Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (Jan/Feb 2018)

Verizon, IBM, and EY's Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiative received the highest scores.

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, IBM, and EY). The other 11 submissions will be profiled in the five remaining issues for 2018.

Verizon: Sales Leadership Academy (SLA)

Verizon’s Learning and Development (L&D) team built Sales Leadership Academy (SLA) for all 6,533 Verizon Wireless Retail Sales leaders. The primary objective was to engage, enable, and empower Retail leaders to deliver quarter-over-quarter results while providing exceptional leadership that will ensure the critical retail transformation required over the next three years.

The initiative spans 2017 and the first half 2018. In 2017, 1,133 Retail leaders from one territory from each of Verizon’s geographical markets participated in SLA. The remaining Retail leaders will go through SLA in 2018. Verizon’s L&D team also is customizing SLA for all leaders in B2B, Telesales, Indirect Sales, and Customer Service for implementation in the first half 2018 (an additional 6,314 learners).

Program Details

Verizon held an instructional design hackathon in January 2017 to encourage innovative, agile content development for SLA. Seventy-five trainers, instructional designers, project managers, HR business partners, and Retail leaders participated in the three-day event. Hackathon participants were divided into teams, each asked to tackle one learning objective. Each team presented its proposed solution to L&D Leaders in a Shark Tank-style pitch, where leaders either gave approval to move forward with development or directed the team to further refine the solution. At the hackathon’s conclusion, each team had an approved design, the green light to begin development, and a designated development team consisting of a project leader, instructional designer(s), delivery lead, and front-line Retail leader.

Once workshops/experiences were developed, they were tested with groups of 10 to 12 territory leaders with whom SLA was to be implemented. These tests ensured content relevancy and created a pre-SLA “buzz” back in the territories. During a weeklong “Prepathon,” trainers experienced SLA in its entirety as participants first, and then prepared to deliver their assigned workshop(s).

The end result was a five-day experience that began with large daily general sessions kicked off with a leadership message to set the stage. Then participants attended the 11 workshops/ experiences in small groups of 15 to 25 offered concurrently over the course of the week. SLA culminated with the “Winning Strategy” workshop, where participants created individualized, comprehensive implementation plans for their return.

Training delivery was face-to-face through highly experiential, immersive designs led by trainers and supported by Retail directors (“leaders as teachers”). L&D used a combination of gamification, simulations, tabletop discussions, learning maps, and immersion in mock stores.

Verizon’s L&D team transformed entire sections of the National Conference Center in Leesburg, VA, to create an immersive experience. This included building three fully functioning Verizon retail stores to support learning in a real environment (“Details Matter,” “Store Rescue”), as well as 15 inventory rooms where participants were “locked in” during “Escape the Inventory Room” sessions and had to perform key inventory management tasks in order to “escape.”

The L&D team digitized the entire experience and modeled the company’s “digital first” mindset through the development of an SLA app, which provided logistics, a personalized schedule, and a social platform that drove engagement and competition.

For reinforcement, an online HUB housed key tools/resources used during SLA and necessary for implementation. Verizon also created in-store missions to help leaders integrate knowledge and skills from multiple workshops into daily work. For example, to prepare for iPhoneX launch, leaders temporarily flipped their store locations to do “store readiness health checks” using the skills they learned in “Details Matters.” Participants also used the SLA app to share best practices, receive leadership messages, and recognize peers.


Level 1: Nearly 100 percent of participants were engaged and felt confident they could apply these new skills in their role.

Level 2: 94 percent acquired new knowledge they could immediately apply in their leadership role.

Level 3: Leaders were surveyed 60 days post-SLA. Findings included:

  • 89 percent reported improvement in all in-store core leadership behaviors.
  • 88 percent reported being more engaged in their leadership roles since applying the skills and techniques from SLA.
  • 82 percent observed a distinct, significant improvement in their ability to engage and empower their direct reports.

Level 4: Verizon compared “trained” territories vs. several “control” territories that didn’t attend SLA, looking for significant differences in improvements in 12 critical Retail key performance indicators (KPIs) for each group pre-training (January-June) to post-training (September-December). In just two months post-SLA (September-October), Verizon saw improvements (ranging from 6 to 16 percent) in retail KPIs including Average Transaction Time, Manual Discounts per Accessory, and Average Credits per Sales Transaction. These improvements yielded more than $3 million in annualized value creation in just two months post-SLA.

IBM: Your Learning

IBM sought to provide a digital platform for learning that would more effectively offer, support, and improve the training its employees need in order to be effective on the job or advance to their next job. It would have to accommodate the major trends IBM was seeing: learning happening anywhere, and both formal and informal learning becoming essential to the typical employee’s life.

IBM chose to fulfill this goal for more than 361,000 employees through the creation of Your Learning, an open digital learning ecosystem supported by Watson artificial intelligence that provides:

  • Better learning discovery and accelerated skills development for learners, enhanced by more accurate searches and personalized recommendations that dramatically improve the user experience.
  • Greater scalability, performance, and cost savings while unlocking t h e capacity to innovate learning curation on a large scale, achieved by creating a unified, cloud-based ecosystem.
  • Easier integration with many learning sources and tools, not just one learning management system (LMS)
  • Easier progress tracking for learners, managers, and Learning and Development professionals
  • Improved response to learner help requests and feedback achieved by having Watson artificial intelligence rapidly handle volumes of input too large for conventional human analysis.

Platform Details

To IBM learners, content creators, and managers, Your Learning appears to be a single Website that replaces the more traditional learning management system. As a learning curation system, Your Learning’s goals focus on providing a personalized learning environment that responds quickly and creatively to each individual, while incorporating artificial intelligence to improve the system’s responsiveness and reduce its cost of operation. As such, its goals are structured differently than classic learning objectives, instead using design thinking that emphasizes the user experience in order to provide better classification, response, and customer service. Here are three functions that illustrate how Your Learning meets those objectives:

  • Individualized learning recommendations drawn from cognitive tagging (not keywords) and learning path curation driven by a constantly adapting understanding of each learner's skills, choices, growth, and responses.
  • Categorization and prioritization of more than 5,000 learner comments per month, driven by artificial intelligence that can identify both content and sentiment in order to automatically route problems, needs, and suggestions to appropriate help desk functions and course owners for response or remediation.
  • Virtual chat agents that instantly understand complex and idiomatic learner questions, simultaneously improving user satisfaction and lowering support costs.

Think of Your Learning as a catalog of catalogs, with great ways to discover learning activities, improve those activities over time, and respond quickly and accurately to learner needs.

Content in Your Learning can be developed by anyone, although IBM continues to depend on professional instructional designers to create complex content and provoke behavior change.

Your Learning supports a variety of classical reinforcements that can be aligned with learning plans and individual course offerings, such as assessments, surveys, follow-up activities, performance support wikis, communities, etc. Additional examples are:

  • The ability to respond to individual profiles with personalized "Learn more" videos and recommended learning based on job category and role.
  • Filters such as "Recently added" that make it easier for designers to showcase new follow-on learning and for users to find it.
  • Name-level reports for those with appropriate access.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) reporting and analysis.


Your Learning delivers personalized learning to all IBMers around the world. Today, more than 95 percent of IBM employees visit Your Learning, with 78 percent returninge very month. This translates into 4 . 5 million page views per month and more than 15 million learning completions in 2017.

Your Learning is just entering full global rollout, but early indicators point to positive results. For example:

  • Net Promoter Score is increasing past 46 for Your Learning users.
  • The Event Central Chat Advisor now is reducing the burden and expense of human support by 80 percent.
  • Watson analysis now is categorizing thousands of learner comments each month, routing them to help desks and course owners while providing leadership with a global view of learning issues and sentiment.

EY: Economics@EY Challenge

Ernst and Young's transformation into the globally integrated professional services organization that now is known as EY is creating a differentiated client service experience worldwide. The ability to team across cultures and borders is an essential element of high-performing teams using cross-cultural strength to tackle global problems. Globalization brings huge opportunity, and using global scale strengthens EY's network and provides an edge as EY competes for market share in an increasingly connected world.

The success of this vision depends on achieving the goals of the Economics@EY program—the ability of EY's client-serving professionals to apply their engagement economics management knowledge, skills, and behaviors to optimize:

  • Margin, at both the engagement and business unit levels
  • Exceptional client service
  • Firm impact

The full realization of the strategic goal requires the ability to deliver learning through an integrated global model that drives consistency and quality in an innovative, technology-enabled way. Deploying the Economics@EY Challenge globally will contribute significantly to establishing the common terminology, concepts, and leading practices required for a common understanding and consistent application across increasingly integrated service lines, geographies, and functions of the organization.

In 2017, deployment focused on 15,000 staff through partners to develop common knowledge, skills, and behaviors across service lines, regions, and functions in the U.S. In 2018, deployment expands to include non-U.S. professionals to support the more extensive global scope: approximately 200,000 client-serving professionals in more than 150 countries around the world.

Program Details

Prior to the Economics@EY Challenge, multiple EY engagement economics learning programs existed, but they varied by geography, service line, and rank. EY leadership determined that all levels of client-serving professionals, including partners, would benefit from understanding and applying engagement economics as a team.

Some 300 exemplars—representing all service lines, regions, and ranks (from seniors to partners)—participated in three Think Tank virtual brainstorming sessions. Participants identified and prioritized how they optimize margin during each phase of an engagement, the essential knowledge and skills that fuel their actions, and common issues that lead to margin problems.

Based on their feedback, Economics@EY was designed as a massive, multi-player simulated Challenge. It comprises multiple elements that work together to deliver knowledge, provide opportunities for practice through the use of simulated client engagements, and position participants to apply what they learned on real-world client engagements with the support of partner and senior manager coaching.

The structure of the Challenge uses the latest neuroscience research to incorporate spacing, which can increase memory retention by as much as 75 percent. Instructional design that incorporates spaced retrieval in three or more intervals also has been found to optimize long-term memory retention, so elements of the program were spaced into a three-phase "Learn, Practice, Apply" approach.

Elements of the Challenge include:

Pre-assessment: An assessment before beginning the Challenge establishes a baseline of existing knowledge prior to the learning experience.

Microlearning: Players qualify to participate in the Challenge by completing four 15-minute microlearnings that deliver the foundational knowledge of EY's business model, engagement model, and how to develop and manage an engagement budget.

Gamified simulation:

  • Teams of four to six team members (client-serving professionals) plus a team lead (senior manager or partner) are formed, usually based on engagement teams or counseling families.
  • The virtual simulation requires approximately 10 to 12 hours of total "seat" time spread over two to four weeks, with leader boards encouraging friendly competition.
  • The simulation begins with the engagement qualification phase and progresses through the full engagement life cycle.
  • Team members are scored on the impact their decisions have on margin, exceptional client service, and firm impact.
  • It is an individual and a team sport: an individual sport in that each person makes decisions and receives feedback on his or her impact, and a team sport in that teams perform better together with the engagement and assistance of the team lead.


  • Automated coaching is delivered to team members following each action taken and to team leads so they can communicate the impact of decisions made by their team members.
  • Virtual live coaching—including team leads sharing the impacts of team member decisions on their simulated engagement metrics and providing their own relevant experiences—is delivered after each round of the simulation through debriefs hosted by the team lead.
  • After completing the simulation, live coaching is delivered on client engagements and within counseling families.

Post-assessment: An assessment after completing the Challenge measures the effectiveness of the learning.


Every learning satisfaction metric is in the 90th percentile, ranging from a 91 percent favorable rating for confidence in participants' ability to apply the learning to a 95 percent favorable rating on t h e relevance of the learning to their work.

Post-assessment scores show 94 percent of participants have scored above 80 percent, and the scores of those who failed the pre-assessment increased by 42 percent.

A representative sample of 1,008 team leads and team members were invited to participate in post-program interviews and surveys to ascertain on-the-job behavior. Of the participants interviewed, 80 percent reported they have observed impact in areas such as:

  • Improved engagement margin
  • Improved productivity and efficiency
  • Enhanced employee morale and engagement

On the key metric of "Maximized engagement margin level," 53 percent of participants surveyed reported having observed improvement as a result of applying what was learned in the program. The average estimated percentage of improvement they observed was 14 percent.

EY delivered engagements resulting in improvements in service line revenue ranging from 4 to 15.5 percent.


Training Top 125

Applying for the Training Top 125 can showcase your training effectiveness and help L&D earn a seat at the executive decision-making table. Learn more...

From the Editor

Dwarfed by a giant screen, the slender, raven-haired speaker nevertheless commanded the stage as she exhorted the audience to “STAND FOR SOMETHING! And stick to it!”

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

ISA Directory