Training Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (May 2023)

Each year Training magazine requires all Training Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that is shared with our readers in a print or online-only issue. Here are the details of Nationwide’s Future Ready Leader (FRL) program, PwC’s Trust Leadership Institute, and Sonic Automotive’s Leadership Pipeline program.


Nationwide’s Future Ready Leader (FRL) training initiative was created in late 2021 to provide a way to quickly stand up leader learnings targeting current strategic needs in the form of month-long sprints. The FRL initiative builds on Nationwide’s Leadership Matters program for new leaders and its ongoing self-study Future of Work program related to the principles of LEAD, INNOVATE, and ADAPT.

Program Details

The FRL training program is intended to be responsive to company strategy in an agile way. The sprint format includes self-learning, in-the-flow practice, and collaboration with peers. Initially in 2022, COACH and FLEX sprints were stood up, with EMPATHY and DELIVER close behind. As Nationwide embraced its “new” normal of working in a hybrid environment toward the end of 2022, CONNECT was added to support the strength of its culture over time.

Each of the FRL sprints have 4 Practices, developed from a research-based curation process. Research on the sprint strategic focus area is done first, and Practices are formed from the research and approved by senior leaders.

Standard components of an FRL sprint include:

  • Practices to support the sprint topic (one per week for a four-week sprint)
  • Research Summary for each Practice supporting the sprint focus
  • Practice Instructions (that provide suggestions for associates to activate the practices in the flow of work) and a Moderator Guide with questions for each week’s discussion on lessons learned and aha moments (the moderator role is rotated among cohort participants)
  • LinkedIn Learning Path (includes the items above)
  • Knowledge Check (taken after completion of the learning path; participants must receive an 80 percent score to receive their certificate)

The Research Summary (per Practice)

  • Identifies key research points that provide the rationale for Practice selection
  • Elaborates on what the Practice looks like when applied
  • Has clickable citations for key research sources
  • Is written in a visually appealing one-pager

After completing individual learning and practicing each week, cohorts discuss how they applied the Practices in the flow of their normal work. Ideally, each cohort member continues reinforcement by reflecting with their own leader.


As of the end of 2022, 60 percent of people leaders at all levels—from line supervisor to president— have completed at least one sprint.

Since implementation, Nationwide has seen an increase in the all-associate Engagement, Innovation, Change, Inclusiveness, and Customer indices on the firm’s annual company culture survey (all of which are directly aligned to Leader Practices taught in the FRL program). Employee turnover decreased, as well. (Editor’s Note: Specific numerical results were not for publication.)


The Trust Leadership Institute is part of PwC’s Tomorrow Takes Trust initiative, a three-year, $300 million commitment to embed trust-based principles into the core of today’s and tomorrow’s businesses. The Trust Leadership Institute is PwC’s premier executive leadership forum for leading insights on personal, organizational, and societal trust. Through the institute, PwC convenes senior executives and corporate directors across industries to navigate the most complex trust-related issues, identify the opportunities, and take action as organizations.

Program Details

At the heart of the Trust Leadership Institute is PwC’s Trust Academy. This premier executive leadership forum, which has evolved into a four-day bootcamp format, convenes senior executives and thought leaders to navigate the most complex trust-related issues, the interdependencies many may not recognize— and opportunities for action.

The Trust Leadership Institute makes the business case for organizational trust, featuring diverse perspectives from academia, business, and public policy to examine the role of trust across data, privacy and technology, cybersecurity, workforce strategy, sustainability and transparency, empowering economic mobility, multi-stakeholder communications, personal trust, and more. Participants come away with the tools needed to shape an action plan across these dimensions, creating lasting impact and better outcomes in business and society.

PwC offers the Trust Leadership Institute at no cost (other than travel expenses) to senior business executives and corporate board directors. All participants come from outside PwC. Executives must be at the C-suite, senior executive, or corporate director level to receive an invitation to the Trust Leadership Institute’s Trust Academy, and are nominated by PwC partners and account teams.

The inaugural Trust Academy launched in November 2021 with a two-day virtual cornerstone event that laid the foundation of why trust matters in today’s world. Following the event, executives embarked on a 14-week virtual immersive learning experience exploring the role of trust in addressing the most complex challenges businesses face through prework, weekly live virtual sessions, and cohort group discussions.

The program concluded with an in-person capstone event that focused on the interdependencies of trust, and executives made formal commitments on how they could implement real-world change within their organizations and society.

Session 2 of the Trust Leadership Institute Trust Academy began in March 2022 with an in-person cornerstone event, followed by a nine-week virtual immersive learning experience, concluding with a virtual capstone experience. Based on feedback, PwC continued to evolve the format of the experience, which is now a four-day, in-person immersive bootcamp. Session 3 of the Trust Academy was delivered in this format in December 2022, and Session 4 was delivered in March 2023. Future sessions of the Trust Academy will be offered in this format in October and December 2023.

In all sessions of the Trust Academy, executives are grouped with approximately 10 peer participants in a cohort, based on size of company, role and level within their organization, and diversity of industry, and led by an experienced facilitator. Cohort conversations (held under Chatham House Rules) support executives in building a framework of trust that can be scaled across their organizations.

After completion of the Trust Academy, executives are connected to the Trust Leadership Institute community of peers and supported with frequent “Trust in Action” Webcasts, which feature diverse perspectives on emerging topics in organizational trust.


Since the Trust Leadership Institute’s launch in November 2021, 380 executives from 260 companies, across 10 industries, representing 20 senior executive functional roles have participated.

The combined Net Promoter Score from the first three Trust Leadership Institute sessions was +74.6 within a range of -100 to +100. This outperformed PwC’s target of +40. Executives are prompted to complete a survey after the completion of the Academy. From the surveyed participants, 94 percent said the Trust Academy will “help my organization earn trust with the stakeholders we serve,” and 100 percent said participating in the Trust Academy is making them a better leader. In the words of one executive participant, “Mind. Blown. That was the most meaningful, intellectually stimulating, profoundly significant professional experience I’ve ever had in my life. And somehow it was fun, too! I’m bursting with energy and ideas to share with the team.”


Building the Leadership Pipeline at Sonic Automotive is crucial to the retailer’s bottom line and to its return on shareholder value. Sonic Automotive combined two practices— succession planning and leadership development—to create a long-term process for managing its talent roster across the organization via the Variable Operations and Service Operations Academies.

Program Details

While previous leadership development training focused on the learning of basic leadership principles at random points in the manager tenure using traditional in-person facilitated classes, Sonic Automotive designed its new Leadership Pipeline program to virtually support the development of new skills early in the leadership journey using assigned independent study with integrated activities that help managers quickly establish rapport with their team, identify their strengths and opportunities, and build networks of support through increased communication with leadership.

This creates an environment of continual learning through self-guided development exercises and increased community learning opportunities while also reducing the interruption that formal training can cause in retail stores.

The Variable Operations and Service Operations Academies were designed around Sonic’s three “Be Connected” leadership principles:

Engage: Be present, be a mentor

Serve: Be generous, be a team player

Lead: Be healthy: financially, mentally, physically

The academies follow an eight-week schedule:

Weeks 1-3: Pre-training assignments

Week 4: Facilitated training

Weeks 5-8: Post-training assignments

In addition to these eight weeks of independent study, activities, and virtually facilitated training, participants attend an additional week of business acumen training facilitated by various divisional leaders to provide them the opportunity to discuss relevant topics and ask important questions.

After the facilitated training is complete, participants continue to work through independent study and complete activities that require them to practice new skills. The program culminates in the presentation of a completed manager portfolio that outlines their goals and detailed plans for managing their team and responsibilities.


Some 86 percent of all managers companywide have participated in the academies. The leadership skills explored and developed through these academies led to decreased employee turnover across all business units, including a 47 percent improvement in Variable Operations and 27 percent improvement in Service Operations. In addition, Variable Operations customer service scores increased 14 percent after implementation. Post-2021 Variable Operations Academy and Service Operations Academy graduations, profitability also rose: Revenues increased nearly 30 percent, gross profit was up nearly 49 percent, and earnings per share were up nearly 90 percent.

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.