Training Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (April 2023)

Each year Training magazine requires all Training Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that we share with our readers. Here are the details of BNSF Railway’s People Leader Training 2021: Model the Way–Be Inclusive and Lead with Resilience and KPMG’s Culture Champions Network.


While diversity and inclusion has been foundational to BNSF’s culture since the company’s inception, in 2020 it assessed its progress and adjusted its diversity and inclusion efforts. BNSF’s annual leadership training (People Leader Training) for 2021 was leveraged to educate all exempt employees on diversity and inclusion.

Some of the ways BNSF has accelerated its commitment in its diversity, inclusion, and belonging journey is by focusing on three pillars:

  1. Representation: Increase diversity throughout the organization
  2. Development: Develop leaders who create a diverse and inclusive culture
  3. Accountability: Ensure diversity, equality, and inclusion remains a focused priority for all employees, including leadership

Program Details

People Leader Training (PLT) is an annual two-day leadership development experience for existing and emerging leaders. The executive steering team, which includes President and CEO Katie Farmer, guides content each year. Each session is opened by one of BNSF’s top 90 executives.

The program was designed by BNSF’s Leadership Development team and includes:

  • Executive leadership personalized videos sharing their perspective on diversity and inclusion
  • Executive leadership speakers who shared BNSF’s goals regarding diversity and inclusion
  • Opportunities for self-reflection throughout the program
  • Deep dives into microaggressions, stereotyping, blind spots, and bias
  • Content around the importance of reflecting, empathizing, acting, and learning relative to diversity and inclusion
  • Tools for practicing resilience, and managing energy and mindset at work
  • Development of diversity and inclusion dialogue skills by practicing with a human-powered artificial intelligence (AI) simulation learning platform. Using avatars who were live actors, employees engaged in difficult conversations where they identified and addressed microaggressions and issues of exclusion.


Approximately 5,000 employees were trained in 239 sessions with best-ever evaluation results.

The company believes its Leading with Inclusion program was a contributing factor to the following business outcomes:

  • Increased representation across the business: In 2021, 59 percent of new hires were diverse.
  • Attrition rate decreased by 2 percent.
  • 39 percent of exempt promotions were diverse.
  • Business Resource Group memberships increased by 10 percent year over year (a measure of engagement).

BNSF has received numerous awards demonstrating its commitment in being a premier diversity and inclusion transportation company:

  • 2023 Best Place for Working Parents
  • 2023 Military Friendly Employer (Gold)
  • 2022 Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index
  • 2022 Forbes The Best Employers for New Grads
  • 2022 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) score of 90 out of 100
  • 2022 Best Place for Working Parents
  • 2022 Military Spouse Friendly Employer
  • 2022 Military Friendly Employer (Gold)
  • 2022 Mogul’s Top Pioneers in Diversity and Inclusion
  • 2022 American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s Top 50 Workplaces for Indigenous STEM
  • 2021 Military Times Best for Vets Employers
  • 2021 Forbes Best Employer for Women
  • 2021 Military Friendly Employer
  • 2021 Top STEM Workplaces



KPMG leaders believe that engaging their people in the firm’s culture has an enormous impact on retention—that people are less likely to seek other opportunities if they believe in KPMG’s values and feel a sense of connection and belonging. As part of the firm’s strategy to reinvigorate its culture, KPMG established a Culture Champions Network (currently 6,200 professionals). KPMG helps its Champions build key capabilities and approaches to succeed as cultural ambassadors.

Program Details

Through employee engagement surveys and focus groups, KPMG identified the need to upskill people to better:

  • Communicate with compassionate candor and help create an environment of psychological safety
  • Understand, adopt, and share strategies to enable resilience
  • Inspire others to live KPMG values in the hybrid workplace by acting as role models

Recognizing the need to give people tools to create an environment of psychological safety, KPMG’s Culture and Learning teams began a collaboration with author Kim Scott and her Radical Candor organization. The result was an interactive Compassionate Candor Workshop that was first piloted to KPMG audiences in early 2021.

To better focus virtual classroom time on the collaborative and interactive components of the workshop, KPMG worked with Scott to develop a stand-alone, self-paced Web-based course called Radical Candor, made available to all KPMG professionals in 2022.

In parallel, KPMG partnered with two business professors and thought leaders to offer training for Culture Champions on resilience and role-modeling. Two courses launched in 2021; Culture Champions were invited to focus their time and energy on one of the two. The Resilience workshop helped one set of Culture Champions learn to use change as a springboard for growth, while the Role Modeling workshop helped the other set of Culture Champions demonstrate and promote KPMG values in the virtual/hybrid workplace. These programs equipped Champions to deliver similar workshops to their teams.

In 2022, the firm established the Culture Champions Learning Journey in Degreed, KPMG’s learning experience platform. The Learning Journey lays out step-by-step learning pathways to achieve each of three tiers: Enthusiast, Catalyst, and Legend. Among the action steps required to achieve each tier are on-demand formal learning and informal experiential learning. When all steps are completed, that tier is achieved, and the Culture Champion can move on to the next one.

The Learning Journey was pilot tested in April 2022 and was deployed to the current Culture Champions Network in August 2022.


To assess the impact of the Compassionate Candor programs, KPMG compared agreement with the statement, “I rarely look for a new job,” in its September 2021 and September 2022 employee engagement surveys. Across the board, employees who had completed Compassionate Candor training were more likely to agree with this statement in 2022 than they had been in 2021, and more likely to agree than their peers who had not completed the course.

In some areas of the business, the difference was especially pronounced. Among Audit professionals, agreement that “I rarely look for a new job” was 51 percent higher for professionals who had completed a Compassionate Candor live workshop.

In addition, the retention rate for Culture Champions is 16 percent higher than the retention rate for the rest of the firm.

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.