Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (Nov./Dec. 2019)

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 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Forgetting Curve Initiative and McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.’s Operational Excellence initiative.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan: Forgetting Curve Initiative

One of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s 2018 corporate goals was to improve customers’ experience when they contact the call center. In support of this goal, Operations management identified how customer service representatives (CSRs) could provide a better experience. The leadership team established a minimum goal of 15 percent improvement in providing accurate and complete information for these calls.

To avoid taking employees away from their normal duties and to manage training and resources efficiently, Blue Cross developed a series of “microlearning” modules featuring high-impact messages and short videos CSRs can watch on demand at their workstations.

Program Details

The Operations Training team at Blue Cross analyzed accuracy and completeness errors across customer service calls and determined errors were occurring due to multiple factors—inconsistently referencing online materials, forgetting critical procedural steps, and not recognizing additional questions to ask customers. As such, the learning objectives of each campaign were as follows:

  1. Ensure CSRs know how to access a job aid.
  2. Reinforce the importance of any procedural steps CSRs frequently missed.
  3. Highlight common questions customers may have about reasons for calling.

After analysis, three types of calls stood out as potential targets:

  1. Changing a primary care physician (PCP)
  2. Quoting coinsurance, deductibles, and copayments
  3. Explaining billing information

The senior director of Customer Service championed the initiative, and the Operational Training director was deeply involved in development and support of the training. Frontline leaders also:

  • Communicated the importance of following the PCP procedures
  • Participated in huddle discussions
  • Reinforced the importance of CSRs viewing the materials daily instead of all at once

The training is delivered via short (two minutes or less) videos that CSRs watch on demand at their workstations, providing an additional opportunity for the Operations Training team to send customer service reps periodic reminders to watch these training videos when call volumes are lighter.

There are three initial error-awareness campaigns:

1. PCP Party: This focused on the issues involved in making primary care physician changes and trained approximately 150 internal CSRs and 75 vendor-based CSRs. The initiative kicked off with a video from front-line leaders wearing party hats and planning to celebrate improved servicing of PCP changes. The theme continued throughout the campaign with learners launching new e-learning by clicking on cake decorations. The 11 modules included an original song and three games to make the training fun and informative.

2. Captain Cost Share: This focused on health insurance cost-share, which includes coinsurance, deductibles and copayments, and how best to explain these costs to members. Approximately 635 internal CSRs and 90 vendor-based CSRs were trained. The initiative featured comic book-style animation starring hero Captain Cost Share. The theme was reinforced by learners clicking on panes in a comic book to launch a new e-learning

3. Payment University: This focused on how to apply payments to the correct health insurance account, key information to tell members every time they contact Blue Cross, and more. Approximately 380 internal CSRs and 240 vendor-based CSRs were trained. The initiative gave learners the opportunity to earn a “diploma” by completing a series of e-learnings. One e-learning took place in the “history” department where CSRs learned how to review billing history to understand the current payment due.

For reinforcement, Blue Cross added the content to the Continuous Learning landing page and shared it with participant leaders who encouraged employees to re-watch the videos as necessary. Videos are available on demand for reinforcement weeks to months after originally viewed.


PCP Party had a major impact. Following training, in the first year, the number of errors made while making a primary care physician change dropped by 51 percent. Over two years, errors dropped by 76 percent. Furthermore, the average number of calls it took to make a PCP change dropped by 22 percent. Captain Cost Share and Payment University also saw a dramatic improvement, with a 15 percent decrease in errors the first month after training.

Customers rated calls to Blue Cross CSRs 6 points higher on the Enjoyable scale and 2 points higher on the Easy scale in 2018 compared to 2017 on Monthly Member Surveys.

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.: Operational Excellence

At McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., Operational Excellence is one of three strategic anchors that aligns operations to the firm’s core purpose and values. It means continuously improving employees’ ability to plan and execute work safely, quickly, profitably, and with high quality. The McCarthy Operational Excellence training initiative originated with McCarthy leadership after recognizing the need for a companywide refocus on Operational Excellence.

The national McCarthy Learning and Development team then created the initiative to strengthen the abilities of employees to better recognize and leverage opportunities to improve operational effectiveness throughout the lifecycle of a construction project, increasing profitability and, ultimately, client satisfaction.

Opportunities to improve operational excellence were identified in a number of areas, including:

  • Completing more work while being challenged by a shrinking workforce
  • People being promoted quicker—they don’t know what they don’t know
  • Missed opportunities to increase job performance
  • Employees straying from focusing on the fundamentals
  • The need to augment experience with knowledge and skill

Program Details

The McCarthy Operational Excellence training initiative is a companywide effort consisting of leadership communication, pre-work, a two-day workshop, regional implementation, and follow-up. To develop the content and implementation plan, a core team comprising McCarthy corporate president/COO, HR, Operations, Legal, Preconstruction, and Learning and Development leadership met in March 2017 to dig into the question, “What are the most impactful operational improvements we should be investigating and putting into place right now?” The team identified six areas of focus:

  1. Defining Operational Excellence
  2. Contracts
  3. Structuring the Business Deal
  4. Margin Plans
  5. Managing the People and the Project
  6. Managing the Legalities

The Operational Excellence initiative delivery comprised: Comprehensive pre-work, including a 55-question assessment (45 questions rating regional performance on a scale of 1-5) and 10 open-ended legal questions, as well as extensive pre-work components in each of the six focus areas. The assessment served as a temperature check for the group and helped drive workshop content.

A two-day Operational Excellence Workshop:

  • Attendees were regional onsite leaders (who, in some cases, were together for the first time). Regional top executives intentionally were not invited to attend to create an open environment for conversations. The workshop offered a unique opportunity for attendees to connect with peers and focus on areas for improvement together.
  • National subject matter experts (McCarthy president/COO, Operations, Legal, Preconstruction/Estimating, Learning and Development) attended all sessions.
  • Focus areas included: “The Art of the Deal,” “Estimating According to the Contract,” “Execution – Managing the Job,” and “Ensuring Success/Managing the Legalities.”
  • Post-Workshop Regional Plan Development: Following each workshop, the national training team worked with regional leadership to:

1. Analyze Data: Assessment results, evaluations, session notes

2. Identify Needs: Process issues, gaps, opportunities, development areas

3. Develop Solutions: Create a plan to improve efficiency and effectiveness


Since launching the initiative in July 2017, 158 employees in six regions have completed the Operational Excellence workshop, with a focus on onsite leaders including project directors, project managers, and those in other crucial onsite leadership roles. As a result, McCarthy has achieved a variety of notable business outcomes. A few examples include:

  • The number of projects where McCarthy lost money was reduced by 85 percent.
  • By increasing the quality of its work, McCarthy increased revenue by 6 percent.
  • Since launching this initiative, McCarthy has seen specific regional changes put in place, supporting the initiative goal to have the regions “own” and drive their solutions. For example, in the McCarthy Southern Region, a new contract review process was implemented to improve efficiencies and reduce risk. In addition, the McCarthy Southern California Region workshop revealed the group’s need to learn more about McCarthy’s design-build business process, a complex and potentially high-risk project delivery approach. As a result, a project manager peer group was formed to focus on that specific element.
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.