L&D Best Practices Strategies For Success (Sept/Oct) 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 BayCare Health System’s use of gamification and DPR Construction’s safety training.


By Grisel Puertos, MA, ODPC, and Joshua Kwasnicki, MSW, Organizational Performance Coaches, BayCare Health System

Every day, a Learning & Development (L&D) professional is tasked with creating impactful learning solutions that support desired performance outcomes. Subject matter experts and senior leadership specify the information they want learned, but the method of delivery is up to the professionals designing the learning activity.

Too often, convention intrudes on the creative process, and content-heavy data dumps are delivered to disengaged participants. Although the presenters feel satisfied that the pertinent information was “delivered,” it is questionable whether the participants actually learned anything and are confident and comfortable applying the key concepts. The time has come for innovation and the addition of contemporary, evidence-based strategies that enable engagement and positively impact learning and transfer of skills to on-the-job environments. What are these strategies? And how can these strategies help learning?

Join us as we dive into the gamification world.

The Scene

BayCare Health System: A multidisciplinary, regional healthcare system with a professionally diverse workforce that is 27,000-plus strong.

The need: To help calibrate various groups of certified project managers who exist in multiple areas of expertise throughout the system. Understanding the advantages of increased collaboration among this diverse group, senior leadership commissioned the director of Performance Improvement, who pulled pertinent project management content from a project management resource. As a result of his effort, 218 content-heavy slides were born. Faced with the daunting task of converting this presentation into a digestible learning experience for 50 certified project managers, this director reached out for assistance in creating a two-day learning activity aimed at crumbling the siloes that exist within this group of experts. When working on common projects, they use different tools, methods, and terminology, resulting in communication complications inhibiting their ability to optimally collaborate or gain insight from each other’s areas of expertise. A strategy for calibrating language across these groups was the task at hand, requiring a creative solution. That’s where we came in.

The Story

Humanity was in trouble. Zombies overran the streets, biting unsuspecting people and exponentially multiplying the zombie population. It all started when a cancer researcher debuted a new cancer-curing serum at a large gala. He dropped an enormous vial of the serum, making it airborne, and contaminated the 300-plus audience with a DNA-altering virus causing a zombie outbreak. At the local hospitals, the doctors’ confusion over the virus triggered a Class 3 Zombie Outbreak. The nation turned to the Emergency Zombie Apocalypse Coalition (EZAC) for assistance in thwarting the end of the human race. Time was of the essence.

EZAC solicited the assistance of BayCare’s project managers due to the utility of their skills in EZAC’s mission to stop the spread of the virus. BayCare also was chosen due to its excellent reputation in serving the community nearest to the outbreak’s epicenter.

The Ride

This fictitious storyline set the stage for the two-day, 10-hour class, which began just as any instructor-led class. After the first break, the facilitators announced the need to “quickly but quietly” move to another classroom due to a “situation.” Bewildered, the class complied. At the second classroom, they were met with “Authorized Personnel Only” signs on the door. This “Situation Room” had Zombie Preparedness signs printed from the Center for Disease Control. At the front of the class were two EZAC agents, portrayed by the in-house instructional designers who created the story and classroom activities, complete with EZAC badges and black suits.

Participants were pre-sorted into five mixed groups via name tents, and were directed to their “classified” Project Management Folders (PMFs), containing a fictitious newspaper article of the gala mishap, some standard project management forms and tools, and a “mission” in a sealed envelope. After reading the “newspaper article,” they viewed a “classified briefing video” from EZAC describing the story above. All of the missions were interdependent and their collective success relied on intragroup communication. Missions included physically building a(n):

  • Model bridge out of straws and rubber bands
  • Balloon-powered car with a water bottle, straw, and balloon
  • Pebble launcher out of rubber bands and a pie tin
  • Egg-drop device that protects the egg from breaking as it falls
  • Stand for a book entitled “Zombie Survival Guide”

The groups used a project management process and standardized tools to bring their missions to fruition. Participants worked through each step, stopping to debrief concepts and relating gained knowledge to application outside of the classroom.

Each group had to “purchase” the materials needed to build a prototype and execute their mission. The cost of these materials came from their “budgets,” which were created by earning points during a game-based classroom response system (Kahoot!) on project management concepts. Additional forms and tools were available electronically via document-sharing Website DropBox. Their prototypes then were individually debriefed and demonstrated. Successful missions were celebrated and related back to the storyline of saving humanity.

Audio-recorded “updates” from “the military” about zombie developments in the community provided twists and turns to the story. At the conclusion, participants e-mailed their completed documents to EZAC. After collecting some Kirkpatrick Level 1 and 2 feedback from the class and a final discussion on transferring gained insights to their fieldwork, an important “message” was received from EZAC in the form of a Go Animate video that showed how EZAC used their prototypes and documents to thwart the outbreak. Humanity was no longer in danger! The video provided closure to the storyline, and the class was gifted with globe stress balls as a reminder of saving humanity.

The creation of an engaging storyline accomplished two goals:

  1. It allowed a diverse group of project managers to simultaneously manipulate and discuss the standard project management tools/process as they would in a real project.

  2. It facilitated open communication and expertise sharing. Communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing were essential for success. Celebrating each participant’s expertise incorporated his or her existing knowledge into the class content. In the end, relationships were established, enabling these groups to collaborate effectively on future projects.

The End?

This approach proved to be more successful than any of us expected. Participants commented that this was the best class they had ever attended, and they were impressed how dry material was transformed into a fun and beneficial training. We will drive the behaviors by encouraging networking opportunities and providing tools to continue the conversation among these groups of project managers. Sustained communication and collaboration will be measured by surveys sent 90 days after the learning activity. These survey results also serve as drivers because the expectation of these behaviors is reinforced by revisiting the learning activity.

Testimonials included:

  • “This was the most interesting, interactive, and effective training I’ve attended at BayCare. We had a chance to implement the tools in a fun atmosphere.”
  • “Having attended numerous project management classes, and workshops, this format of small groups working through the stages of a project with an emphasis on discussion and role-playing was much more effective than the traditional slide presentation. It made learning the materials relevant.”
  • “This was a fun class! I knew much of the material reviewed in the class, but that didn’t matter. The class activity was awesome, and it was a great refresher of tools. Well worth the time!”
  • “I liked the format. It was a fresh approach to learning, which made it fun and easy to grasp key concepts."
  • “The interactivity ofthe class helped make it a successful experience and so much better than PowerPoint slide review as an educational experience. The teamwork was also exceptional!"

Lessons Learned

We discovered that the cost of the many hours and resources it took to create the learning activity was outweighed by the benefit: the partnership achieved with our customer. It’s what enabled the success of this project and opened the door for future experimentation in the immersive learning world. Further, we learned that gamifying training created relationships among a once-disconnected group. To our surprise, they asked for a communication forum to regularly network. Finally, we learned that it’s OK to step out of the comfort zone and try something new. Get your creative juices flowing. Reimagine tradition. Take a risk. You might just save the world from the boring lecture apocalypse.


By Cari Williams, Leader, People Practices, DPR Construction 

Safety training is a key aspect of the construction industry and benefits the productivity and quality of every project. Experience has proven that when teams approach projects holistically, prioritizing safety, productivity, and quality, they consistently meet or beat schedules with significantly less rework in the field. General contractors often bear the responsibility and cost of making sure each worker on the job is trained to meet job requirements and ensure 100 percent compliance. Compliance, however, often requires hours outside of the jobsite to complete training courses or instructor-led trainings.

At DPR, safety is not just a priority, it’s a value. We promote and nurture an injury-free environment, with the goal of achieving zero incidents on every project. To achieve this goal, we look to instill and reinforce safe behaviors throughout the company and the entire project team in addition to providing comprehensive safety training for all employees. This infusion of safety into DPR’s culture is based on the following seven fundamentals of safety:

  1. Psychology of safety: Understanding the role both leadership and individuals play in ensuring a safe environment, and empowering teams to be responsible for their behavior.

  2. Preconstruction meetings: Ensuring key personnel know and understand safety expectations, and that the means and methods for safety are implemented.

  3. Engagement: Reinforcing that all teams on the jobsite are engaged in auditing and adjusting the safety plan.

  4. Pre-task planning: Identifying obstacles or hazards that may appear over the course of the project’s lifecycle and how to eliminate or mitigate such hazards.

  5. Root-cause analysis: Discovering the underlying or systemic, rather than the generalized or immediate, causes of an incident. Correcting only an immediate cause may eliminate a symptom of a problem, but not the problem itself.

  6. Coordinator program: Individuals who identify internal and external resources and help recruit and retain the next generation of safety leaders.

  7. Audit/trending: Planning and process development that uses data to help prevent future incidents.


In search of a tool to supplement the audit and trending fundamentals, DPR turned to ClickSafety, a comprehensive suite of online training employees can take advantage of for major undertakings such as OSHA 10- and 30-hour certifications. ClickSafety helps educate our employees to drive a deeper level of engagement and improvement in additional safety fundamentals. Creating an environment that encourages everyone on the jobsite to be responsible for not only themselves, but for others around them, is vital to successfully completing an injury-free project.

Another benefit of ClickSafety is that the tool has given employees the flexibility to obtain certifications on their own schedule, leading to increased project productivity and quality. Often, certifications require many hours of offsite training. ClickSafety gives our teams the portability to pick the times they can devote to safety training, and helps employees take accountability for their safety responsibilities.

ClickSafety’s training solutions are flexible, customizable, and interactive, presenting a student-centered approach that is designed to enhance learning and retention. At DPR, ClickSafety is used to distribute company and site-specific information, communicate policies and procedures, identify hazards, and share safe work practices. The tool also features standard safety and OSHA training material to equip workers with the basics of on-the-job safety training. Simplified reporting and compliance helps DPR track training and competency in real time via a Web-based solution, allowing our safety leaders to easily download information for customized reports to meet regulatory and company requirements.


DPR’s value-based safety program looks upstream at leading indicators to produce exceptional results. After a total of nearly 8.6 million hours worked, we are one of the safest contractors in the country, with a recordable incident rate of 1.07 (2016). Based on nearly 800 customer surveys, DPR ranked significantly higher in safety when customers were asked to compare to their best previous contractor experience. Nationally, we developed company-wide efforts to educate teams about how everyone has a role in safety.

In Phoenix, for example, DPR’s education and training focused on safety fundamentals, including making sure everyone had their OSHA 30 certification, which led to operating injury free on projects in the area for more than four years. We also use ClickSafety to push regionally sensitive or time-sensitive training classes such as the recent heat illness prevention training for Southern California employees during 100-degree temperatures.

DPR continually looks for additional ways to offer flexibility in safety training. We are piloting technology from Human Condition Safety (HCS), a workplace wearables startup that is creating a suite of tools that helps craft workers and their managers prevent injuries before they happen. Currently used on select DPR project sites in Sacramento and the Bay Area, the HCS technology incorporates wearable devices that disappear into traditional safety clothing, artificial intelligence, Building Information Modeling (BIM), and cloud computing to create an ecosystem that helps keep workers safe. HCS software develops deep insights about safety and efficiency, and can identify safety issues in real time, as well as predict future events.

A core value at DPR is “Ever Forward,” meaning we believe in continual self-initiated change, improvement, learning, and the advancement of standards for their own sake. This applies to safety as DPR continually looks for additional ways to offer flexibility in training. Our experience has taught us that flexibility in training creates greater accountability and reinforces safety as a value to make sure every DPR employee returns home to his or her family each night.

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