Training Top 125 Best Practice: OptumRx’s Principles of Effective Training (POET)

The POET program was designed to identify and develop subject matter experts within operations to assist in the classroom while also providing them a sense of what it is like to be a trainer.

OptumRx specializes in the delivery, clinical management, and affordability of prescription medications and consumer health products. Prior to establishing a centralized Learning Services organization, training at OptumRx was conducted by subject matter experts (SMEs) from the company’s operations teams. As the Learning Services team was formed, many of these SMEs were hired as full-time trainers, allowing the company to have the most knowledgeable trainers to instruct on each course subject.

The Learning team continued to expand in parallel with company growth, but it exhausted the pool of subject matter experts for internal recruitment and had to hire trainers from outside the organization. While these were talented training and development professionals, they lacked the subject matter expertise of OptumRx’s internal candidates.

To ensure quality and accuracy in its training programs, OptumRx created the Principles of Effective Training (POET) program. The POET program was designed to identify and develop SMEs within operations to assist in the classroom while also providing them a sense of what it is like to be a trainer. Graduates of this program assist the primary trainer by bringing real-world experience into the classroom by providing real-time answers to the “What if…”-type of questions OptumRx’s full-time trainers could not answer. Including this operational experience in the classroom allows learners to grasp proper procedures and understand their practical application more easily.

Program Details

The program was piloted to a small group of SMEs based on their knowledge and willingness to help their peers. During the 16-hour program, participants were introduced to adult learning principles in addition to industry best practices for facilitation and classroom management. Curriculum topics included:

  • How adults learn
  • Active listening
  • What makes a great facilitator
  • Developing participation
  • Responding to challenges
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Training professionalism
  • Adult learning styles
  • Communication styles
  • Asking and handling questions

POET delivery assistants brought a fresh perspective on the training material by bridging the gap between coursework and real-life experience. The program provided development opportunities for existing employees, while engaging new employees through a positive onboarding experience.

After the successful completion of the pilot, OptumRx immediately extended the program to all locations. Interest in the program was overwhelming, so an application process was implemented. Applicants completed a short essay application and received approval from their leadership to participate before submitting the application. Learning Services selected the top applications and conducted interviews to make the final selection of participants accepted into the POET program.

The POET program continued to thrive in all OptumRx locations, with several courses being offered annually. However, many seasoned delivery assistants wanted to further advance their skills and inquired how they could continue to develop their talent toward becoming a future trainer. This eagerness for advancement, mixed with the continued challenge of providing enough trainers to support the company’s tremendous growth, spawned the creation of a new Certified Facilitator course within the POET program.

The 24-hour POET Certified Facilitator course did a deeper dive into what it takes to be a great facilitator and manage a classroom by building on the fundamentals originally taught in the Delivery Assistant course. Invitations to the Certified Facilitator class were extended to delivery assistants who displayed a strong understanding and application of the skills they learned in the Delivery Assistant course and who demonstrated enthusiasm for helping others learn.

Graduates of this course were designated as POET-certified facilitators and became adjunct members of the training organization to conduct training classes on their own. When not facilitating a class, certified facilitators continue to perform their normal operations job function, allowing them to stay current on changing processes and continually bring real-world examples into the classroom.

While the POET program allows Learning Services the additional facilitator and assistant resources needed to support the growing abundance of operations training requests, it also helps expand the talent pool by developing employees with the skills and experience needed to advance their career.


In addition to being a proven pathway to other roles within the organization, the POET program has improved the hiring process for Learning Services. Besides being able to observe an applicant’s training performance prior to offering him or her a training position, applicants also already understand what it takes to facilitate a class, which creates a seamless transition from operations to Learning Services. More than 44 percent of OptumRx’s current full-time trainers began their training career by completing the POET program.

The POET program also has become a cost avoidance program. By supplementing the existing training staff with POET delivery assistants and certified facilitators during peak seasons, Learning Services has recognized significant savings.

The POET program has been offered to OptumRx employees for several years, but OptumRx’s parent company, UnitedHealth Group, has noticed the innovation and multiple benefits the program offers and plans to adopt the POET program in 2017.

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