Training Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (September 2022)

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 McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.’s Virtual Safety Orientation and Sonic Automotive’s Virtual New Hire Training.


Nothing at McCarthy trumps safety. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety orientation at McCarthy was done regularly during in-person group sessions and nearly every day at job sites. During the pandemic, the social distancing requirements made routine tasks such as safety orientation a challenge. That necessitated the creation of the firm’s Virtual Safety Orientation.

Program Details

During the COVID-19 outbreak, McCarthy helped launch the NEXT Coalition—a coalition of leading critical infrastructure and construction companies working together to share industry safety best practices. The coalition leveraged their combined safety expertise and best practices to ensure the well-being of crews and office team members facing complex challenges posed by the Coronavirus outbreak. The coalition launched the “Construction Safety Challenge,” an open call to companies, startups, and other innovators with emerging safety solutions that could be quickly deployed and scaled.

As part of the Construction Safety Challenge, McCarthy agreed to help pilot a digital solution from GoContractor, a leading virtual onboarding solution company. McCarthy’s safety teams partnered with GoContractor to quickly develop a virtual safety orientation process that met McCarthy’s stringent safety standards.

Learning objectives for Virtual Safety Orientation include:

  • Evaluate new hire safety knowledge
  • Orient new employees to McCarthy’s safety program and requirements
  • Complete McCarthy safety training
  • Ensure the employee understands task hazard analysis (THA) and proper personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements
  • Complete standard forms and personal information gathering

The Virtual Safety Orientation process is done via video and electronic exam, all handled online and accessible via phone, tablet, or laptop. The virtual orientation is available in English and Spanish. Once the new employee completes the virtual orientation, they check in with the project staff, where they receive a socially distanced “one-on-one” site-specific summary and hard hat sticker to complete the orientation process.

McCarthy piloted the solution on five geographically distinct job sites to determine if it was viable. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive from project teams and new employees. Virtual Safety Orientation is now available for all projects.

For reinforcement, all McCarthy meetings and gatherings begin with a “Genuine Safety Moment.” This includes meetings on job sites, in offices, with trade partners or clients. This is a short conversation that can cover a specific safety protocol, recently identified hazard, or personal safety stories brought in from the job site.

McCarthy also celebrates Construction Safety Week every year. This includes safety stand downs on-site to discuss and reiterate the importance of safety, internal and external safety materials, and sharing information about working safely on social media.


Since the Virtual Safety Orientation pilots began, more than 4,500 employees, trade partners, and others have completed the orientation. Virtual orientation saves McCarthy projects teams anywhere from five to 20 hours per week, depending on the size and stage of a project.

The change from in-person safety orientation to virtual has not impacted McCarthy’s ability to work safely. In fact, as of November 2021, McCarthy was on pace to set a record for its safest year ever.


Sonic Automotive’s Virtual New Hire Training necessitated converting classroom training content to engaging virtual content, implementing virtual competency testing, and getting buy-in from retail operations managers and trainers. The program aimed to reduce time to proficiency from 60 days to 30 days for key positions.

Program Details

After conducting a needs analysis for the virtual new hire training solution, Sonic Automotive designed its custom virtual learning experience, which uses Zoom and is supplemented with eLearning.

The Training team first evaluated existing content and incorporated the prior knowledge of learners (changing the hiring profile). The company’s president and business unit leaders helped design the standard operating procedures, which were converted into training content. The president created several training videos that were incorporated into the new hire training, and senior leaders “pop” into the sessions to share their advice and answer questions.

New hires video themselves completing performance of the training objectives and complete competency testing online. The trainer verifies competency in each skill area, then the new hire’s manager observes their actual performance for final signoff.

Reinforcement of training is done at 30, 60, and 90 days virtually and face-to-face by the learner’s immediate manager. Competency testing is completed at the same intervals.

The company measures the ROI of its training for key positions, such as sales and service advisors. The key performance indicators (KPIs) and ROI are reported to senior management weekly.

Sonic Automotive ran several pilots prior to the launch, incorporating the feedback into redesigns and making a commitment to continual improvement.


Some 2,875 employees have completed the Virtual New Hire Training, which met the goal of reducing the time to proficiency from 60 days to 30 days for sales and service advisors. New hire turnover in the first 180 days was reduced by 23 percent. In addition, revenue per car increased, resulting in record revenues in third quarter 2021—up 21 percent year over year.

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.