instructor-led training (VILT) for the mobile application. Individual business units also engaged in their own specialized training led by technical subject matter experts (SMEs). The VILTs were recorded and put into the learning management system (LMS) for ondemand viewing.

A “Transition Hub” Website was created to house all the documentation related to the transition and field service utilization of the system. The hub also includes contact information for regional SMEs, a 24/7 hotline active for three weeks from launch, an e-mail help ticket system, and ongoing updates.

This is the first time Bell and Howell used this type of approach and the first time it implemented this type of system on this scale.


  • Customer retention has remained at 99.7 percent since system launch.
  • Bell and Howell maintained its field first-time fix rate of91 percent for field dispatched calls.
  • Dispatch times were optimized by 23 percent.

Michigan State University Federal Credit Union: Product Knowledge Quarterly Review—Super Fran World Series

In years past, Michigan State University Federal Credit Union’s (MSUFC) Learning and Development team provided online quizzes and relied on in-person meetings to reinforce and refresh product and service knowledge across the organization. Some 906 out of MSUFC’s 936 employees must complete this product knowledge series. Last year, the eLearning team gamified these annual refresher courses by creating a spin on the game of Super Mario World—titled Super Fran World, in honor of the credit union’s first president, Fran Lesnieski.

In the game, learners help Super Fran navigate various worlds, collect tokens, and ward off attackers by answering questions about products and services. As employees answer the questions correctly, they progress through the various challenges. Throughout the training, there is corresponding music and animations to emulate the game experience. These eLearning modules run 15 to 30 minutes and are released quarterly. Employees are encouraged to discuss the course content in their monthly or bi-weekly manager meetings.

Results: As of second quarter 2021, member satisfaction was at 97 percent, annual training hours were at an average of nine hours, and dividends earned were at $1.7 million. As employees are reminded of the many product and service options available to members, they are able to cross-sell higher-earning savings products and help members refinance loans.

Personnel Board of Jefferson County: Lunchtime Learning Blasts and Trainer Talks on Facebook LIVE

In an effort to boost Facebook followers, Personnel Board of jefferson County’s (PBJC) Training and Organizational Development department created Lunchtime Learning Blasts (LLBs) and Trainer Talks (TTs) for LIVE broadcast on the organization’s Facebook page. These programs are designed and delivered to be available to all 7,500-plus Merit System employees across all 23 agencies in Jefferson County, AL.

LLBs are 10- to 15-minute modules of interactive bite-size learning that go live on PBJC’s Facebook page via Zoom at noon Central. Each trainer chooses two to three topics aligned with PBJC’s 40-plus certificate program courses per month.

Utilizing a platform called Streamyard, TTs are live, interactive dialogues designed to go deeper into topics that align with the certificate programs. The Training manager host chooses the topics and sends advance questions to the Training advisor guests. TTs go live on PBJC’s Facebook page at 11 a.m. Central and run for 30 to 35 minutes. Participants can chat and comment live, ask questions, and tell their own stories.

Results: The number of followers on PBJC’s Facebook page increased 100 percent to 1,245, including some from other states such as Georgia, Michigan, and Kansas, and international followers from Ghana, Mexico, and the Philippines.

PPD: GMP Laboratory New Onboarding Process

After a Kaizen event, evaluation of lessons learned, and review of metrics backed by data analytics, PPD in 2020 revamped its GMP labs’ new onboarding process, which had been in place for 20 years. Aiming to increase learners’ ability to independently perform tasks sooner, recent changes revolved around two learning concepts: learn-practice-apply and just-in-time training. The new program impacted approximately 1,000 global employees across PPD’s GMP labs located in the U.S. and Ireland.

All supervisors receive training on how to onboard a new employee. All lab employees now go through a one-week New Employee Onboarding Plan (NEOP)—reduced from two weeks. Another change: The NEOP now has two different tracks, both geared toward specific areas of work. Day 1 of the NEOP focuses on PPD and GMP lab capabilities and includes an interactive session with senior leadership.

The NEOP is followed up by detailed training with the new fire’s team by means of a Progressive Learning Plan (PLP) that structures their first eight to 12 weeks. All lab employees have an assigned mentor and a unique PLP that is developed specifically for them by their supervisor/manager. This can be modified, as needed, based on the trainee’s performance and team needs. All mentors receive training to ensure they can coach new staff to the same high level.

Results: The average percent billable at 10 weeks increased from 44 percent in 2018 to 62 percent in 2020. The highest percent billable recorded in the 10-week mark, for each employee, is 77 percent.

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.