Training Top 125 Best Practice: Department of Labor (DOL) Fiduciary Rule Learning at Nationwide

The vision was to provide engaging, relevant, easily accessible/consumable learning for a diverse target learner population consisting of associates, external and independent contractors, and external agents.

Diversified insurance and financial services provider Nationwide last year designed and delivered more than 12,000 instances of learning on the new U.S. Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule to 5,000-plus Nationwide financial associates and agents. This rule indicates that the fiduciary is responsible for putting the best interests of the client ahead of his or her own, necessitating changes in the way associates sell/service financial products. Associates working with clients now must educate rather than advise. The vision was to provide engaging, relevant, easily accessible/consumable learning for a diverse target learner population consisting of associates, external and independent contractors, and external agents.

Program Details

Learning outcomes include:

  • Develop new behaviors
  • Promote a new way of thinking about the work being done today
  • Drive required changes in mindset about how to do that work
  • Enable compliance with the DOL Fiduciary Rule, which went into effect June 9, 2017

The design process began with an innovative Design Thinking Workshop with key stakeholders to accelerate visioning of training requirements. To ensure ongoing requirement alignment, Nationwide created continuous collaboration between Training team members, Design Thinking Workshop participants, and the firm’s established network of change champions:

  • The team used an iterative process to design/develop the training, incorporating pilot and early adopter feedback and updates to DOL Fiduciary Rule interpretations as they became available.
  • The team created a control group pilot of early adopters for training content validation before release to the ever-growing early adopter population.
  • The team designed a three-level training approach that includes a high-level DOL Fiduciary Rule Overview, training on targeted interactions, and business unit role-specific training. Training scenarios demonstrate applying the rule basics and associated guardrails to specific situations that apply to role-specific work.

Learners receive a Journey Map to guide them through their prescribed DOL Fiduciary Rule learning path. Training/communications/change management activities are included in the Journey Maps. Specific delivery modalities include e-learning, podcasts, videos, games, case studies, and role-play activities.

These same training assets can be used for performance support, as well as “plug-and-play” elements that can be added to existing onboarding programs to enable successful adoption/compliance across the entire current and future Nationwide Financial learner population.

Core learning includes game-based validation of knowledge transfer and successful application of information learned. Learners also receive a DOL Fiduciary Rule badge for each level of training they complete.

Many aspects of this program design can be replicated to other large initiatives, including the approach to early adopters; the tight linkage between Design Thinking Workshop participants, organizational change management (OCM), and trainers; and the gamification approach.


As part of the DOL monitoring/reinforcement effort, Nationwide listened to 8,617 calls to identify how often associates and agents provided education instead of advice, and achieved a 99 percent success rate. The Training team used information gleaned from these calls to build a Leader Toolkit to assist in coaching associates.

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