Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (July/August 2015)

Each year, Training magazine requires all Training Top 10 Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that is shared with our readers in a print issue. Here are the details of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Role Map Resource Guide and PwC’s Advisory New Manager Milestone Conference.


With increased financial constraints in the government market and increased pressure from staff for professional development, Booz Allen Hamilton made a strategic shift in how staff are aligned and developed against the business. Rather than focusing on markets or clients, the new model aligns staff around functional areas of expertise.

To support this strategic goal, Booz Allen’s Learning & Development team (L&D) built training tools, including the Role Map Resource Guide (RMRG), that develops staff against business needs in targeted functional areas. Through the RMRG, staff can identify themselves in a particular primary role within a functional area of expertise. For each role, learning is identified in the following categories: classroom and online training, academic programs, industry certifications, resources, and experiential learning.

Program Details 
More than 75 percent of staff work directly with clients at client locations. The challenge for the L&D team was to create a solution that was truly accessible to all 23,000 staff, regardless of location. Additionally, the large volume of material included in the RMRG, approximately 100 roles and 7,700 training assets, presented a challenge.

As a result, the RMRG was created as an interactive mobile tool, accessible on computers, tablets, and mobile devices. It allows staff to sort, save, bookmark, and make notes on the Guide. In addition to the traditional learning solutions, L&D worked with functional business leads in each area to discover and formalize the development activities that were being assigned to staff within their area; what informal learning they were conducting or would like to see; and what academic programs, conferences, and experiential learning activities they deemed vital. Each of these areas is represented in the RMRG for each role.

By choosing a Primary Role, each staff member also is automatically aligned to a corresponding Functional Community. These communities work with staff to help them identify areas of specific interest and growth and then work with L&D to make speakers, resources, and trainings available to staff as appropriate. They also work with the recruiting teams to identify the current and potential openings and to align staff who are looking for opportunities to ones that align to their skills and aspirations. The supporting infrastructure includes: intranet, newsletters, social media platforms such as Yammer, and in-person events.

To ensure that all information remains current in light of business needs, a Governance Board, composed of vice presidents from each of the represented business units, meets quarterly to review and approve the changes to the RMRG, such as adding, deleting, or combining roles, based on business data and needs.

Level 1 (reaction): The RMRG was soft launched with a series of test and focus groups. Ninety-five percent of the participating staff indicated a high level of satisfaction with the RMRG.

Level 2 (learning): One of the goals of the RMRG was to clearly identify a pathway for staff to grow functionally and find additional opportunities within the firm by helping staff align to primary roles. To date, 99 percent of staff members have chosen a primary role.

Level 3 (behavior): In the year since the RMRG launched, Booz Allen Hamilton has seen a 37 percent increase in the number of staff completing training outlined in the RMRG. This training is directly aligned to the business objectives identified by leadership and builds a talent pipeline directly aligned to those objectives. Additionally, there have been no help desk inquiries relative to this tool, its content, or functionality.

Level 4 (results): Booz Allen Hamilton anticipates increased staff mobility at the upcoming annual review one year after launch. This initiative allowed the firm to take a $1,500 technology investment and scale it across the business to make the RMRG accessible to all staff, increase training, and drive staff development against targeted business needs.

Introduced in February 2014, PwC’s Advisory New Manager Milestone Conference is the second leg of a multipronged approach for new manager development in PwC’s Advisory practice. Prior to the conference, new managers complete a blended program that provides foundational knowledge to help them understand and meet the expectations of their new leadership roles. When they attend the milestone conference, they’ve spent six months in their roles as managers. The event allows them to reflect on their experiences since promotion and refine their leadership skills in tangible, personalized ways. The last leg of Advisory’s new manager development program (which occurs during their second year in role) focuses on deepening their knowledge, skills, and habits around effective team leadership. Together, these three learning experiences help to position Advisory’s new managers for success in leading themselves and others.

In 2014, 352 newly promoted managers attended the Advisory New Manager Milestone Conference. The conference’s design purposefully eschews keynote speeches and breakout seminars in favor of immersive learning experiences where leaders facilitate experiential activities. The conference also aids Advisory new managers in their transition from team contributor to team leader. Throughout the conference, participants are expected to generate new ideas about how they can enhance their team’s performance within a high-performance culture. In addition, the conference helps participants to identify areas for self-development related to effective whole leadership. Advisory new managers also deepen their knowledge of the practice’s methodologies, tools, and operational areas such as Finance, and Risk and Quality.

Members of Advisory’s leadership team are present throughout the conference, not as figureheads but as active co-facilitators, coaches, and mentors. The partners and directors participate in team activities to help participants connect their learning to their jobs, confirm understanding of real-time development themes, and reinforce key messages on delivering quality work and leadership.

Program Details
Prior to the conference, participants complete a 360-degree assessment. On the first day of the event, a partner coach shows participants how to use their assessment results as a development aid. Throughout the conference, participants revisit their assessment results to evaluate their six-month progression and identify development actions that will help increase their leadership effectiveness. The day continues with a challenging simulation based on an actual Advisory case. Each team is expected to work through the simulation and present their ideas to a partner and instructors who coach them throughout the exercise.

The second day includes three experiential team activities that nudge participants out of their comfort zones to practice key aspects of coaching: giving and receiving feedback; “teach, don’t tell”; and effective delegation and follow-up.

The first activity challenges participants to cross a slackline with the help of real-time feedback from peer coaches. While slacklining is an unfamiliar activity for most people, it can be learned quickly with targeted coaching. Throughout the exercise, and in the activity debrief, facilitators challenge participants to be proactive, voice their appreciation to others, acknowledge valid feedback, and focus on the future. In a traditional classroom setting, these concepts are difficult to bring to life. This experience, however, engages everyone in an active, real-time dialog on how to give and receive feedback most effectively.

In the second activity, participants work individually and then collaboratively on a team to solve a Rubik’s Cube puzzle—a challenging and often frustrating task that only few can complete successfully, and especially with the additional pressure of an approaching deadline. Coaching others in an emotionally charged environment is demanding. This exercise allows participants to practice the “teach, don’t tell” (or Socratic coaching) to help them guide their teammates through a challenging assignment. As in the real world, an individual’s success is often critical to his or her team’s success. The most effective teams are those with high-performing individuals who go beyond the task and build team capacity by helping their colleagues discover a path to success. Throughout the activity, facilitators work with individuals to strengthen active listening skills by asking them to confirm what they are hearing, avoid interrupting others, and not fear silence. Each Rubik’s Cube is configured to reveal a segment of a mural in its solved state. At the conclusion of the conference, the solved cubes are brought together so everyone can see the composition. The completed mural allows participants to see how their individual efforts coalesce to solve a greater, more complex problem.

The last activity challenges participants to work in teams to construct prosthetic arms. An international agency distributes the completed limbs to children who were injured by land mines and other explosives. This exercise focuses on effective delegation and follow-up. First, an individual from each team receives specialized training in assembling a prosthetic arm. In their role as specialists, they are accountable for meeting a deadline to deliver an aggressive quota of completed limbs that meet or surpass established quality standards—a task they cannot accomplish without the help of their team. By activating the power of the team—whether in small groups to assemble prosthetic arms, or as a combined team of more than 350 professionals working together to make a difference in the lives of others—everyone can see the outcome of strong leadership and teamwork. At the end of the activity, the teams see pictures of the children who will benefit from their work. The photos allow participants to appreciate how their leadership and collaboration touch hundreds of lives.

The conference concludes with a program recap that encourages participants to use the 360-degree assessment report as a conversation starter with coaches, peers, and supervisors with whom they can engage in ongoing dialogue around their development. The session also serves as a call to action to participants to invest in the development of others, helping them grow and advance their careers. Finally, participants see their day-two experience come to life in a large-scale mural made from the Rubik’s Cubes they solved, which depict the PwC logo and the prosthetic hands they made for donation.

Participants and their coaches complete business impact surveys four and six months after the event. More than 85 percent of the survey respondents indicated they have successfully applied the knowledge and skills learned at the conference on the job. Respondents reported receiving real-time feedback from their coaches, peers, and supervisors. More than half said they are applying the 360-degree feedback principles on their engagements. In addition, the majority of respondents indicate that they have maintained or deepened their relationships across Advisory as a direct result of the conference’s activities. PwC’s Advisory practice is large and few know its complete portfolio of services. Working in multidisciplinary teams throughout the conference helps to increase everyone’s knowledge of Advisory’s services and builds valuable connections. These relationships help new managers to recognize opportunities in the marketplace by tapping into their colleagues’ knowledge and expertise to address clients’ needs.

Finally, new Advisory managers who attended the conference are using real-time development techniques to lead themselves and others. For example, they are asking staff how they like to receive feedback and have committed to give timely, in-the-moment feedback throughout the duration of a project, rather than just at the end. By adopting this and other strong leadership behaviors, new Advisory managers are able to maximize strengths, quickly close gaps, and drive learning throughout the year.

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.