2016 Best Practice and Outstanding Training Initiative Awards

Training editors and Top 10 Hall of Famers recognize innovative and successful learning and development programs and practices submitted in the 2016 Training Top 125 application.



Back in 2013, it took Implementation new hires for ADP Vantage HCM (Human Capital Management) 12 to 18 months to become fully competent on the job, based on line manager feedback. New Implementation consultants were needed to support clients through the implementation and go-live process. During fiscal year 2013, approximately 61 associates were hired to implement new Vantage clients. Based on an average of $90,000 per year average salary for those Implementation consultants, it was costing the company at least $ 5.49 million to prepare associates to be fully competent and to implement clients without assistance.

To address this situation, the Training team tackled time to competency and reducing this operating cost in partnership with the Vantage HCM Implementation team.

The team customized the initial 25-page training plan by role and associate, based on background knowledge, skills, and experiences. The new plan included a new hire guide to orient associates and provide an easy-to-follow onboarding path from “day one” with a variety of learning activities, including a corporate massive open online course (MOOC) framework. The blended program combined in-person workshops lasting one week; eight simulations (less than 15 minutes each) that were created using animation software; and collaborative, self-paced activities in an online community. This allowed for more time with direct, hands-on training and teaming with mentors and peers. The hands-on training included more than 20 online virtual instructor-led classes that covered on-the-job product training. Associates were directed to take these classes based on the training plan for the area they work in and their role. Some 27 mentors assisted with associates’ upskilling and performance support. The Implementation organization also used a social collaboration tool that enables peer-to-peer networking with mentors.

Results: By the end of fiscal year 2014, 62.2 percent of associates were fully competent within five months as assessed by their line managers, who completed competency ratings for each new associate: “novice,” “capable,” “competent,” “proficient,” or “expert.” The business measured initial cost savings at $6.26 million by comparing time to competence before and after the learning intervention.

In FY’15, the percentage of new hires fully competent within five months increased to 73 percent. By looking at the number of new hires (approximately 43), and knowing that the time to competency is at least as good as it was in FY’14, it was determined that an additional $1.18 million was saved on top of the initial savings of $6.26 million. Because this approach worked so well, ADP has leveraged the same curriculum approach across all Implementation organizations, not just the ADP Vantage HCM group.


Baylor Scott and White Health received a grant from the Deerbrook Charitable Trust to promote safe, quality, compassionate care for older hospitalized patients. As the geriatric population grows exponentially, so does the need for qualified nurses to care for them.

This curriculum was created to deliver instructionally sound and effective learning (all content is shorter than 10 minutes) in various media, including:

1. More than 150 on-demand modules that teach healthcare providers about the unique aspects of treating geriatric patients. Content includes delirium, pressure ulcers, polypharmacy, ageism, normal aging, geriatric depression, sleep disorders, elder abuse/neglect, home safety, end-of-life care, osteoporosis, fractures, palliative care, and oral health. The organization partnered with subject matter experts at universities and around the world. The specific protocols taught in these modules helped Baylor Scott and White Health exceed its quality goal by 2.95 percent, by reducing the number of hospitalacquired injuries/conditions.

2. Four i-books (also converted to Android app):

  • Care of the Older Adult
  • Dementia
  • Pressure Ulcers
  • Learning with the Benefit of Technology

3. Five mobile apps:

  • DementiAssist
  • ElderGuide
  • MobiSafe
  • Staging PU

4. Six videos

5. 14 downloadable posters

6. A Geriatricks newsletter that has QR codes and embedded links to relevant sites with tools.

7. 36 nurses were certified in Geriatric Nursing (previously there were none). This helped Baylor White and Scott Health exceed its retention goal by .6 percent.

Results: Some 19,132 units of learning have been accessed, with a 79 percent completion rate. Five schools of nursing are incorporating this content into their curricula. The organization decreased occurrences of preventable complications in geriatric patients by at least 20 percent, which helped it exceed its overall quality core measures goal by .7 percent.

Baylor White and Scott Health decreased “less than 30-day readmissions” for nurse-sensitive issues by 10 percent. It also decreased length of stay for geriatric patients by 15 percent, which helped it exceed its financial goal by 3.68 percent.


Going into its 18th year and experiencing rapid growth, DEFENDERS knew it was time to dedicate resources to a group of leaders in its business who have the greatest impact on its future success: Installation Branch Managers (IBMs). That decision led to the development of the SPARK Installation Branch Manager Leadership Development Program.

These leaders greatly influence two key metrics, which affect company profitability:

  • Installation Rate (the number of scheduled, completed installations) 
  • In Home Dollar Average (the amount of money upsold by the installers while completing the installation in the customer’s home)

Recognizing the need to adapt the program to the varying experiences the participants may have as they begin, DEFENDERS developed three versions:

  • The longest program is 24 weeks. This version is for participants with less than one year of previous leadership experience.
  • A 14-week version is for participants with no more than two years of previous leadership experience.
  • An eight-week version is for participants with more than two years of leadership experience.

Each version of the program is divided into four parts: Installer Learning and Observation, Installer Demonstration, IBM Learning and Observation, and IBM Demonstration. During the Learning and Observation phase, participants complete week-long, hands-on, instructor-led programs to learn the fundamentals of each of the positions. During the Demonstration phases, participants apply what they learned in the week-long program by working alongside high-performing IBMs in one of DEFENDERS’ certified regional training branches.

To graduate from the program, participants must successfully complete the IBM knowledge check and demonstration assessments. Only then will they be ready to lead a multimillion- dollar installation branch.

DEFENDERS has cascaded SPARK training to address other business needs. For example, it developed a supplemental training called the Installation Branch Team Focus Program aimed at elevating the performance of current underperforming Installation Branch Managers. This program utilizes the same tools and concepts introduced during SPARK.

Results: Installation branches being led by SPARK graduates have a 1.8 percent higher Installation Rate than the rest of the company. At scale, this annualizes to more than $10 million in increased revenue. They also are outperforming on the In Home Dollar average metric by $89. This forecasts to a positive annual impact of approximately $1.2 million.


The Agency Presentation Skills program was designed to teach early career product consultants—employees who support sales agents by phone—to improve their presentation skills, with the hope they will transition successfully from internal support sales staff roles into externally facing product wholesaler roles.

From 2010 to 2013, New York Life Insurance poured resources into an external vendor’s presentation skills program that ultimately failed to yield an adequate return on investment. In response, New York Life Insurance’s Learning and Development team devised a solution to adapt the successful Executive Presentation Skills training program— initially designed to groom high-potential managers for executive-level roles—for use in the field as a way to groom product consultants for roles as product wholesalers. The L&D function designed what now is referred to as the Agency Presentation Skills program, a year-long cohort-based training program that combines five months of standard classroom learning with five months of hands-on practice, real-time feedback and coaching, and an action-learning project, culminating in a two-month competition of presentations judged by senior leaders.

Results: Prior to 2014, 50 percent of participants in the old program were promoted from product consultants to wholesalers, and had productivity metrics that were considered effective within their first year. From 2014 to present, more than 85 percent of program participants have transitioned to wholesaler roles and have productivity metrics that are effective within their first month. Product consultants and wholesalers who were trained through the new Agency Presentation Skills program directly contributed to New York Life Insurance’s record-breaking sales of recurring life insurance premiums in the second quarter of 2015—a 13 percent increase year-over-year from 2014 to 2015.

The success of the Agency Presentation Skills model has led to its widespread utilization elsewhere in the organization. For instance, New York Life Insurance’s Investments division has customized the program to meet the needs of third-party distributors. It also was adapted for the IT organization as a way to teach technologists how to explain what they do in a way that is simple and accessible to non-IT employees.


In January 2014, Western Union’s executives reviewed employee engagements scores. Unsatisfied with the results, they turned to Talent Management and WU University, asking the team to enhance People Manager Effectiveness and organizational performance.

In response, the team developed and cascaded a people manager goal, and deployed a self-paced 120-day certification program called WU People Manager Fundamentals.

Launched in 2014, the program was offered to improve performance and drive development such as:

  • Suggested learning for first-time managers
  • Optional learning for tenured managers
  • Available learning for individual contributors (with manager approval)

Colleagues also have the option of accessing the online curriculum at any time throughout the year in a self-paced selective learning section of the WU People Manager Fundamentals homepage on WU University.

WU People Manager Fundamentals provides people managers with a focused curriculum around the cascaded goal to drive higher performance. The program has three core tiers:

  1. Attract and Retain Key People (five hours)

  2. Manage and Develop Yourself/Your People (six hours)

  3. Strengthen Our Culture (five hours)

The blended learning format includes: online learning modules, mobile app modules and experiential learning, peer coaching and feedback, instructor-led virtual calls, videos, and supplemental articles.

Throughout the 120-day program, facilitators host:

  • Virtual 30-day feedback checkpoints
  • Executive guest speakers
  • Role-plays
  • Live polling
  • Question-and-answer sessions
  • Bi-weekly leadership tips
  • Situational judgment scenario simulation assessing decision-making/problem solving
  • Drive for strengths-based development
  • Virtual graduation ceremony and external guest speakers

The team made program enhancements with a mobile app to drive behavioral change through 23 interactive exercises. Each exercise is one hour long, with brief video lessons having clear learning objectives; a quiz to test participant knowledge; and opportunities for individual practice, live role-plays, and peer feedback with participants.


  • 689 enrolled with a 41 percent completion rate.
  • Level 3 (Learning Application): 97 percent within six weeks
  • Top 3 areas of performance increase:

Employee Engagement: 84 percent

Productivity and Output: 67 percent

Customer Centricity: 65 percent

  • Level 4: Participant retention is 94 percent vs. 84.1 percent company-wide, saving $5 million.



District Manager Training is a collaborative initiative designed to train, engage, and set new Dollar General District Managers (DMs) up for success from the beginning of their role.

The program has two phases:

Phase One - Quick Start (five weeks): Quick Start places externally hired DMs in a training store with a certified Store Training Manager to gain valuable hands-on experience. During this time, new DMs work through a catalog of computer-based learning modules and complete activities with the Store Training Manager to gain understanding of processes and policies to have a base knowledge ofhow a store operates. These new DMsjoin internallypromoted DMs at Dollar General’s corporate offices for two weeks ofleader-led learning about their role, the company, and operational foundations.

Week 3 provides strategic time with key business partners to help build the relationships that are necessary to establish solid partnerships. For example, Human Resources discusses recruiting and hiring strategies, while Loss Prevention assists with analyzing reports and other specific tools that help prevent loss issues in the company. The Region Director begins to set strategic priorities and identify opportunities to set action plans into motion.

Quick Start concludes with two weeks of classroom tra in ing back at the corporate offices focusing on leading through others and preparing new DMs to take ownership of their market.

More than 25 subject matter experts (SMEs) facilitate these classroom sessions in partnership with Senior Training Managers. Interactive discussions, in-person store visits to complete DM tasks, leadership at the movies, and a learning map activity are all part of the Quick Start phase.

Phase Two - Skill Build: A four-day advanced skill-building, leader-led classroom session at the corporate offices is the second phase of the DMT program. This phase takes place four to six months after DMs have been in role and working in their market. The week begins with eight hours of foundational leadership discussions and transitions into topics that allow DMs to have application discussions led by the certified classroom leader and SMEs that include Divisional Senior Operations Directors from the field.


  • In the first 10 months of the DMT program, retention was at 98 percent.
  • Net sales percent to plan averages were up 40 basis points.
  • EBITDA (earningsbefore interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) percent to plan averages were up 20 basis points.
  • Behavioral changes have been reported by new DMs’ leaders, with observations such as: “works with their team to identify skill gaps and help close them” and “effective at developing their team to move to the next level.”


Adoption of training at Keller Williams Realty (KW) varies widely since its franchisees control what training and tools are implemented in their offices. So despite massive growth of nearly 40 percent in the last two years along (compared with 9.9 percent for the rest of the industry), each year KW needlessly loses thousands of agents to competitors, because they weren’t engaged in the company’s training and tools.

By studying offices with exceptional agent retention, the organization uncovered new ways to implement KW tra ining and tools in offices. It began to incorporate these systems into its formal franchisee curriculum while overcoming two hurdles. First, adopting these new systems meant changing all of its existing franchisee operations training—not a decision to be made lightly as KW’s franchisee training had made 97 percent of its offices profitable by 2014, according to the REAL Trends 500.

The second challenge was retraining the three major roles in KW’s 700 existing offices: owner, manager/recruiter, and administrator. KW’s new systems required a coordinated effort so the three roles could be trained together as a team. This was no easy sell, since it required them to leave their offices for a week.

In early 2015, KW unveiled the new flagship courses and created “Leadership Week,” consisting of four instructorled training (ILT) classes taught over five days: Operating Principal Boot Camp, Recruiting Great Agents, DRIVE, and Growth Through Value. The first three classes are rolespecific, but all roles are expected to cross-train through all classes. The four classes interconnect with one another, utilizing a case study of an actual office (“Office X”) that recently implemented the new systems. The case study teaches franchise leaders both what the new systems are and how the three roles interact as a team using the new systems. Before class, each leadership role is given a “mission” of identifying Office X’s successes and opportunities for improvement.

Leadership Week culminates with the Growth Through Value class, which is designed for all three roles to learn as a team, share their findings, and develop a holistic team plan to improve Office X. They then work in class together on an implementation plan for the systems in their own actual office.

Results: Launched in March 2015, Leadership Week already has been taught three times with 24 percent of KW offices attending. In just six months, year-to-date agent growth for attending offices was already 14.7 percent greater and resulting profit was 10.5 percent greater than that of non-attending offices. Additionally, the word of mouth from attendees has generated significant demand, so KW scheduled six more Leadership Weeks last fall to keep pace.


Small business customers are among the most profitable segments for New York Community Bancorp, Inc. (NYCB) They are becoming more demanding in the level of service they expect and the breadth of products they need. To that end, Employee Development & Training (ED&T) began working with business partners to develop a series of clinics for Retail Managers on how to be effective business developers for the businesses in the communities they serve. The goal is to form and foster trusting relationships that will bring the local business owners to NYCB.

Three clinics were developed under the curriculum of “Building Business Customer Relationships” (BBCR) and were endorsed by NYCB’s executive management team as part of the ongoing and sustained effort to provide extraordinary customer service.

These clinics enhance participants’ knowledge and skills for building business customer relationships. Through a blended approach of self-study and classroom training, participants are introduced to the following:

  • Networking
  • Developing business referral sources
  • Understanding the value of outside calling on small businesses
  • Identifying desirable business characteristics of targeted small businesses
  • Identifying key target industries to call on
  • Tools to document prospect/customer information and follow-up
  • Planning for the calls

After completing each clinic, Retail Managers are given a “Call to Action” to execute on their expected business development activities. They also participate in a 90-day Outside Business Development Certification Program for the opportunity to call on customers and prospects jointly with their Business Development partners and Regional Executives. After each business call, a meeting is held to discuss and evaluate the effectiveness of the call and to provide feedback to the Retail Manager on areas of strength and opportunity.

Results: Since implementation, NYCB has seen a 16.6 percent growth in the sale of business services.


PPD employs more than 14,000 staff in 46 countries, many of whom work remotely. This global footprint, while advantageous to clients, results in a host of training complexities and logistical issues that occur with corporate travel. For more than two decades, PPD successfully delivered Clinical Research Associate (CRA) onboarding through its two-week Clinical Foundations Program in a face-to-face setting.

Upon careful examination, PPD leadership determined that the model was unsustainable with global growth and not consistent with future trends in learning modalities and travel budgets. The course’s two-week time frame also resulted in millions of dollars of lost revenue since employees could not perform billable work while training. PPD’s strategy was to establish a learner-centered, interactive virtual platform to apply toward global training, collaboration, and performance enhancement initiatives.

To address this strategic imperative, PPD teamed up with ProtonMedia to develop PPD 3D, a virtual training and collaboration environment that allows participants to engage in highly social interactions in visually appealing 3D virtual spaces. Using a virtual, simulated environment and realistic avatars, learners talk, send instant messages, view and interact with presentation and media content, record notes, and access the Internet—all simultaneously, from anywhere in the world.

Training rooms include small to medium-sized spaces that hold eight to 20 people, larger conference spaces that accommodate 40 people, and presentation zones that can hold up to 250 participants. Additionally, PPD built virtual clinical spaces such as pharmacies, nurse’s rooms, and doctor’s surgical stations to allow for more realistic on-the-job virtual simulations.

Results: In addition to saving more than $ 1 million in travel costs last year, PPD conducted a job analysis and realigned the objectives of the program to meet the demands of the constantly evolving CRA role and streamline the duration of the training from two weeks to one. This led to faster billability of employees, resulting in a return on investment of $1.15 million in the first quarter of 2015 alone. The return on investment continues to increase with each new CRA hired. PPD’s CRA hiring rate has increased from 270 CRAs hired in 2014 to 351 CRAs trained through August 31, 2015. This results in an overall ROI of more than $5 million.

A robust evaluation plan continues to monitor on-the-job performance based on key performance indicators for these CRAs. Standardized performance assessments indicate that virtual trainees are demonstrating the same level of performance as those completing face-to-face programs.


For many years, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has been the sole provider of electricity and electrical-related products and services for the greater Sacramento County region. Now, its large commercial customers have expanding choices in who provides their energy and who they go to for help in making energy-related decisions. SMUD is a community-owned utility and as such, its strategic goal is to be the trusted advisor to its customers for energy decisions. Despite high customer satisfaction, SMUD found its commercial customers starting to leverage third-party providers and new market entrants to help make energy decisions. Customers also were increasing construction of solar facilities and use of fuel cells, all of which have a negative impact on SMUD’s revenue.

As SMUD’s Strategic Account Advisors are its key representatives to its largest commercial customers, it became imperative that these advisors become more proactive with this customer segment and take a more holistic approach in identifying and seizing opportunities. SMUD partnered with sales training firm IMPARTA on a long-term change plan for this group. The change began with a two-day “Strategic Customer Value” workshop for Account Managers in the Customer & Community Services division.

Participants learned to assess the value chain of their customers, understand pain points, and match products and services with customers’ needs. Six weeks after class, participants had to use what they learned to create an account plan for a customer and present their plan to SMUD executive management. After this checkpoint, participants identified 10 additional accounts to plan for and received additional coaching over the next few months by their manager and the vendor to ensure they were successfully applying the skills taught in class on the job.

Results: As a result, SMUD Strategic Account Advisors were able to influence large customers to purchase renewable energy through SMUD’s GREENERGY program instead of investing in solar power construction at their own facilities. This is a win-win for both parties: SMUD continues to be the preferred advisor and continuing single provider of energy to these customers, and customers avoid the cost of solar construction while still being able to claim that 100 percent of their energy comes from renewable resources.

The direct monetary benefit of these training and coaching efforts is that the first two GREENERGY customer deals will generate $800,000 in net revenue for SMUD. With training costs at $50,000, SMUD realized a 1,500 percent return on investment for training delivered.


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