Best Practice & Outstanding Training Initiative Award Winners (March/April 2020)

Training editors and Top 10 Hall of Famers recognize innovative and successful learning and development programs and practices submitted in the 2020 Training Top 125 application.


Designed for client-facing employees (87.5 percent of the company), Avanade Inc.’s Offerings Training was designed to help sellers:

  • Build core offering knowledge across all four of the company’s market units with Level 100 Learning Modules
  • Achieve core offering accreditations by demonstrating applied learning, while also galvanizing relationships with Regional Offerings Leads (ROLs) through Accreditation Interviews
  • Ensure sellers are better equipped for client-centric conversations

Elements of the program include:

  • A program portal built on top of Microsoft’s Modern Intranet Site technology that leverages a centralized global portal for program communications, timeline, learning library, job aids, market unit competition matches, global leaderboard and heatmap, Power BI leadership dashboard, and a modern PowerApp that provides an efficient mobile interface for hundreds of offering leads to record accreditations on the go.
  • Automation leveraging the Microsoft Power Platform, including PowerApps, Power BI, and Flow—allowing real-time competitive insights while driving learning completions and satisfying the modern need for real-time competitive data to enhance gamification through newly developed tools and automation implemented to optimize efficiency and global consumption.
  • Power BI dashboards with integration points synched with Avanade’s learning management system (LMS) data and Accenture’s myScheduling data, which unlock valuable insights into the Offerings World Cup program.

To sustain programmatic impact and reinforce learning, Avanade relies on:

  • Gamification and competition across 17 global regions (the Offerings World Cup competition)
  • Automated bi-weekly, personally customized progress e-mail reminders
  • Delivery of hundreds of custom progress e-mails generated within minutes, a task that otherwise took several days when done manually


  • Of the 33 fiscal year 2018 sellers who passed more than five quizzes, 76 percent had an improved/positive attainment rate in FY’18 over FY’17.
  • Two North American regions that demonstrated the most progress in the FY’18 program had the strongest sales numbers and pipeline. The region with the highest program participation had the strongest sales numbers in the organization, with 33 percent higher sales than the next strongest region’s sales. The region with the second highest program participation had the strongest pipeline in the organization, with 22 percent higher than the next strongest region’s pipeline.


BNSF Railway Company developed its Global Driver Training Program to improve driver safety for all 8,545 employees who drive BNSF-owned or rental (non-train) vehicles. Modules include:

  • Distracted driving with a hand-held device (i.e., delivered via simulation)
  • Fatigued driving and how to combat it
  • Nighttime driving hazards and good practices
  • Actual driving experiences and demonstrations

Some 145 employees were certified to teach Global Driver Training, with 3,200 employees attending the one-day instructor-led training. The course includes two hours of classroom instruction and five hours of actual driving. Quizzes assess knowledge of content, and the on-road proficiency session includes individualized coaching.

Some 5,200 employees took the 20-minute Web-based training on distracted driving. Throughout the course, employees answer quiz questions posed from real-life scenarios to assess their knowledge. Measures to track training effectiveness, such as evaluation criteria and certification, include:

  • Driver behavior monitored by Drive Cam, a recording of driver “trigger events,” such as hard braking and acceleration, to provide a measurement of the driver’s performance
  • Reports generated for any driver behavior that is “coachable” or “risky”

Employees driving a BNSF-owned or rented vehicle are required to take a Driving Distracted Web-based refresher course every two years. Supervisors are required to do field observations and evaluations (Operations Tests) to ensure employees are working in compliance with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations and safety rules. These supervisors are given annual safety, rules, and leadership training to equip them to conduct employee observations, guidance, and coaching.


  • Department of Transportation (DOT) violations for BNSF’s truck drivers declined by 11.3 percent in 2018 compared to the prior five years.
  • In 2018, BNSF achieved a 30 percent reduction in company vehicle accidents compared to 2017.
  • Bodily injuries due to vehicle accidents decreased 18 percent in 2018 and 65 percent as of December 2019.

As for vehicle claims from accidents or events where damage occurred to a BNSF vehicle, a third-party vehicle, or other property, in the first year of training, BNSF realized an 8.8 percent reduction in claims in 2018 versus 2017 (ARI). In the second year of training, the company realized a 40 percent reduction in claims and $1.2 million savings through August 2019 versus August 2018 (ARI).


The Online Technical Training Program was developed as Haskell faced a big challenge: rapid company growth from 900 to 1,500 team members in the United States and 12 countries. Critical to the company’s success is growth in construction technical training knowledge and skills to support projects in all company delivery groups.

Leveraging existing company technological tools/platforms, the program provides blended, on-demand technical training online to the global field and support workforce, reducing travel to training sites. Specifically, it is designed to:

  • Equip the workforce with emerging skill sets to accomplish a greater number of technically diverse projects
  • Improve/increase use of more advanced construction-related software, including cutting-edge virtual scanning and drone mapping equipment
  • Improve adaptability to a continually changing construction industry

Technical/craft-related content previously was delivered only in-person at the “Superintendents Meeting” (SM), which was held twice a year. Haskell implemented an on-demand technical training curriculum focused on advanced emerging Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) needed in the industry for technical, safety, and quality processes. The Training team designed a microlearning process to deliver knowledge content and enhanced it with a skill/hands-on component at the nowannual SM. Elements include:

  • Three- to 15-minute microlearning modules
  • Chunked learning content modules delivered every three to four weeks in waves
  • Reinforcement, skills practice, and deeper learning at the SM within two to four months of online knowledge training completion and/or on the job site with Quality and Safety professionals and subject matter experts (SMEs) in a mentoring-coaching capacity. Some training sessions were delivered in partnership with SME third-party vendors.


  • Project delivery times were met or exceeded in 2018, with satisfaction scores 10 out of 10.
  • Quality Implementation (QIP) Scores across all delivery groups averaged 92 percent, exceeding the target of a 2 to 5 percent increase above the 81 percent target.
  • Targeted revenue increased in delivery groups from the previous year. For example, the I&T delivery group, which serves public and private clients across five divisions, recorded sales 135 percent higher than the target goal.
  • Technical Training Program topics directly tied to improved QIP score improvement, which resulted in 85 percent repeat business enterprise-wide (exceeding the 50 percent target).


Sovos’ new hire orientation is called First 48—the company’s acknowledgement that it understands new hires may feel overwhelmed and intimidated as they try to navigate their way during their first days at the company.

All new hires—from entry-level employees to executive leaders—are expected to participate in the two full-day sessions (generally eight hours). Once an offer letter is signed, HR reps e-mail employees a welcome message with all the details of their first day and a “Welcome Tool Kit,” which provides high-level information about the company.

On day 1, the local HR representative conducts a welcome session, explaining what Sovos is, what it does, and who it is. Then HR reps discuss site-specific cultures. Day 1 also consists of a benefits overview, facility tours, and internal systems training and awareness about learning and development initiatives.

On day 2, each leader from each functional area talks about how his or her department contributes to the overall Sovos initiative. Each presentation led by an executive leader has a Sovos core value woven into it. For example, Technology sessions talk about Sovos’ processes internally, its new product, and how the value of “Be Collaborative” is embraced.

Throughout the two days, new hires participate in seven to eight activities. One of these activities is creating handmade cards for children in hospitals, which aligns with Sovos’ wellness program and is part of the company’s partnership with Cardz For Kidz.

New hires also are assigned a “buddy” or “coach.” This person acts as the go-to resource to have lunch with new hires, answer any immediate questions, and be their guide as they embark on role-specific training.

New hires are asked to complete a set of tasks within their first seven days—these are related to benefits, code of conduct (which was made into a fun video), security trainings, and manager/team welcomes. Waiting for new hires at their desk is an assortment of company-branded items to further welcome them into the organization, including stickers, a welcome booklet, T-shirt, and tumbler.

Results: First 48 has only been running for 1.5 years, but Sovos has seen a year-over-year decline in attrition for employees who exit the organization in less than three months. Since 2017, the company has seen a 1 percent increase in retention.


The Spectrum Health Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) features cohorts made up of employees from across the entire organization meeting the following criteria:

  • Active Spectrum Health employee
  • Exempt employee status (salaried)
  • Minimum tenure of one year with Spectrum Health by the time of application submission
  • Accredited Bachelor’s degree completed at the time of internal application
  • Leader recommendation and VP endorsement
  • 100 percent completion of a Talent Profile (an internal tool used as equal parts career plan, resume, and development plan)

The Spectrum Health EMBA is a comprehensive, two-year, fully accredited program developed in partnership with Grand Valley State University (GVSU). The program is designed to prepare participants with the skills and knowledge base necessary to succeed in the dynamic, evolving, and competitive health-care industry. After a rigorous application process, a cohort of 22 clinical and non-clinical Spectrum Health employees is selected. Over the following two-year period, they are prepared to lead, be held accountable for outcomes in the industry, and accelerate their readiness to critical health system roles.

Participants work in teams on a capstone project dealing with a problem or opportunity identified by a senior leader. To date, capstone projects have resulted in significant cost savings and process efficiencies across the organization.

Program participants also are asked to serve as members of a faculty pool for other Spectrum Health University programs and offerings where they share knowledge and experiences gained while attending the program. Additionally, every quarter that a program is in session, participants are asked to take part in a debrief lunch where they are able to share thoughts on the program and highlight linkages with the content they are learning and issues they are experiencing in their departments.

Results: After the completion of the program, participants’ direct leaders are asked to complete a survey rating the improvement in ability or competency. Some 87 percent of leaders reported an increase in participants’ Financial and Business Acumen, 93 percent in Strategic and System Thinking, 93 percent in Health-Care and Industry Knowledge, and 87 percent in Leading Change and Teams.

Some 27 percent of the organization currently is being led by graduates of the EMBA program (approximately 7,200 employees). And 81 percent of Spectrum Health’s candidates for senior leader roles are projected to be ready within a two-year timeframe, which surpasses the goal of 75 percent.



AZU Navigator targets all senior managers at and above director level of sales, marketing, medical, marketing access, and other core business-relevant departments of all business units in AstraZeneca China. It covers 450 to 460 managers at and above the secondary level at stage 1 training; 1,500 DSM first-line managers at stage 2; and 8,000 front-line employees at stage 3.

The program aims to ensure AstraZeneca China’s goals, strategies, and core values are conveyed efficiently throughout the organization—one of those goals is to implement its health-care management centers in 3,076 hospitals and to serve 4 million patients. As such, AZU Navigator offers a platform where senior managers from core business departments discuss the general goals and strategies based on AstraZeneca China’s core purposes and values of delivering innovative science to patients. They then materialize these more general goals into more detailed, workable tasks that encourage innovation and cooperation of all departments. In the following two months, these department directors will become “navigators,” who will, with the assistance of AZU Navigator trainers, host meetings and workshops and convey the tasks and the motivating spirit from the executives and directors to their subordinate managers of all departments in all regions. From there, the message will be delivered level-by-level by regional managers, district managers, etc., as “navigators” to first-line sales representatives.

During the process, trainers meet with navigators at each level for at least three times to help develop an appropriate “language” that most effectively motivates their corresponding direct subordinates and conveys the core values and strategic tasks. During the meetings and workshops, AZU trainers also provide real-time guidance for the navigators to make adjustments according to the reactions of the audience. Some negative reactions may be an insensitivity to some of the core corporate values and purposes or hints of potential difficulties and challenges in the implementation of the tasks. In these situations, AZU trainers would suggest, for example, instead of talking about the core value of putting patients first, trying to provoke empathy by sharing some personal experiences where friends and families benefited from a mature health-care system and medicine coverage. Alternatively, trainers could suggest encouraging subordinates to take a personal development perspective by sharing difficulties the navigators have faced in their careers and how overcoming these difficulties helped them grow as a person.

Results: Each business unit has developed at least one integrated diagnosis and treatment center. Since the launch of the AZU Navigator program in 2017, AstraZeneca China has implemented 138 China Chest Pain Centers, 85 National Metabolic Management Centers, 155 Smart Nebulization Centers, 213 departments of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, 59 Integrated Lung Cancer Centers, 216 Integrated Prostate Cancer Centers, 71 Gastrointestinal Cancer Centers, 51 Community Chronical Disease Centers. These centers have treated more than 1.2 million patients across China.


Inventory IQ is a new learning program that explores the impact of inventory management on sales, stores, customers, and team members. The year-long training program was for all store operations leaders, which ultimately impacted more than 100,000 Dollar General Corporation, LLC, employees companywide. It took place in three phases:

  • Phase I for Regional Directors (RDs) and District Managers (DMs), via in-store and on-the-go learning: Ten weekly inventory challenges delivered “episodes” via a vendordeveloped app, which sends learners a text when a new episode is ready. New DMs and RDs could “binge” watch weekly inventory challenges, while podcasts enabled Dollar General’s travel warriors to maximize windshield time and make learning part of their daily routine.
  • Phase II for 1,500 VPs, RDs, and DMs: Attendees participated in live, leader-led sessions over two days at Dollar General’s annual company meeting in Nashville. During the second day of training, participants completed a threehour virtual simulation through a proprietary app deployed directly to the learners’ phones. During the simulation, learners were divided into teams of three to four participants and presented with six virtual stores. Each store had its own set of inventory challenges, and the teams had to decide how to approach and address challenges. The highest-scoring team in each region was declared Inventory IQ Champion.
  • Phase III for 15,000-plus Store Managers (SMs): Learners participated in training via live sessions led by RDs and DMs who shared their learning by facilitating a scaleddown version of Inventory IQ, including an abridged learning map activity (learning video followed by applying root cause analysis to common Dollar General inventory challenges). Store Managers then were asked to share their learning with their store teams.

To increase learning, engagement, and fun, the Training Team created an animated character named SKUey (a SKU is a stock-keeping unit, a product identifier for inventory tracking). Throughout Inventory IQ, learners traced the steps SKUey must take to get into customers’ hands. Simulation winners were awarded a SKUey trophy, and SKUey has made several appearances on social media as the winners continue to recognize their teams for inventory successes.


  • Some 85.71 percent of participants indicated Inventory IQ helped them better prepare to solve inventory issues.
  • As of third quarter 2019, Dollar General had experienced the best quarter sales comp in nearly five years at 4.6 percent.


Career exploration program Ignite is open to all Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO), employees in individual contributor roles and is attended by a cohort nominated by either their management or themselves and selected by an interview committee of senior leaders.

With at least 80 percent of MISO’s employee population serving in a technical capacity, dual career paths are vital to its attraction, retention, and motivation of high-performing team members. However, creating both a Technical Leadership and a People Leadership career path was not enough to enable technical team members to advance their careers. They needed guidance to fully understand each path, what it takes to be successful in each, and what is needed to get there.

Ignite begins with participants completing a “360-type” feedback instrument MISO developed and named the “Personal Brand Survey.” The survey allows their peers and managers to provide impressions of their skills and weigh in on the right fit (technical or people leadership). Results are used throughout the program as participants learn more about themselves, the career ladders, and what it takes to be successful in each.

  • Participants attend six instructor-led sessions covering six different topics of leadership. A panel taught by a MISO Technical Leader and a MISO People Leader discusses topics from both vantage points.
  • A mentor is assigned to each participant.
  • A career development discussion and check-in with the participant, his or her manager and mentor, and the program leader occurs half way through the six-month program.
  • Ignite culminates with participants presenting their Personal Brand, which includes their decision on their career path, rationale, and developmental next steps. Presentations are attended by mentors and the participant’s management. Audience feedback on presentation skills is provided.
  • At the end of the program, each participant meets with the program leader and his or her manager to create an individual development plan.


  • The retention rate of program participants is 100 percent.
  • Some 64 percent of participants changed their previously assumed career path after having attended the program.
  • Promotions three months post-program within their chosen career ladder are at 21 percent. MISO is on target for its two-year post-program goal of 50 percent.


Sonic Automotive has always focused on Traffic Management, which is its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) process—a process that is vital to the success of a retail automobile dealership. The company had 94 stores operating in 94 different ways, so it aimed to bring consistency to stores in 2019 through a variety of channels. The first was training general managers and Traffic managers to get them on the same page in terms of predictable, repeatable, and sustainable processes.

The company began by reviewing its reporting within its CRM, eLead. There were hundreds of reports and everyone was using something different to measure success in their store. Sonic Automotive developed three new reports that focused on appointments, activities, and overall success through Traffic Management. This allowed it to roll out consistent reporting to the entire company. The Traffic Management Training Team had to train general managers, sales managers, and salespeople (approximately 2,500 people) in all 94 stores.

It then became clear that many associates and managers within the organization didn’t really understand many aspects of Traffic Management. So in 2019, Sonic Automotive focused heavily on training and developing not only its Traffic managers but also its general managers and management teams. The retailer made it a priority to train new general managers and new Traffic managers within their first 30 days of employment.

Sonic Automotive also began using an innovative texting process for training reinforcement and so stores could implement the training themselves instead of having trainers visit each store.

The retailer rolled out texting to the entire company—94 stores and more than 2,000 employees—in just over 90 days. The training documents for the rollout included: Texting from the Traffic Management Playbook, a PDF document for managers on texting reporting, a PDF document for all associates on how to send and receive text messages, and a live class that was mandatory for all associates and managers to complete prior to going live.


  • Appointment performance was up 28 percent year-over-year.
  • Texting is driving additional sales, 7 percent year-over-year, into Sonic Automotive dealerships.
  • Sonic Automotive hit a total consolidated all-time quarterly record of pre-owned retail unit sales of 41,458 units in the second quarter of 2019.


Walden Security’s Leadership Pathways provides coaching, mentoring, training, and development to all operational leadership, from the front line to middle and upper levels across all divisions.

Leadership Pathways aims to first develop basic skills by building participants’ knowledge of business processes and systems. Using a multifaceted approach, Leadership Pathways uses just-in-time training and scheduled training events through various modes of delivery to maximize effectiveness, including:

  • One-on-one mentoring from senior positions, including regional vice presidents
  • Guided coaching sessions from various positions and experts in Human Resources, Operations, L&D, and executive leadership
  • Job shadows with leadership and front-line employees
  • Technology demonstrations and simulations covering Outlook and key system usage with the directors of Finance, Accounting, and L&D
  • Virtual training sessions covering key system usage with the director of L&D
  • Instructor-led training, including attending The Walden Way orientation program and a specially designed three-day course at the corporate office
  • Role-play scenarios
  • Online modules
  • Career and expectation discussions with a regional vice president

All of this occurs throughout the new leader’s first 60 days. Only after securing and demonstrating a basic level of expertise through job performance and business results do participants move on to developing more advanced skills, including communication, conflict resolution, problem solving, coaching, one-on-one meetings, and other skills to improve the relationship between Walden Security’s officers and their leaders.

The program is customized for each participant, which allows for:

  • Exemption from certain subjects and sessions based on previous Walden Security experience
  • Testing out of certain classes
  • Time in a guided coaching or one-on-one mentoring session to be shortened if the skill set can be demonstrated by the participant sooner than the estimated time

Leadership Pathways integrates with new hires’ onboarding, orientation, and other required training programs. This program develops new hires to handle the typical job expectations in 60 days while still enabling them to work out in the field.


  • On average, program participants reduced their average monthly overtime costs by 33 percent over nonparticipants showing adherence to the training.
  • In 2019, Walden Security averaged 10 percent below its monthly average overtime costs from 2018.
  • Turnover rates continue to beat industry averages at 48 percent.
Top 125

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