Training APEX Awards Best Practice & Outstanding Training Initiative Award Winners (March 2024)

Successful L&D programs and best practices submitted in winning 2024 Training APEX Awards applications.

APEX Awards


Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America: True Balance

The True Balance program is designed to provide employees with the tools and support they need to find their own unique balance in life and achieve a healthy well-being at Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America. True Balance focuses on three key pillars:

  • True health: Benefits, programs, and onsite amenities designed to support physical, mental, and emotional well-being
  • True financial: Incentive and assistance programs and education opportunities to help with financial health
  • True community: Diversity and inclusion, worklife balance support, career development, recognition, and giving back to the community

True Balance provides many different types of opportunities for employees to learn health and wellness, including live sessions, Degreed pathways, and True Balance Fairs. In addition, the True Balance Limeade app promotes employee participation in health-focused activities and other opportunities. It offers True Balance experience points, which employees can redeem for health savings account dollars or other incentives.

New last year was a “lifestyle spending account,” which provides each employee $500 to spend toward a variety of classes, services, and products to support their individual needs to find True Balance. In addition, Allianz has True Care (an on-campus clinic), TotaLife (an on-campus gym), and an Employee Assistance Program.


  • The current rate of voluntary turnover is 7.6 percent.
  • Some 81 percent of employees stated they’re able to balance their work and personal life.
  • The company’s Work Well Index (WWI) score was 80 percent, an increase from the previous year.

Compass One Healthcare: ProPEL

Principles of Patient Experience Leadership Training (ProPEL) is a three-day practical session designed to educate patient experience managers on the 21 behavioral core standards that drive the Compass One Healthcare Positive Impressions program. ProPEL outlines key user engagement strategies, transformational leadership tactics, purposeful rounding practices, the history of HCAHPS (i.e., patient satisfaction measurement), and third-party patient satisfaction data analysis.

The program offers a blended instructional approach that includes in-person workshops, scenario-based role-plays in a simulation center, hands-on experience, small group collaboration, friendly competitions, group dialogue, and presentations from hospital nursing leadership and/ or client visitation. Patient experience managers role-play how to conduct inpatient rounding and address service recovery. They are paired with seasoned staff to observe the clinical environment and rounding techniques and then practice learned strategies while being mentored.

After the program, follow-up surveys are sent via QR codes. And there are monthly modules regarding Positive Impressions topics, biweekly calls, and a quarterly regional patient experience manager (PEM) visit to observe and evaluate trainee performance.

Results: After employees attended ProPEL and fully executed Positive Impressions strategies, Compass One Healthcare saw a 2.9 percent average increase in HCAHPS performance. Accounts with consistent Positive Impressions program utilization experience higher client satisfaction, which contributed to Compass One’s 98 percent client retention rate in 2023.

Southern New Hampshire University: Elevate

Southern New Hampshire University’s Elevate offers a personalized learning journey for employees, allowing them to choose their development path from nine core competencies or engage in a series of career development exercises. Throughout their progression, participants collaborate with their leaders to gain insights into their performance.

Elevate features a career planning toolkit, accessible to employees via a self-service platform. Here, individuals can align their passions, skills, talents, and interests with various job roles within the organization. Through a systematic gap analysis, employees then can construct a strategic plan to enhance their qualifications and suitability for roles of interest.

Learners earn badges and Meta Badges while progressing through their development journey. Participants earn badges after their leaders have observed them effectively applying their newly acquired knowledge and skills on the job for a minimum of 30 days. Participants earn Meta Badges after earning three badges, which takes approximately a year to 18 months. To earn a Meta Badge, the participant must demonstrate all the competencies from all badges earned over the course of the year and have a reflective conversation with their leader.

Results: Participants demonstrated an aggregate 82 percent increase in positive behaviors on the skills learned in the Elevate program. In fiscal year 2023, Southern New Hampshire University retained 96 percent of individual contributors who participated in Elevate.

State Compensation Insurance Fund: EDGE—Everyone Drives Great Experiences and EDGE The Winners Circle

In 2023, State Compensation Insurance Fund introduced a part II to its EDGE—Everyone Drives Great Experiences program that aims to reinforce the customer service mindset and set clear expectations for its employees.

In the Winner’s Circle, State Fund teaches the mental game and how to maintain its EDGE. State Fund launched the initiative with its interactive EDGE Grand Prix game to refresh the original concepts. Following the initial workshop, there was an 18-week reinforcement plan, which included a series of eight microlearning videos and additional articles and discussion topics to be shared in team huddles to discuss the content. A leader toolkit was created to help leaders facilitate discussion of the content.

Executives recorded targeted messages that acknowledged and celebrated specific successes in their departments, and honed in on key areas of opportunity and the ways in which the Winner’s Circle will better equip employees to tackle the unique customer challenges they encounter.

Results: As a result of embedding EDGE into its culture, State Fund’s most recent customer satisfaction score was 73 percent among policyholders (up nearly 22 percent from the prior year), and 86 percent among brokers (up nearly 15 percent from the prior year), with 81 percent of policyholders and 94 percent of brokers saying they are likely to renew.

The Haskell Company: Quality Performance Training Program

The Haskell Company’s Quality Performance Training Program uses a combination of tech and training. Its quality control software identifies any construction process scoring below quality targets established with the client and automatically assigns remediating content to the project team.

Team members learn the quality control software and how performance algorithms calculate Quality Implementation Plan (QIP) and Quality Performance Rating (QPR) scoring based on field team execution. Asynchronous, 30-minute sessions delivered via screencast (the video+audio equivalent of a screenshot) demonstrate automated quality review processes such as tracking, correcting quality task deficiencies, and project closeouts.

Whenever a metric falls below the quality benchmark, the software automatically assigns the entire project team relevant training, drawing on a growing library of 25-plus mobile-friendly, 5- to 15-minute how-to videos approved by field leadership and available worldwide via the company’s learning management system (LMS). Learners choose their modality: microlearning, virtual instructor-led training, and/or screencasts.

After a team completes remediating training, project leaders conduct QIP reviews to validate improved performance, assigning any supplementary learning as needed.

Results: QIP reviews increased by more than 150 percent. Enterprise QIP average scores of 8.76 (on a 10-point scale) exceeded the target by 3 percent, and overall QPR average scores of 83.47 (on a 100-point scale) were 4 percent over the target.


Applied Materials, Inc.: Enhanced Knowledge Delivery (EKD) Program

Applied Materials, Inc.’s Enhanced Knowledge Delivery (EKD) program aims to reduce new hire time to proficiency. It applies a 50-40-10 model, with 50 percent of the instruction being on-demand lessons, 40 percent synchronous group learning sessions, and 10 percent formative (knowledge checks and quizzes) and summative (final exam) assessments. The program takes a flipped learning approach beginning with self-paced instruction. An interactive, digital student guide contains all the course materials, links to micro-video lectures, knowledge checks, and software simulations. Micro-video lectures are 6 to 10 minutes long and include subtitles. Software simulations include instructional scaffolding with a demonstration of the process, guided practice with prompts, and an assessment where the student can complete a software procedure without coaching.

Synchronous group learning sessions often begin with questions in a game format. The class explores immersive virtual reality environments where they work together to complete various tasks.

Results: Applied Materials has seen a year-over-year 8.8 percent reduction in new hire time to year 8.8 percent reduction in new hire time to proficiency. Average labor hours improved by more than 20% after training, resulting in cost avoidance of hiring an additional 200-plus engineers to support service contracts or warranty support. Median labor hours dropped by more than 50 percent, and the labor standard deviation was reduced significantly.

BankWest, Inc.: Value-Added Sales Training

BankWest, Inc., launched Value Added Sales Training to shift front-line staff’s mindset when it comes to selling in a service organization. The training is a two-day workshop held at corporate headquarters in Pierre, SD, every other month. Each class has approximately 15 participants.

The training kicks off with a game of team Jeopardy! with the questions centered around the review of BankWest products sold to customers. Participants learn how to build stronger customer relationships through recommending products, making referrals, and sharing their knowledge. Participants break into groups to practice how they will approach a customer or prospect on the different products and services to enhance the banking relationship with customers. In the evening, there is a dinner with members of the corporate management team and division/ department leaders.

The second day, participants play Jenga, where each block has a review question from the day before. Top sales performers in the organization are invited to be on a Q&A panel in the class. The day wraps up with a framed class photo. Each classmate signs the frame and shares a personal inspiring message.

Results: BankWest’s 2023 goal for customer relationship management (CRM) recommendations was 1,922; it was already at 2,596 recommendations by summer 2023. The bank was ahead of pace on its goal for loans but a bit behind on deposits, with a loan-to-deposit value of 73 percent.

ESL Federal Credit Union: Workforce Management for Employees/Management

In December 2022, ESL Federal Credit Union embarked on a corporate project to migrate its time and attendance system to a new platform. L&D created two layers of training, with the first targeting all employees and beginning with an overview video narrated by ESL’s manager of Total Rewards. Next, employees embarked on a self-paced, online module with embedded simulations teaching the required screens and actions for all necessary functions and interactive knowledge checks. This marked the first time ESL made employee content available via a mobile app and/or desktop application.

Following the eLearning module, employees attended a half-day, instructor-led workshop where they practiced and demonstrated in various system functions. After completing the foundational training, managers then embarked on the next layer. This included a self-paced, online learning module containing demonstration videos, interactive simulations, and knowledge checks.

The Payroll specialist e-mailed weekly tips and tricks to all employees for the first 30 days post-training.

Results: Since April 2023, ESL has maintained 100 percent compliance with on-time timesheet approvals, and accuracy of timesheet inputs improved by 82 percent compared to the former system. This provided savings in labor costs required to remediate late or incorrect timesheets and protects the company from potential FLSA violations and fines.

Long & Foster Real Estate: New Agent Onboarding

Long & Foster Real Estate beta launched its New Agent Onboarding program in two of its largest regions with the highest number of new hires in 2022. As part of the affiliation process, agents attend a four-hour hands-on live virtual training class that is offered weekly. Previously at L&F, and throughout the industry, onboarding of new agent hires was performed at the branch or regional levels by different people with varying amounts of time, perspective, and training skills, creating inconsistency and confusion. With this beta program, the same instructor, L&F’s director of Client Services, now teaches each class.

During the class, the agents access FOSTER, the company’s intranet hub, and familiarize themselves with essential business resources. The curriculum is divided into categories of marketing foundations, business resources, tools, and technology. The tools demonstration includes a “GO Live” feature, allowing agents to open the tools or apps during the class and immediately begin co-learning, practicing, and completing tasks. Students sign up for a separate, one-hour regional-specific Q&A session at the end of the onboarding class for more individualized instruction and hands-on assistance.

Results: Post-session tracking of these key agent tools demonstrated 100 percent frequent utilization by agents, beating the goal of 90 percent.

Novartis China: Small Medical Meeting: AI Enhancement

Novartis China’s Small Medical Meeting: AI Enhancement aims to enhance new hire performance and equip these new employees with advanced professional visitation skills and the capability to conduct effective small meetings, thus accelerating the growth of innovative products.

The program is a blend of online learning and real-world applications, including artificial intelligence- based training exercises rooted in natural language processing (NLP) technology. It begins with online courses on conducting small meetings, followed by practice sessions utilizing AI for assessment. Participants must achieve a minimum overall score of 75 to pass the course. The AI also offers performance insights, helping representatives to identify and work on their weaknesses.

In the first six months post-training, specialized projects and field guidance were used to reinforce the representatives’ skills. Individualized performance targets were set based on AI evaluation scores. New content iterations were introduced after six months, providing trainees with new AI practice modules based on their previous performances.

Results: The proficiency in conducting efficient small meetings among new hires surged from 70 to 86.2 percent post-training. Of 375 trained employees for the Cosentyx brand, 73.6 percent of them met their performance targets within their first six months.

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.