Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (Jan/Feb 2017)

Each year Training magazine requires all Training Top 10 Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that is shared with our readers in a print issue. Here are the details of the three highest-scoring submissions from 2016: Verizon's The New Verizon Plan - Pricing Launch Training; EY's FSO Masters Tournament for Sales Leadership Development; and Farmers Insurance's CE - It's Up to Me!

Each year, Training magazine requires all Training Top 10 Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that is judged by each other and shared with our readers. Aside from ensuring Hall of Famers aren’t “resting on their laurels,” this provides an opportunity for the Learning & Development community to learn from the “best of the best” and see some innovative solutions for challenges many face today.

Each Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiative submission could achieve a maximum of 20 points (half-point increments can be awarded) as follows:

  • Level of potential business impact (i.e., revenue generation, new product launch, change initiative, new technology launch): 0-3 points
  • Level of difficulty of challenges faced: 0-2 points
  • Project scope (companywide, individual functions, global vs. national, etc.): 0-3 points
  • Instructional design (learning objectives linked to business outcomes; level of leadership involved in design, development, and facilitation; reinforcement): 0-4 points
  • Innovation of training: 0-4 points
  • Business outcomes achieved/expectations met: 0-4 points

The initiatives that achieved the highest scores are detailed below (Verizon, EY, and Farmers Insurance). The other nine submissions will be profiled in the five remaining issues for 2017.

Verizon: The New Verizon Plan – Pricing Launch Training

Verizon’s Pricing Launch Training aimed to educate customer-facing employees on completely new Consumer and Business pricing plans and an accompanying new mobile self-serve account management application and customer experience to better serve the company’s customers.

Due to the highly competitive, confidential, and time-sensitive nature of pricing launches and to keep training timelines tightly aligned with external marketing and communication, Verizon’s senior executives challenged the Learning and Development (L&D) team to minimize the training window and use digital only learning assets. As a result, the L&D team had just six calendar days—spanning the 4th of July weekend—to train more than 100,000 retail, B2B, indirect, and customer service representatives.

Upon completion of training, employees were expected to:

1) Sell the value of the new Verizon Plan
2) Explain why Verizon is evolving to the new Verizon Plan
3) Position and promote the new features included in the plan (e.g., Safety Mode, Data Boost)
4) Demonstrate the new My Verizon app features

Program Details

The training plan included the following main deliverables by audience:s

  • Retail and B2B Sales: “Infocast,” Verizon’s internal name for a live Webcast broadcast to employees. This solution allowed Verizon to use three live, one-hour sessions to reach a broad audience in one day. Sales teams and non-customer facing groups attended this training as the initial introduction to the content, which was followed by a rapid deployment of trainers into the stores to deliver digital-only skill-based reinforcement training and address any questions. This solution was developed, produced, and broadcast internally using Verizon’s in-house full video and TV production studio.
  • Indirect Sales (External): Virtual instructor-led (vILT) Webinar sessions led by Verizon’s in-house training delivery team.
  • Customer Service: Instructor-led classroom sessions delivered by Verizon’s in-house training delivery team. Employees used digital Learning Albums (via iPads) and online references to access content digitally.

Supporting deliverables for all the above groups included:

1) Skill Drills: Role-play activities hosted digitally on Learning Albums via iPads. Trainers and front-line leaders used these with front-line reps to prepare them, provide reinforcement, and to certify they were ready to sell to and service Verizon’s customers. Completions were tracked via a QR Code embedded in the digital Learning Album to keep the process digital only and confidential.

2) Videos: Created to reinforce the main methods above including:

a. An app overview video to emulate the new app experience.
b. A “Right Way” customer interaction video, which offered live-action modeling of the right way to talk to customers about the features and benefits of the new Verizon Plan and My Verizon application.
c. A customer experience video that illustrated the Safety Mode customer experience.


Due to the training efforts, employees were fully prepared to sell to and service customers by launch on July 7, 2016. In fact, senior executives, front-line leaders, and sales and customer service reps claimed it was Verizon’s best pricing launch in terms of front-line confidence and launch day preparation.

Earlier in the year, Customer Service launched a primer training initiative, “Driving Value for Our Customers and Our Business,” in anticipation of the new price plan launch and the self-serve customer experience. This initiative:

  • Shifted CS reps’ mindset on how self-serve tools are used to balance both customer and business needs
  • Taught CS reps when and how to use appropriate loyalty vs. retention tools
  • Increased reps’ skills inidentifying each customer’s values and then recommending the most appropriate current solution(s)

Employees' ability to position the new Verizon Plan was bolstered by this primer training, with results including:

  • Reduced retention representative average handle time by 79 seconds
  • Reduced offer costs per call $6.18 post-training
  • Created $180 per rep per month cost savings
  • For every $1 spent on training, Verizon earned back $3.46.
  • Overall ROI attributed to “ Driving Value” was 246 percent.

EY: FSO Masters Tournament for Sales Leadership Development

EY’s Financial Services Organization (FSO) is dedicated to serving banking and capital markets, insurance, and wealth and asset management clients across the United States, and it provides these services through all four of the firm’s service lines: Advisory, Assurance, Tax and Transaction Advisory Services (TAS).

In 2010, the EY FSO Business Development leader identified the need to triple sales revenue in the next five years.

The sales leaders were primarily senior managers, partners, principals, and executive directors. If the organization was to triple sales revenue with in five years, the number of FSO Advisory executives capable of selling services to clients would need to increase dramatically. It would require both increasing the ranks currently selling and expanding the ranks of those authorized to sell.

EY determined that a critical success factor in the achievement of the business objective would be the development and deployment of a purposeful, integrated program that effectively developed managers into sales leaders. As a result, EY initiated the design of the FSO Masters Tournament program in early 2012.

Program Details

Designed as a Masters tournament using a golf sports theme, the FSO Masters Tournament is a four-month voluntary, learner centric development program that includes all elements of the 70:20:10 learning and development model (10 percent formal learning, 20 percent coaching and mentoring, and 70 percent experiential learning).

While some content may be pushed to the learner, other content is pulled from multiple sources—and the timing of all content delivery is at the point of learner need and convenience. A SharePoint Website supports program management, collaboration, and communication, such as providing access to all program materials, Webinars, exercises, scorecards, and leaderboards.

The development program consists of:

  • Instructor-led virtual classroom courses and recorded Webinars, including videos, exercises, and knowledge checks
  • An extensive, high-touch coaching and mentoring experience
  • On-the-job experiential learning on sales pursuits
  • Performance support through just-in-time knowledge tool resources
  • Incentives and awards based on gamification using a golf tournament paradigm

The formal learning curriculum includes four subcurricula that coverall dimensions of sales leadership: people, product, process, and proposals. Each learning event is co-facilitated by business development executives and knowledge managers, and managed by a professional WebEx virtual classroom producer. Virtual delivery enables any manager located in the U.S. or Canada to participate live.

Each of the nine virtual classroom learning events is structured to include:

  • Lecture on a sales topic by business development executives
  • Short videos where applicable 
  • Introduction to a knowledge resource or tool by a knowledge manager
  • Knowledge checks
  • Q&A

The events are followed by opportunities to immediately apply what was learned.

A coaching and mentoring experience that is delivered by senior managers, partners, principals, executive directors, directors, and account managers supports participants as they practice their new skills on sales pursuits:

  • Each manager's caddie delivers a participant's first line of coaching.
  • Business development executives delivering the sales topics in the classes are available for follow-up questions and coaching on their topics.
  • Business development executives in participant markets provide market-related coaching.
  • Knowledge managers delivering knowledge tool topics in the classes are available for coaching on resources and tools.
  • Pursuit account managers and team leaders coach and mentor managers on their pursuit roles and responsibilities.

The learning delivered by each virtual classroom event is reinforced by post-event exercises and then again by opportunities for application on real-world sales pursuits—an average of 3.5 pursuits for each participant completing all of the formal learning.


Three months after the end of the program, 81 percent of those who completed the formal learning reported having applied the learning, and 95 percent of those reported improved performance. Participants who actively participated in every aspect of the program notched 15 times the revenue as the non-participants.

To date, approximately 600 managers have participated in the program, and the practice achieved its goal of tripling its sales revenue within five years.

Farmers Insurance: CE - It’s Up to ME!

Farmers Insurance, one of the nation's largest insurer groups, provides insurance for automobiles, homes, and small businesses, as well as a wide range of other insurance and financial services and products. Farmers Insurance serves 10 million-plus households with more than 19 million individual policies, across all 50 states, through the efforts of more than 48,000 exclusive and independent agents and approximately 21,000 employees. Farmers aims to be the best U.S. multi-line insurance provider by clearly understanding the needs of its customers.

Through quality Customer Experience (CE), Farmers strives to create a truly differentiated experience for its customers. The goal was to support Farmers' multi-year CE Roadmap, achieve Customer Experience Transformation as measured through CE key performance indicators (KPIs), and improve Net Promoter Score (NPS).

In order to foster this transformation throughout the organization and help achieve the NPS goal, senior leadership incorporated completion of a CE training course in all employee objectives. After consulting with multiple business leaders and units, the University of Farmers (Uoff) leadership team recognized the organization could not necessarily achieve the desired behavioral and cultural changes, as well as business outcomes, with a single course, which prompted the Uoff leadership team to advise the need for an overarching and integrated multiyear organizational campaign. After recommending the expansion of scope from a single course to a campaign with senior business leaders, including the CEO, the Uoff team developed the CE-lt's up to ME! campaign to train more than 18,000 learners.

Program Details

Core objectives of the campaign involved each employee's ability to understand and apply the following to his or her direct line of work:

  • Relationship and importance of CE in delivering on Farmers brand strategy
  • NPS as a score and a system supporting the science of customer experience
  • Applying the Voice of the Customer (VOC) in daily work
  • Customer Journey Mapping
  • Each employee's “line of sight” with the customer
  • Key CE behaviors and employees' commitment to write themselves into the Farmers CE story

Farmers created a team known as “NPS Champions.” This team represents a cross-functional working group of 18 hand-selected leaders, primarily of vice president standing or above, from across the organization. The goal of this group is to collaborate and create cross-functional synergy around CE initiatives. The overall CE-lt's up to ME! strategy was developed internally with a team of three designers, a director, and a VP (the University of Farmers CE Champion). Working with various groups, including Corporate Communications, Human Resources, and the NPS Champions, the Uoff team coordinated the development and execution of a comprehensive and integrated campaign that included various communication, rewards and recognition, and training components.

Overall training incorporated the following components:

  • Four online modules ranging in length from 20 to 30 minutes
  • Support for a “structured ,” one -hour team meeting (given enterprise-wide involvement, a team meeting led by the manager was selected as a surrogate for classroom follow-up post-online course completion)
  • A manager team meeting guide
  • Conducting Your CE-lt's up to ME! Team Meeting manager Webinars
  • Activation checklist
  • Principle examples
  • Course worksheets
  • 16 “Snack Packs,” which are quick two - to three-minute videos or collections of customer journey artifacts with supporting worksheets. Taking 15 minutes to complete, Snack Packs allow employees to observe actual customer interactions, identify their line of sight or impact on the interaction, and assess how they can improve the experience.
  • 16 Snack Pack manager guides to debrief Snack Packs in subsequent team meetings
  • CE-lt's up to ME! execution included as a case study in the manager development program and blog
  • Option to listen directly to customer calls
  • Passports, which employees display at workstations with stamps for completed sections (badging)
  • My CE Story and My CE Commitment exercises, which allow employees to write themselves into Farmers' CE strategy


Level 1: 8.48 on a 10-point scale
Level 2: 86.2 percent scores
Level 3: Multiple Level 3 results achieved or exceeded goals in the areas of distribution, call center, and claims, including responsiveness, transaction accuracy, and engagement in data mining/analytics related to cu stomer feedback.
Level 4: In addition to exceeding the critical NPS goal, multiple Level 4 “sub-results” were achieved, including improvement in J.D. Power results as well as distribution, call center, and claims touch point satisfaction and employee engagement.

Editor's Note: Farmers Insurance did include specific numbers for Level 3 and 4 results in the submission reviewed by the Top 10 Hall of Fame judges but opted not to share that data publicly in print.


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