Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (Sept/Oct 2014)

For the first time since the creation of the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame in 2008, Training magazine required all Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that would be shared with our readers throughout the year. Here are the details of KLA-Tencor and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Leadership Center's submissions.

KLA-Tencor: The Situation Room

The Situation Room provides managers with the opportunity to resolve common, difficult leadership scenarios in an open environment, using the best-known methods they previously learned via KLA-Tencor’s curriculum.

KLA-Tencor’s Corporate Learning Center (CLC) developed The Situation Room in conjunction with a general manager who presented this challenge: “Despite attending many courses, our managers tend to respond to situations by listening to their gut or intuition, rather than using the tools we’ve taught them. How can we practice applying these tools and methods in a safe environment so these become our intuitive responses?”

This request prompted a program that would accelerate a manager’s ability to experience difficult situations, apply appropriate solutions, and learn from the perspectives of others.

Program Details
The Situation Room consists of one dozen scenarios that are facilitated monthly for a one-year program (or weekly for a 12-week program). Each “situation” consists of two 90-minute sessions and one hour of between-session homework. These sessions have been facilitated both on-site and virtually. The flow of the course follows:

  • Session 1: A group of 8 to 20 managers gathers and reads a 350- to 450-word case study. After hearing the scenario, participants are given three minutes to write a “blink response” to the situation. Each participant then shares his or her response. Peers provide feedback on what they like about each response, but no criticism is allowed. If a peer doesn’t like a response, he or she can offer an alternative. This approach reinforces that leadership can take many forms.

After all participants have shared their responses, four teams are formed and given the homework assignment.

  • Homework: Between Sessions 1 and 2, participants are expected to meet for at least one hour as a group, in person or virtually. They review previously taught course content, models, methodologies, and/or tools to create a “prepared” response to the situation.
  • Session 2: Participants regroup and present their prepared responses. After hearing the responses and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each, individuals are given five minutes to prepare a personal response. This response addresses how they will handle this situation if they face it “tomorrow.” The response should integrate all of the lessons from Sessions 1 and 2, plus the homework. Four to six participants are selected randomly to deliver their response. The outcomes of the sessions are documented on local SharePoint sites, so best practices can be collected and shared with others facing similar challenges.

The Corporate Learning Center (CLC) produced the pilot product through the use of rapid prototyping. First, the CLC interviewed 20 managers about their most difficult challenges. Next, the CLC surveyed available products that might address the challenges listed, but did not identify any appropriate solutions. In response, the team developed 14 initial “scenarios” to use as the development discussion. Each scenario was tied directly to real KLA-Tencor situations and leveraged tools that are offered in the CLC learning library.

The first scenario was delivered just three weeks from the initial interviews, via virtual delivery. Feedback from the pilot was exceptional:
“I realized how weak my ‘blink response’ usually is and that I need to prepare more for situations that I encounter.”

“It’s interesting to see how different managers handle the same situation. Various leadership styles can be equally effective.”

“I realized that every situation has a solution. We should not get overwhelmed in the moment. Reflect on the available tools and create an approach.”

As a result of the pilot results, KLA-Tencor partnered with Waggl (, formerly Fort Hill Company) to identify the most urgent global manager situations using a proprietary crowd-sourcing tool. In a two-week period, more than 640 managers cast 5,000-plus votes on 92 situations that were created by the user population. The top 20 situations form the core Situation Room curriculum.

Eighty-seven managers completed the program during its initial rollout, and KLA-Tencor now is opening The Situation Room for all managers. The program aims to close the development gap for managers/leaders as they more effectively apply training principles and methodologies taught in leadership and management courses.

The Situation Room has received a rating of 4.9 out of 5.0 from the 87 employees who completed it. By Session 2 (following the homework activities), KLA-Tencor saw 100 percent of the student groups using the skills associated with KLA-Tencor-taught programs. Sixty-seven percent of managers responding to the post-course interviews reported hearing participants use the language from the courses referenced in the case studies, as well as application of various tools and job aids provided as part of the program.

KLA-Tencor’s goal is to see a 5 percent improvement on leadership and management aspects of the engagement survey for managers who attended the learning. Results are currently on track for a 7 percent improvement.

Based on the positive results, The Situation Room framework has been modified and applied to customized scenarios for finance and field service groups.

Top three recommendations for anyone implementing this type of program are:

  • The situation must fit the right level of abstraction. It must be general enough for most managers to have experienced it, but it also must be specific enough to be useful.
  • The participant must have been trained in the appropriate tools. The Situation Room is not a training session. It is a practice session.
  • The Situation Room is best used for scenarios where there is not necessarily a right (or wrong) answer.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Leadership Center: Launching Digital Media
A brand extension of The Ritz-Carlton lodging company, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center is a corporate university specializing in legendary service, leadership, and sustainable organization culture change since 2000.

Last year, as The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center considered ways to expand its offerings, the organization decided it was time to take its training beyond the four walls of the classroom. The Ritz-Carlton wanted to expose its learning principles to a broader audience, helping other organizations understand the importance of excellent customer service, leadership development, employee engagement, and organizational culture, and giving them the tools to grow and improve. The center determined that the best way to expand its reach would be to utilize digital media.

In response, The Leadership Center crafted a new position —Director of Design and Thought Leadership. Primary job responsibilities included developing and managing social media channels to disseminate thought leadership and designing thought leadership tools and resources to more widely share the training of The Leadership Center.

Program Details
The Director of Design & Thought Leadership was hired at the end of January 2013. The team collaborated on the goals and hopes for digital expansion and evaluated potential platforms, audience, content, and how to measure results.

Next, the team selected the appropriate digital channels, drafted a training content calendar for the year, and devised a timeline for implementation. It also worked with the internal marketing, PR, and e-commerce teams for The Ritz-Carlton to ensure the initiatives were on brand and in line with company objectives, and met with the Human Resources department to verify that the program complemented internal training methods and goals.

The plan kicked off in March 2013. Here is what has been implemented to date:
Twitter (

Training strategies:

  • Repetition. Repeating critical information is vital to successful training. Because of the rapid content turnover on Twitter, this seemed to be a good channel for reinforcement by repetition.
  • Emphasize and simplify key messages. One of the strategies The Leadership Center uses in its classes is to highlight significant points. Students write these points on sticky notes, and the center calls them “golden nuggets.” At the end of each class, students are asked to share their golden nuggets. Twitter is the perfect platform to share “golden nuggets” with a wider audience.
  • Innovation. The Leadership Center also uses Twitter to share the latest industry news and ideas concerning customer service, employee engagement, leadership, and culture transformation. It is currently one of the top 13 thought leaders on employee engagement on Twitter. LinkedIn (

Training strategies:

  • Discussion. The Leadership Center is using LinkedIn to not only share business practices but to spark discussions with followers. The center created two discussion groups. One group is public, and one group is for past attendees of Leadership Center classes so they have the opportunity to share what methods have worked for them.
  • Feedback. The Leadership Center also uses LinkedIn to solicit best practices and feedback from participants. Gold Minds Blog (

Training strategy:

  • Articles. Instructional articles written by The Leadership Center, employee profiles, and customer and guest stories are posted once a week. The articles typically focus on The Ritz-Carlton methods for customer service, employee engagement, leadership development, and sustainable culture change.

The Ritz-Carlton is considering other channels such as Facebook, Google+, E-newsletters, and Webinars for future digital training.

More than 7,000 learners per month now are being trained using digital media. The Ritz-Carlton’s Klout score—a numerical value between 1 and 100 that ranks online social influence—went from 19 in February 2013 to 61 in August 2013. The average Klout Score is 40, and users with a score of 63 are in the top 5 percent of all users. In addition, the organization has more than 6,500 followers on Twitter and LinkedIn, and those numbers continue to grow. More than 1,000 people have subscribed to the blog.

Since launching social media, several past clients have posted comments and written blog posts describing how the teaching has affected their business—particularly the use of daily line-ups. Since launching these digital initiatives, business has increased 15 percent for The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.