L&D Best Practices: Strategies for Success (November 2021)

Training magazine taps 2021 Training Top 100 winners and Training Top 100 Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at how Allianz Life is creating a culture of continuous learning and BankWest’s Teller Training for Universal Bankers.


By Beth Davis Salonek, Director, Learning and Development, Allianz Life

Throughout all of the obstacles companies encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic, an operational challenge that many faced was the quick pivot to remote work. But this major shift in how organizations work also presented a number of opportunities. When it comes to learning and development programs, employers had to think outside the box, and move from lunch and learn events, inperson trainings, and other traditional methods to new formats that employees could access remotely— and on their own time.

At Allianz Life, we’ve always focused on empowering our employees to continue to learn, grow, and evolve in their careers so they can be their best, and this didn’t stop during the pandemic when the vast majority of employees were working remotely. Instead, we leaned into our recently rolled out online learning platform to give employees access to online trainings on topics they are interested in and can help them progress in their careers.

Meeting Employees Where They Are

We have several programs and tools that allow employees to learn on work and personal devices—including cell phones. This easy accessibility has allowed our company to increase social learning, collaborate in this remote working environment, and further enhance our strong workplace culture.

A few of the platforms we have leveraged to encourage continuous learning include Degreed, which was rolled out to employees at the end of 2019. Degreed pulls in resources from LinkedIn Learning, as well as our own learning management system, and allows for learning at any time and on any topic. Employees can choose topics they are interested in, and build their own learning paths to continue to explore and dive deeper into these subjects based on their professional development goals and interests.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we also have provided resources and information on timely topics such as working from home, virtual meetings, and maintaining employee engagement in a virtual environment.

Self-Directed Learning

In addition to these online platforms, we have several learning programs to help encourage self-directed learning at Allianz Life.

The first is our bi-annual Allianz Days, which we have held for more than 10 years. Due to the pandemic, we shifted this program to 100 percent online via Degreed. Beginning in spring 2020, we offered all 2,200-plus employees a variety of learning pathways, each consisting of a blend of courses, videos, and even podcasts, to help employees pursue development of their skills and knowledge in data analytics, digital acumen, personal agility, Allianz Life business acumen, and cultural awareness.

Second, our leadership development program, #LEAD, is Allianz’s first consistent approach to leadership development for all Allianz operating entities across the globe, and is designed to simplify and harmonize leadership training.

All people leaders who have two or more direct reports regardless of level or experience, embark on a continuous learning journey to attain their Passport. The Passport aims to embed the mindset and skills the company has identified as essential for leading Allianz into the future and will be considered the license for leadership at Allianz, becoming the minimum learning requirement to be a people leader anywhere in the business.

This program comprises in-person components focused on people management fundamentals such as Emotional Intelligence, trust, and leader as coach (done virtually during the pandemic), as well as digital learning modules in Degreed focused on digital leadership and IT literacy, purpose and strategy, the Allianz Customer Model, and change management and Agile.

Celebrating the Results

Since May 2020, self-directed learning has increased by 20 percent—something we are particularly proud of due to the current work-at-home arrangement.

Since April 2020, 85 percent of Allianz Life employees have logged into Degreed. Based on feedback, it is supporting their continuous learning needs.

Specific to our learning programs, 61 percent of leaders have started the #LEAD Digital Journey, and 52 percent have completed two modules, with 47 percent having completed all three modules. Of those completing the digital component of the training, 19 leaders have achieved their Leadership Passport. In total, 259 (69 percent) of Allianz Life leaders have completed the #LEAD Experience.

For the Allianz Days learning event, there was a cost savings to the company of $28,160 (measured by salaries/ time saved) using online pathways and programs versus in-person.

We’re proud to continue to build on our strong L&D programs despite the challenges of the pandemic. We know that meeting employees where they are and providing flexible, self-directed learning opportunities is a key part of creating a culture of continuous learning.


By Becky Burke, VP, Strategic Initiatives, BankWest 

Founded in 1889, BankWest is a full-service, inde- pendent community bank with 17 branches in 14 South Dakota communities.

At the front line of BankWest’s locations are the Universal Bankers, or “UBs,” who perform sever- al tasks, including teller functions; account opening/ closing/maintenance; consumer lending; and, in rare instances, small business lending.

The teller function is one that requires a high de- gree of precision. Accurate balancing, exceptional customer service, and adherence to bank policies and procedures all contribute to the organization’s success.

As VP of Strategic Initiatives, I’m at the helm of the organization’s Learning & Development Department, the division that aids new UBs in learning the ropes within their new roles. The organization developed a method of training the teller functions more than 15 years ago, and it continues to be an effective practice for learning and helping our employees achieve suc- cess in their new position.

Program Details

The first training a new Universal Banker attends fol- lowing the organization’s onboarding program is Teller Training. Teller Training is led by the Learning & Devel- opment Facilitators at the bank. The training consists of one week in the classroom, followed by one week on the teller line with a trained subject matter expert (SME) shadowing the learners.

BankWest has a teller training classroom with two mock-teller windows that are supplied with real-life tickets, “play” money, a core system test environment, and real-life transactions to run on the test environ- ment. The core system test environment platform is a copy of the bank’s core system. The test environment operates in the same manner as the live platform, so there is no disconnect from the training environment to the live environment.

On the first day of classroom learning, the L&D Facili- tator covers product knowledge and banking basics, including parts of a check, account relationships, and how to handle cash. Fraud and compliance also are discussed. Lastly, the group learns about the organi- zation’s image capture platform and the core banking system using the “Tell Show Do” method.

During the first day, the main focus is knowledge transfer to the learners. Providing this foundational in- formation sets staff up for success in the subsequent days of training.

The second day of classroom training reinforces the information learned in day one. Learners now can identify check basics, which helps them understand how those transaction items are used in deposit and withdrawal functions.

The bank utilizes a written standard operating procedure (SOP) guide that fully explains the transac- tion-running process. Learners start by running basic transactions, focusing first on the mechanics of the system while still utilizing the basics learned the pre- vious day. Leveraging the SOP guide while running transactions helps to give learners a safe environ- ment to learn in and to ask the facilitator questions about specific steps of the transaction. Throughout

the classroom training, the L&D Facilitator provides trainees an opportunity to grow in their transaction independence by pulling back on direct assistance and acting in a customer role to help develop the new employees’ confidence and comfort level.

The final day of classroom training includes learning advanced transaction types such as how to process loan payments and the creation of cashier’s checks. The focus now is less on the mechanics of the trans- actions and more on how to navigate fluidly through our core system. In the final few hours of this last day of training, the trainees observe live transactions from an experienced teller. This provides reinforcement of the transactions they have processed and offers an op- portunity to see how soft skills and technical training come together. It also gives trainees an opportunity to ask questions about the location before they start working in the location themselves.

The second week of Teller Training is on the teller line with a trained SME shadowing the trainee. The SME is there to ensure accurate skills development and employee confidence. New Universal Bankers also are assigned a series of eLearning courses at different times to help reinforce their knowledge and under- standing of the position.


The L&D Facilitator evaluates each trainee’s proficien- cy level for each type of transaction and determines if additional practice and training are needed based on confidence and rate of completing the transaction ac- curately. The L&D Facilitator performs a follow-up at 30 and 60 days to evaluate how the UB is progressing and to determine if any further training is needed.

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.