Training Top 10 Hall Of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (March/April 2020)

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 three initiatives that achieved the highest scores are detailed below (EY, Verizon, and PwC). The other 13 submissions will be profiled in the four remaining issues in 2020.


Advisory is one of the four service lines at EY, helping clients solve complex industry issues and capitalize on opportunities to grow, optimize, and protect their businesses. The biannual Academy training event is for Advisory professionals within EY’s Financial Services Organization (FSO)—who serve the firm’s largest customer base in the financial services industry—along with strategic business development partners and internal supporting stakeholders. The Academy is an immersive, blended learning experience of gamified pre-work, skill-building breakouts, engaging speakers, and a Tech Zone, with content that applies to financial Advisory professionals in North America (and globally), as well as groups it partners with to help solve client challenges.

Sessions were designed to enable participants to think differently, sell differently, lead differently, and operate differently. Academy content was aligned to areas identified to drive FSO Advisory revenue growth and help achieve a growth target of more than $1 billion over the next five years.

Program Details

The Academy was held August 6-7, 2019, in Atlantic City, NJ, bringing together approximately 2,600 FSO Advisory professionals and go-to-market partners from around the world, across business units, and the service line.

The theme of the event was: Empower. Innovate. Transform.

  • Empower people with knowledge and skills to develop themselves so they can be the most effective in serving clients
  • Innovate the way EY goes to market and connects with clients
  • Transform how EY employees team together to help clients meet challenges

The participant experience started in May with a gamified pre-work site utilizing a virtual game board designed to increase engagement and reflect each user’s 9 tiles of required pre-work, with a countdown clock. Pre-work was launched in three waves, each introduced by a leadership video. A “bonus button” allowed learners to earn extra points. The leaderboard displayed total points earned and team performance. A pre-work winner was announced on the Website each week and sent a prize.

Previously, consumption rates for pre-work were below 10 percent for some programs, but the Academy gamified pre-work saw 75 percent active participants and 45 percent completion.

At the Academy, participants attended:

1. Plenary sessions: Three sessions were presented by internal and industry speakers, including two from EY clients.

2. Skill-building breakouts: These included activities, case studies, and group exercises where participants could practice skills. The 21 sessions focused on technical discussions of solutions, professional skill development for building trusted relationships, and strategies to better understand the future of EY clients’ industries. There were also seven practice town halls.

3. Tech Zone: Learners could independently explore 32 booths with more than 1,000 demos; each booth showcased a specific EY-built asset in hands-on microlearning experiences. In the cloud demo, for example, the “cloud” became touchable, with participants removing wired connections to see how servers linked. Similarly, to demonstrate the power of blockchain, participants used toy building blocks to map out how information is stored and transferred. Points were awarded based on the level of learner interaction. Each demo was recorded at the Academy and built into a virtual library.

The post-Academy site provided links to online communities, knowledge resources, and additional information. Academy learning counted toward the requirements to earn an EY badge, providing a credential in future-focused skills.


On a scale of 1 to 5, the event achieved an average above 4 in every category of learning, which surpassed EY’s minimum 4 rating benchmark.

  • I feel that this was a valuable learning experience: 4.43
  • The knowledge and skills gained are directly relevant to my work: 4.41
  • I am confident I can apply what I learned to my work: 4.36
  • I intend to apply what I learned to my work: 4.44
  • I would recommend this learning experience to others: 4.45
  • Time allotted to the learning activity was appropriate: 4.21
  • Program materials were relevant and contributed to the achievement of the learning objectives: 4.3
  • The prerequisites were appropriate for the program: 4.21
  • The communications that introduced the learning were useful: 4.33

Other results include:

  • Traffic to online areas where follow-on learning and resources are housed more than tripled or even quadrupled.
  • More than 25 percent of learners signaled interest during the session in new opportunities because of the event’s insights and learnings.
  • Some 570 learners requested more information on specific Tech Zone demos, indicating interest in potential new revenue opportunities.
  • Some 150 client opportunities were identified for EY’s technical assets and NextWave strategy, indicating potential revenue opportunities.


Leadership Edge (LE) is a leadership culture transformation initiative reaching every Verizon employee at a time the company is facing massive transformation. LE was built to drive success in two critical strategic goals that were part of the goals unveiled by Verizon’s newly appointed CEO in late 2018:

  • Reorient Verizon’s operating structure more toward its customer
  • Develop new ways of leadership and culture for the “future of work”

Changes and questions the company faced included:

  • Fourth Industrial Revolution: Technological innovations will drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution, changing our life as we know it. How will Verizon stay at the forefront of innovation?
  • Evolving relationships with third-party partners: The race to launch 5G will dramatically shift the competitive landscape— some partners are now also competitors. How will Verizon work with and, if applicable, compete with its partners?
  • New ecosystem: It’s harder to identify who Verizon should collaborate with or influence in an increasingly complex technology ecosystem. How do leaders navigate through this complexity while keeping their teams productive?
  • Changing customer expectations: Customer expectations for content, trust, and security are evolving. How can Verizon create solutions and services that keep the customer at the forefront?

Program Details

Re-orienting Verizon’s operating structure required that on April 1, 2019, the company shift from its existing product-centric operating model to a customer-centric model. This required a massive, enterprise-wide restructuring and comprehensive talent strategy focused on transforming its leaders’ capabilities, its employees’ skill sets, and its culture for future ways of working.

The original LE plan targeted Verizon’s senior leadership team. Once initial success was seen and the impact was apparent, Verizon’s CEO recommended further deployment to all leaders (28,000 people), quickly followed by all Verizon employees (135,000-plus).

Verizon’s CEO engaged its Talent Development Team to develop LE. Development varied by audience:

Top-Level Leaders: A three-day instructor-led training (ILT) experience was built with inspiring new insights, mindsets, and behaviors. The program included 20 “new ways of leading” with tactical and strategic tools and concepts organized into three overarching segments: Imagine, Innovate, Inspire. Infused into the program were signature learning experiences to offer learning via different modalities to support reinforcement and application.

Day 1: IMAGINE: Shape the future with foresights from megatrends across a complex and changing ecosystem. Experiences included:

  • CEO kick-off
  • Live speakers such as Mike Walsh, futurist, author of “The Algorithmic Leader,” and Harvard Business Review writer
  • New ecosystem activities that encouraged executives to ask, “What if?” and to “look for the signposts”

Day 2: INNOVATE: Generate unique insights to create the most differentiated innovations Verizon can deliver at scale. Experiences included:

  • Improv expert Second City reinforcing collaboration via comedy and laughter
  • Time spent for leaders to ask themselves, “How am I feeling?”
  • Challenging long-held orthodoxies

Day 3: INSPIRE: Inspire and empower by how Verizon leaders show up every day in the moments that matter for their teams. Experiences included:

  • Babson professor and author of “Conscious Capitalism and the Healing Organization” Raj Sisodia leading a workshop on societal impact and offering external insights into the role of capitalism and society
  • Exploring the science of habits and a system to commit to sustain change
  • Experiences to focus energy on inspiring, empowering, and building trust
  • Executive leadership council members dropping in at different times, hosting dinners and Q&As throughout all sessions. Further, evenings often included special “VTalk” experiences with speakers, including Kickstarter founder Yancy Strickler and Makers founder Dyllan McGee.

Following the live program, Verizon rolled out an online, bite-sized, video-based Tech Series designed to increase enterprise-wide fluency in emerging technologies.

Front-Line Leaders: This four-month learning journey was designed to mirror the executive experience but virtually. The Leadership Edge Cascade was built with three virtual instructor-led trainings (vILTs) using Adobe Connect9 and a curated Pathway via the Verizon Learning Portal 2.0 platform powered by Degreed. In the first half of 2020, all remaining employees will complete “myEdge,” a docuseries highlighting the 20 LE concepts.

Verizon used Allego’s Learning App to deliver post-session support via mobile phone. Accountability Leadership Teams (ALT) also kept the momentum going after sessions. Senior leaders were paired with leaders they may not work with regularly. Top leaders self-selected LE-trained peers to connect with, and were given an ALT guide that provided specific direction on quick discussions and activities the group could complete together.


Verizon measured change in leadership behavior via Kirkpatrick Level 3 surveys. A majority of leaders reported significant 30 to 50 percent increases in the key LE behaviors.

Employee satisfaction was measured using applicable questions from Verizon’s companywide quarterly Pulse Survey. Third-quarter 2019 results included:

  • Steady quarter-over-quarter scores for “I get the help I need to remove obstacles that prevent me from doing my job well.”
  • Above-average rating for “How would you rate your overall satisfaction with Verizon?”
  • Above-average rating for “I see my supervisor adopting new ways of working to reflect Verizon’s new operating culture.”


As part of PwC’s strategy to upskill the people of PwC, it pioneered a live app-based trivia game, called PowerUp! in September 2018. The game is a fun, engaging way for the firm’s more than 50,000 U.S. employees across all lines of service to obtain critical knowledge on a range of 27 digital upskilling topic areas such as data, analytics, artificial intelligence, automation, and blockchain. PowerUp!’s digital focus was joined with questions about other firmwide strategic initiatives to provide a balanced approach to learning topics and areas of interest. This app-based, live 10-minute digital trivia game with prizes engaged PwC teams and individual players to build their digital skills and firm knowledge.

Program Details

Content development for PowerUp! proved to be an engaging challenge with two live games per week, each game containing 10 questions focused on a single digital topic and strategic initiatives. Each digital topic was visited multiple times throughout the season to implement PwC’s spaced repetition strategy.

An interactive multimedia services company developed PowerUp!’s back-end platform, which was customized in collaboration with PwC. The firm invested significant thought and planning into the game design for PowerUp! and especially focused on team play, through design thinking and extensive usability testing. The goals:

  • Align with PwC’s mostly team-based work
  • Raise commitment to learning about each game’s topic while building camaraderie
  • Reinforce PwC’s team culture, essential to collaborative client service

To help employees prepare for each game, PwC identified short learning assets based on each game’s topics and then developed questions around those assets. Learning assets were published in PwC’s “Digital Hub” in advance, and PowerUp! players were routinely reminded that reviewing the assets would help them achieve better results in the game.

PowerUp! games were livestreamed directly to a mobile phone app twice weekly for seven months—71 episodes aired from September 25, 2018, until the end of season 1 on June 14, 2019. Season 2 began in November 2019 and consists of three sprints of four to five games each (one game a week) on targeted digital topics.

After downloading the app from PwC’s App Store, registering, and setting up a profile, players can join an existing team, form a team of two to eight players, or opt to play as an individual. Notifications leading up to gametime alert players to open their app. At gametime, after a countdown, the live host starts with a fun introduction, typically focused on holidays or firm events. Next, the host asks questions and players tap their selected answers and see results.

Gameplay basics:

  • 10 multiple-choice questions, 15 seconds to answer each.
  • Once the time is up, the host reveals the answer, nurturing learning in the moment.
  • Right answers earn points at three levels of difficulty; no elimination for wrong answers to keep players engaged.
  • Higher rewards for teams motivate team-based play and help build camaraderie; prizes are split between winning teams.
  • 'Post-game, players can get inspired by team and individual leaderboards, and winners receive prizes.


Participation in PowerUp! is driving larger firmwide digital goals:

  • Engaged about half of the U.S. firm, with 62 percent of the 26,579 unique users playing five or more games and nearly 40 percent playing 10 or more games.
  • Kept most players engaged/learning throughout the entire game vs. typically high drop-off rates for other app-based trivia games.
  • Inspired repeated access of game prep-related digital assets in PwC’s Digital Hub.
  • Reinforced PwC’s team-based culture essential to collaborative client service, with 6,736 teams taking part. The firm heard many stories of teams developing study guides and working together to prepare for games.
  • Sparked people-led learning and helped to advance PwC’s digital transformation, helping to enable the firm to bring digital acumen to client work across industries and deliver on the PwC Purpose to build trust in society and solve important problems.
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