L&D Best Practices Strategies For Success (Nov/Dec 2017)

Training magazine taps 2017 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 Deloitte’s gamification platform, Edward Jones’ recruitment strategies; and Learning and Development’s role in cultivating company culture at Mariner Finance.


By Denise Schimmoeller, Development Manager, Deloitte Services LP

Gamification can have a powerful impact on development. Benefits can include an enhanced overall learning experience, increased engagement, and improved knowledge transfer. Gamification also can support the work of professionals who create and deliver training, providing them with a venue to further personalize learning and make social connections throughout the course. This can create a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

At Deloitte, games are not new to the virtual and live training environments. However, many of the gamified approaches used in the past typically were built for a specific course, or games were used and scores were manually tracked, which put a burden on the faculty.

We wanted a way to continue to ignite the excitement in our learners while providing an intuitive platform for everyone—our Talent Development team, faculty, and learners—to use. Everyone wanted to incorporate games into training, yet Talent Development needed to find a cost-efficient solution we could continue to build upon in the future.

Hence, DLearn was born. DLearn is Deloitte’s Web-based gamification platform developed for use during virtual and live courses. Due to responsive design, learners and faculty can easily access it from a browser on any mobile device or laptop.

What Does It Do?

DLearn has several great features, but the focus is on the games learners play during the courses. Games are interactive and played in real time, either individually, against randomly selected learner(s), or within teams. There are two minienergizer games—a buzzer and bonus wheel—which faculty can use over and over within a course to allow learners to gain points when answering questions.

Six additional games may be reused multiple times across hundreds of courses simply by uploading customized content for each course or by copying already existing content from one course to another. One game, Vote for the Best, allows learners to select who they felt performed the strongest among their peer group, either in a live role-play or a presentation back to the class. Similar to a mini-simulation, the Quest game allows developers to build a storyline in which a team of learners uses critical thinking to make decisions at key intervals. Dependent upon the learners’ answer to each decision, the game may branch off on a different path and vary the points allotted to their overall score.

Seeing Results

During a recent virtual program, the Global Employer Services new staff and interns played various games to generate excitement and increase connectivity among participants. “DLearn was a popular change of pace from other activities. The Rapid Fire questions helped faculty see if learners were grasping each segment of the program,” shares Talent Development Manager Jerri Walsh. “With the capability of adding new games quickly, we could pull in more questions at the end of each course to highlight key concepts. The friendly competition helped generate an atmosphere of fun and engagement. We look forward to using it again.”

Other elements of DLearn include discussion boards and learner profiles, which personalize the experience, especially for those who are attending a course virtually. Learners and faculty have the ability to favorite profiles, upload a photo, and send messages to one another. Each profile lists the badges and levels learners already have earned. They also will see their progress in achieving the next level, which they can continue to aspire to when they return to DLearn during future courses.

“We witnessed relationships forming across the room as learners competed against one another to answer the most questions correctly and win Tic-Tac-Toe,” note Tejaswi Routhreddy and Sumesh Khatua during the Tax Professional Edge program. “Participants loved the interface, especially the leaderboard. As we introduced new games, the momentum continued to build.”

The leaderboard and badges are key, as they appeal to both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of our learners. Badges are awarded for top performers on the leaderboard, discussion board contributions, and other networking activities within DLearn. There is even a badge to recognize our outstanding faculty. Some Talent Development and faculty teams tie the leaderboard and badges to other recognition and rewards outside of DLearn.

Another valuable aspect of DLearn is the ability to get immediate feedback on knowledge gain, so our faculty can determine whether they need to further review content before learners leave the classroom.

How else are we measuring success? We currently are developing a robust reporting and analytics dashboard for administrators to help determine usage across the organization and to know whether we are creating the right game content for each specific course.

The sky’s the limit for DLearn. It was intentionally built so that more reusable games may be added in the future, and there are feedback mechanisms within the platform itself, as well as outside the platform, to gather ideas to continuously improve the system. We also gather data on whether our learners feel DLearn enhanced their learning experience through our evaluation process. Although we are in the early stages of release, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Tips to Consider

In recent years, gamification has become wildly popular, but it is important to ensure gamification is implemented in a meaningful way. When determining whether gamification is the right approach, consider the following:

  • Will this platform help to fill the learning gap and increase absorption of the material? If so, how does the game align with the learning need?
  • Will this platform involve learners in critical thinking and/ or problem solving that mirrors opportunities they may encounter on the job?
  • Will this platform improve the learning experience so learners will want to use it again?

DLearn combines leading gamification principles and measures knowledge gain in the palm of our learners’ hands. It brings training at Deloitte to the next level. Ultimately, that’s what we are aiming to achieve: to enable learning, networking, and fun.


By Katherine Mauzy, Principal, Responsible for Experienced Financial Advisor Transition and Integration at Edward Jones

Our world-class training makes Edward Jones a magnet for career changers or recent college grads who want to be financial advisors—we get 36,000 inquiries annually. But established financial advisors at other firms weren’t drawn to consider our firm when deciding to move and grow their practice.

Recruiting more applicants with experience could significantly aid our ambitious goals to grow from 15,000 North American financial advisors to 20,000 by 2022. Edward Jones has deployed a consistent approach to growth through good times and bad since we began expanding from our St. Louis headquarters 60 years ago.

We hire and train several thousand new recruits annually, but inexperienced hires have a high turnover rate until they become successful after several years. Attrition drops into single digits once they are profitable. On the other hand, a veteran advisor with a significant book of business who moves to Edward Jones typically is immediately successful. Even a less-experienced emerging producer with a newly developing practice elsewhere has a significant chance of succeeding here. There is a strong business case to grow this channel of both emerging producers and experienced advisors.

Correcting Misperceptions

One obstacle to hiring more financial advisors with experience: A 2015 industry survey showed those considering a move did not have Edward Jones at top of mind.

We launched extensive research and employed focus groups to identify misperceptions and determine how to overcome them. We also established an advisory group of financial advisors who came to us from other firms. We quickly learned that the more experienced financial advisors knew about us, the more they were interested.

Quite simply, they had outdated perceptions of Edward Jones. Although our roots are in rural, small-town Midwestern America, today’s Edward Jones is growing fastest in metropolitan and suburban areas.

Many were unaware that we not only offer financial advisors their own branch office with dedicated administrative support, but also industry-leading capabilities and tools, mobile and texting technology, and a broad range of client solutions, as well as a competitive compensation package.

So we took steps to break through those obsolete perceptions.

Industry Advertising: Late last year, we rolled out a national $6 million print and online advertising campaign to fight those small-time perceptions. To the financial community viewing them, the ads should surprise them and make them think: “That isn’t the Edward Jones I thought I knew.” The ads tout our unique branch-office business model, our private partnership, our organic growth strategy, our resources and capabilities, and our outside awards demonstrating client and financial advisor satisfaction. Associate photos appearing in the campaign depict our own strategists, analysts, home-office leaders, and advisors in metro markets. The photos reflect the diversity we have but also demonstrate our intent to continue to advance our diversity. The ad campaign is running again this fall.

Industry Profile: We continue to make senior leaders more visible as thought leaders, both through increased participation in prestigious industry conferences, as well as quotes and stories in influential industry and business publications.

Recruiting Staff: We hired experienced industry recruiters from other financial firms. We created new roles in high-growth geographic areas to lead experienced financial advisor recruiting. We beefed up our transition and integration team, which evaluates practices and onboards experienced financial advisors.

Recruiting Messages: We updated recruiting messages on our careers.edwardjones.com Website to clearly articulate why we have a unique opportunity for experienced advisors, offering great autonomy with world-class support. Our industry ad campaign drives people to a special landing page, which then takes candidates to our Website.

Training: We changed our messaging and updated training for the best recruiters we have—current financial advisors and branch office administrators in our 13,000 U.S. branches, who are involved in approximately 70 percent of hires. We introduced new onboarding for volunteer recruiting leaders in our regions, training them on foundational and talent pool strategies in hopes of giving them a quicker start in this important role.

We provided recognition for regions that recruit more experienced financial advisors, since it typically takes longer to engage them enough to learn more. We do not pay recruiting bonuses, however, since our associates tell us money is not what motivates them. They want others to enjoy the Edward Jones opportunity, and the firm to grow and serve more clients well. That’s the basis of our new internal recruiting message, “Change Lives: Refer Today.” We also have continued to strengthen the message of “The Edward Jones Opportunity,” which is the value proposition for financial advisors to start, build, and transition a career at Edward Jones.

Our own associates are the absolute best way to introduce talent to our firm. They do a great job of telling the Edward Jones story. We know from historical precedent that the more engaged they are in recruiting, the more likely we are to meet lofty hiring goals.


In 2016, we hired 39 experienced financial advisors and 110 emerging producers. So far this year, we already have hired 110 emerging producers, and we are making progress toward our goal of hiring of six experienced financial advisors a month. We expect our numbers to rise as all our efforts continue paying off.

But it took a multipronged effort. We performed extensive research, defined a clear strategy, developed coordinated marketing and training messages, invested the right resources, and engaged our best recruiters—our associates—to help us crack hard-shelled perceptions.

We continue to hire and train career changers, recent college graduates, and military veterans in large numbers, but we can accelerate our growth by also attracting a small but steady stream of already-successful financial advisors to join Edward Jones.


By Jeffrey Casey, Senior Vice President, Learning and Development, and Austin Meredith, Assistant Vice President, Instructional Design & Programs, Mariner Finance

Company culture is the heartbeat of an organization and comprises all aspects that drive the company, including the vision/mission statement, workforce, ethics, and work environment. In fact, many prospective employees analyze, evaluate, and inquire about a company’s culture before accepting a job offer.

So what role does Learning and Development (L&D) play in this critical component?

In short, a well-developed L&D Department is the single largest culture-carrying component of an organization. With entrée to nearly every aspect of a business, from technical to leadership, L&D must ensure all programs support and reinforce a business’ cultural mores. It must emulate and promote the defined culture and is in the unique role of being able to identify and opine when cultural changes are occurring or need to be made. Learning and Development plays multiple roles in enhancing and driving company culture through the dissemination of training. Learning is one of the few continuous activities that occur in every organization, and as such, it is a perfect culture-carrying vehicle.

Characteristics to Consider

Let’s review some characteristics L&D Departments within an organization should take into consideration when developing training that can actively drive company culture.

Alignment: Ensure senior leadership agrees on the definition of culture and fully supports not only the linked training but the Training function as a whole. Does the L&D Department have a seat at the table during strategic discussions or planning? Does senior leadership embrace the use of training as a tool beyond employee training and development by using training modalities to enhance the corporate image with the customer base and prospective employees (consider how training is portrayed in job fair materials or during hiring conversations)? Will cultural mores reinforcement be part of the stated outcomes? Are cultural components of training tied directly to individual and organizational goals?

Build: All curricula—whether technical, compliance, or leadership in nature—should include components that directly or indirectly support the organization’s culture. Determination of how to embed cultural aspects or alignment of culture begins with initial stakeholder interviews and goal/ outcome discussions. For instance, while a new systems training course may seem straightforward in terms of goals and outcomes (“ensure staff understands and can demonstrate/operate….”), it also may link to an organization’s focus such as exemplary customer service or work-life balance, which can be entwined into the course design.

Since the dawn of time, the best way to move or share information and cultural expectations has been via social learning. Social learning provides a strong platform not only for information about how to perform a task or become proficient at one’s job, but also presents a forum for sharing an organization’s history, and, thus, its culture. By structuring a program that deftly informs the sharing process, the L&D Department can help ensure that not only do individuals rapidly assimilate into their role but also understand their company’s culture and, more importantly, their role within it.

Defined engagements that are contained within a curriculum, especially leadership, create discussion within defined topics, and drive and embed a company’s mores. Using other leaders as mentors provides next-level interactions, and, as many research documents correctly point out, accelerates job performance.

Training and Assimilation Through Cultural Training Ambassadors: The training staff of an L&D Department needs to be trained as culture ambassadors. These individuals are positioned as the face of the company via their interactions with others (both their clients and shareholders). As a result, these individuals’ leaders need to continually ensure they have a pulse on the culture within a company and learn how to develop their team’s skills and ability to demonstrate and model the company’s culture during all training interactions.

Cultural Assessments and Evaluations: While not directly tied to a Learning and Development Department, there is a great value placed on continually evaluating the organization’s culture through various assessments. One of the most documented assessments companies conduct annually is a “Cultural Assessment.” L&D can play an effective role in the development of this assessment by providing leadership with a ground-level view of the organizational mores. This insight can help inform the questions and even modality used in an assessment that seeks to “understand or monitor” an organization’s culture.

In conclusion, organizations should look to L&D when composing, enhancing, and disseminating company culture. Equally, important, Learning and Development should seek to understand and “carry” the organization’s culture to its clients and beyond. As Brian Kristofek, president and CEO of Upshot, said: “Being a great place to work is the difference between a good company and a great company.”


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