L&D Best Practices: Strategies For Success (July/August 2019)

Training magazine taps 2019 Training Top 125 winners and Top 10 Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at “training with a purpose” at Penn Station East Coast Subs, PPL Electric Utilities’ safety programs, and PSA Airlines’ Leading the Way program.

Training with a Purpose at Penn Station East Coast Subs

By Lance Vaught, Vice President, Operations, Penn Station East Coast Subs

Getting your employees to work together and move in the same direction can be difficult, but a comprehensive training program can make it possible. In today’s competitive hiring environment, finding and retaining top talent is an even greater challenge, making training more important than ever. To obtain the best results from your training program, make sure it is intentional and that employees from the top down are trained with a purpose.

Training is a crucial part of business. Well-trained employees are easier and more valuable to retain, and higher employee retention rates lead to a more profitable business with smoother operations and better customer service. To implement a purposeful training strategy, training should be an integral part of your company culture that the leaders in your organization are committed to from the outset. This will better ensure your leaders empower those around them to learn and grow and also follow up on the entire training with a purpose process.

1. Gain commitment from the beginning.

Whether it is the beginning of an hourly employee’s career, the beginning of the year, or just the beginning a new shift, employees should be committed to your training strategy. This means focusing on developing each individual employee shoulder to shoulder, requiring managers to work in the trenches and stay actively involved in the development of their talent. Whether you are providing a clear path to promotion or just focusing on training each employee to be well rounded—which makes them more valuable to the organization, as well—it is important to be committed to the goal before you start.

Hiring and training with a purpose requires a good work environment, and managers must create that from the onset. Understand intimately what motivates each of your employees and how they learn best practices. When you better understand their motivation and how they learn, you can create a culture and training program that fits. For example, Penn Station hires a lot of Millennial employees who tend to value flexibility, quality of life, and the ability to contribute to the organization. Creating a culture of a team environment that pours back into employees and helps them grow is vitally important. Training new hires to be well-rounded employees is integrated into the culture of the business, which also helps separate our restaurants from the competition and helps attract and retain employees in the current competitive hiring landscape.

2. Empower those around them.

Managers should develop talent to overcome challenges in their business instead of trying to face them all alone. It’s not only inefficient, it’s impossible for the manager to do all the work alone, which is why you have lower-level employees. Managers should train the people around them, delegate, and empower them accordingly. If you invest in the people around you and then empower them to take over tasks, not just the menial tasks, you will begin to see a return on your investment.

Create programs that define how employees can move up the ranks in your business. For example, Penn Station created My Penn Path, a training and career path program that clearly outlines the requirements to move up in the restaurant. This includes scores on various stations and the required personality traits and professional skills to be promoted into each level of the business.

3. Follow up on the process.

You can’t simply implement a philosophy or program and wait for results. It’s important to follow up throughout the entire process to make sure it is headed in the direction you want. Follow up with staff members throughout the training process to make sure they are developing as they should. Set goals and parameters with which to measure. This helps ensure you get the results you want and keeps training top of leaders’ minds.

At Penn Station East Coast Subs, “training with a purpose” is our 2019 theme. We have seen that walking through the training process without a specific purpose, plan, and goal is not as effective. It’s not a plan; it’s a dream. Your people affect every part of your business, so training is crucial for success. If you want to outpace your competition, you must focus on developing your people. It has been challenging to attract and retain talented people. We have chosen to develop internally, and training with a purpose helps us develop new talent from the beginning of their career to be future leaders in the business.


Penn Station hopes to see an increased level of retention of hourly employees and increased performance evaluation scores at its restaurants, whether it is in customer service, presentation, cleanliness, or other categories, after a year of intentionally training with a purpose. Penn Station also hopes to improve written tests for training to better validate learners’ strengths and weaknesses. For us, better employee retention is a huge cost saver and leads to better operations and customer service. Training with a purpose also should help us combat the competitive hiring environment we are facing.

In one quarter with the training with a purpose initiative, Penn Station has seen significant improvements in restaurant performance. There was a .71 percent increase in customer service scores and a .3 percent increase in overall performance scores on franchisee performance evaluations. Penn Station also saw a decrease in turn times of 11 seconds, which have improved by 2.74 percent from last year.

Training is crucial to the success of your employees, and, therefore, the success of your business. Training with a purpose can make sure your training program leads to better employees, which can mean more profit, improvement in customer interaction, and higher sales growth. To implement this strategy, you need commitment from all levels of employees, and you must empower employees and follow up throughout the process.


To successfully focus on training with a purpose, be transparent and clear in communication without overcomplicating things. Before a goal is communicated, look at who will be impacted the most and who will be implementing it. Then make it as simple as possible so it can be communicated clearly. When you look at the three steps outlined above, they may seem broad, but if you get granular within each one, you can have a huge impact on the development of your employees.

It can be difficult to find good talent, but it is possible to develop talent. In a competitive hiring environment, showing employees that the job has a purpose can attract people, especially when you are hiring entry-level hourly employees. Show employees and potential employees the plan for their development and the purpose of their job so they can get excited about working for your company. Make the success of your employees part of your company culture. If you’re invested in their success, they will be, too.

PPL Electric Utilities’ Safety Mindset

By Patti Scaramuzzo,Manager, Technical Training & Development, PPL Electric Utilities

After years of struggling to significantly reduce the number of injuries among its employees, PPL Electric Utilities reached a watershed moment in 2017 when it recorded the safest year in the company’s history. And it wasn’t a fluke. In 2018, PPL improved upon the previous year for another record safety performance and it’s doing so with the help of a series of innovative learning programs designed to engage employees, foster a safety mindset, change safety behaviors, and eliminate all injuries as PPL strives to become the safest utility in the nation.

Program Details

The learning solutions PPL added were identified by bench-marking with other companies that achieved significant safety improvements. Those learning solutions have included:

  • Adding four athletic trainers to teach the company’s 2,000-plus employees how to stretch and how to reduce soft tissue injuries. They also provide early intervention on injuries, aches, and pains so smaller injuries don’t turn into serious ones.
  • The creation of a safety advocate program that sends a group of employees into the field to observe peers, provide coaching, and identify improvement opportunities.
  • A unique theater-based training program that gave employees a new way of looking at safety and developed an after-action plan to keep alive the lessons learned from the training.
  • The incorporation of human performance tools into training. These initiatives were a reflection of PPL’s new Safety Mindset, which established the company’s safety philosophy: Rather than leading safety from a compliance mindset, move to one of being excited to build a work environment of committed individuals focused on improving the safety and well-being of themselves and others. It has led to a culture in which employees care about and watch out for one another and speak up about safety concerns and questions.

The road to improvement had its share of challenges. When PPL embarked on its crusade to reduce worker injuries and improve safety, it had to get the workforce to understand and buy into the approach and philosophy promoted by the Safety Mindset. The company communicated the safety mindset, asked supervisors to share it with their staffs, and incorporated components of it in a Safety Book for Leaders distributed to supervisors.


A significant reduction in soft tissue injuries was accomplished with the addition of the athletic trainer/stretching program. PPL Electric Utilities contracted with a company that provides a staff of trainers who have taught employees the importance of daily stretching and how to do it, how to eat right, how to lose weight, and how to address and eliminate pain. The intent was to reduce the number of soft tissue injuries and incidents involving slips, trips, and falls, among the most common causes of injury at PPL.

PPL also had to educate the workforce about the importance of seeing occupational trainers when injured or feeling pain to address the issue before it becomes more serious. The culture has changed to the point that many employees instinctively visit trainers and are encouraged to do so, even if it’s for non-work injuries.

PPL shared stories about the successes seen by employees with the help of daily stretching and trainer assistance. This resulted in employees increasingly participating in the program and trainers having an increased number of interactions and consultations with employees.

Today, it’s not uncommon to see groups of engineers stretching in the middle of an office floor in the morning. It’s not unusual to see field workers stretching out prior to a job with stretching bands that are attached to their bucket trucks. Some groups of employees have reached a point in their exercise regimen that it’s unusual for them not to stretch at least once and, in some cases, twice daily.

Safety Advocates

Following a series of bench-marking efforts designed to identify ways of improving safety, PPL Electric Utilities implemented a bargaining unit safety advocate program that gives field workers (such as line workers and electricians) a chance to visit work sites and observe peers. They mentor their peers on what they observed to teach them safer work habits and techniques, thereby improving safety. They also share with the safety team what they observed without identifying employees to help uncover trends that should be addressed across the organization. To date, PPL has put seven groups of eight or nine advocates in the field for a six-month period for a valuable learning experience that has promoted safety, engagement, a constructive culture, and trust.

Theater-Based Safety Training

To further drive home the importance of safety and do it in a unique way, PPL chose to bring in a theater organization to provide training to most of its workforce. The training, delivered by England-based Juice Learning, included safety-related theatrical performances by a group of actors, who acted out various safety-related scenarios relevant to PPL.

The acting and unique approach left PPL workers pleasantly surprised and engaged. The program was geared toward employees with the most high-risk jobs or who had high injury rates. PPL provided few details about Think Safe Act Safe in advance to maintain the surprising element of the program.

“It’s one of the best things PPL brought to employees,” one employee said.

“It really engages you to think differently and also to behave differently in promoting safety,” another noted.

Workers were encouraged to not have a Walk-By Attitude, which promoted an increase in STOP Timeouts, a human performance tool designed to get workers to stop what they’re doing on a job if the conditions change or something unexpected occurs.


Bolstered by these initiatives and a commitment to advance a safety mindset, PPL has seen business results that illustrate significant safety improvement. Consider that between 2016 and 2018:

  • The Employees’ Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) rate has decreased from 1.25 to 0.44, a 65 percent reduction.
  • The recordable injury rate has declined from 2.10 to 1.28, a 39 percent decrease.
  • The DART time rate has fallen from 1.26 to 0.32, a 74 percent drop.

In addition, PPL has realized other behavioral and business results, which include an increased use of STOP/Timeouts. PPL also has seen record entries for its Good Catch program created to give employees a way to report unsafe conditions or suggest ways of improving safety. It’s another program that gives workers ownership in improving safety.

While the company has made significant strides over a twoyear period, its employees know more work needs to be done to achieve the ultimate goal: a time when no worker goes home with an injury.

PSA Airlines Is Paving the Way for Future Leaders in Aviation

By Corinn Shemak, Leadership Development Program Manager, PSA Airlines

PSA Airlines is the fastest growing regional airline in the country and is committed to ensuring safe and reliable operations for the thousands of customers American Airlines trusts us with every day. This statement explains what we do, but what is most important to us as a forward-thinking company is looking to the future and caring for our people. Creating a work environment where our team members feel valued and respected is one of our top priorities. Building this culture is imperative as we work to recruit and retain a professional and talented workforce. When we have created a great place for our team members to come to work each day—providing them with support, training, and the tools to do their jobs more collaboratively and efficiently—we run a better company, with an exciting culture and a better airline for our customers.

As we continue to grow PSA Airlines into a thought leader in our community, a critical measure of our success is contingent upon the Leadership Development and Diversity and Inclusion initiatives we have in place. When our leadership team is focused on encouraging values that welcome everyone’s opinions, respecting unique backgrounds, and treating all people with dignity, we are building a company that is far more capable of achieving success well into the future. PSA’s commitment to the personal and professional development of our people is at the forefront of our culture, and we’ve invested heavily in a program called Leading the Way, which provides our leaders with the tools to be a truly engaged leader and motivator of teams.

Program Details

Leading the Way began as a brainstorming session with PSA Manager of Learning and Development Mary Butts and PSA Business Consultant Jay Meyer in 2017. They discussed opportunities for improving communication, morale, performance, and culture at every level within the organization. Through PSA’s hyper-growth—growing from an airline of 49 aircraft to a commitment of 150 aircraft over a few short years—it was evident that front-line team members and support staff were placed into leadership roles without the appropriate level of leadership training. PSA needed to do a better job of inspiring the next generation of leaders with a focus on strategic planning and training.

Using the unique strategic tools we developed for our team, such as Five Imperatives and the PSA Way, with our vision and strategic plan as guides, our leaders are taken through tailored workshops in a group environment. These workshops build on the current competencies of the PSA team and introduce the idea of a collaborative culture, which we strive to permeate in everything we do. The capstone of the program is a personal reflection and summary of how each individual will put the learnings into action.

“Often, leaders, including myself, can fall short of communicating the purpose of initiatives or, even worse, muddy the roadmap to achieve those initiatives,” notes Nancy Giffin, assistant director of Pilot and Maintenance Recruiting. “The dissected processes and systems learned throughout Leading the Way prevent such things from happening. I’ve fully adopted multiple resources from the program that help the ‘why,’ ‘what,’ and ‘how’ components for my team to achieve tangible results.”

Today, the program boasts more than 90 current and past participants, including our PSA executive leadership team. Since then, one set of directors and two sets of managers have been through the entire program.

The program continues to evolve as our business evolves. The current program now is being facilitated in-house by myself and Director of Communications and Development Jean Holloway. Bringing the execution of the program under the PSA umbrella provides a better connection to our own operations and culture. The current group of 30 leaders comprises both directors and managers. This mix of experience and duties allows for better cross-role collaboration and understanding.

Leading the Way is just one way PSA is committed to developing our people to be successful on their career journey. We believe in all of our team members and the contributions each of us make in the lives of our customers, American Airlines, and one another.


Training Top 125

Applying for Training magazine’s 2020 Training Top 125 awards program can help you benchmark the excellence and effectiveness of your employee training and development.

Digital Issue

Click above for Training Magazine's
current digital issue

Training Live + Online Certificate Programs

Now You Can Have Live Online Access to Training magazine's Most Popular Certificate Programs! Click here for more information.

Emerging Training Leaders

Company Assets

People are an organization’s most valuable asset,” the saying goes.

Rising Stars

The 2016 Emerging Training Leaders are leading lights at their organizations, shining examples of how strategic-minded, results focused, and people-oriented Learning and Development (L&D) profe

Learning from the Future

Includes ISA Directory of
Learning Providers