2019 Learning! 100 Awards Revealed

2019 Learning! 100 Awards Revealed



The Elearning! Media Group is proud to recognize 50 elite public- and private-sector organizations for excellence in learning innovation,  collaboration and business performance. In 2019, the magazine selected 50 top performing organizations from hundreds of applications. This year’s vetting was more rigorous, limiting thirdparty nominations, and weighing financial
performance more heavily.

“Elearning! Magazine is honored to celebrate excellence in learning, says Catherine Upton, group publisher, Elearning!
Magazine. “Despite rapidly shifting needs across the workforce, technologies and investments, these organizations continue to inspire us with their innovation, learning cultures and business outcomes. Congratulations to all the Learning! 100, past and present.”


Learning! 100 submissions are evaluated on three sets of criteria: Darden School’s Learning Culture Index, Collaborative
Strategies’ Innovation & Collaboration Ratings, and overall organizational performance. Every application is reviewed using the same criteria, and scores are totaled and ranked for the Learning! 100.

What makes these organizations the best in their respective fields? Discover the strategies of the world’s top learning organizations in this month’s cover story. Plus, attend upcoming Learning! 100 Web Seminar Series and view articles, blogs and columns contributed by the learning elite in Elearning! Magazine. To learn more about the Learning! 100 Awards, visit http://www.2elearning.com/awards/learning-100-awards.

The 2019 Learning! 50 Elite winners are…


New York Life Hones Future Workforce Skills
Area of Excellence: Culture

In 2016, in response to the rapid pace of change in the external environment, New York Life (NYL) began development of a plan to address the emerging capability gap between what had been NYL’s core legacy strengths (Actuarial Science, Product Development & Pricing, Agent-led Sales and Distribution) and what it determined were new capabilities needed for future success. The company saw the future skills needed to achieve its business strategy would have to include all of its “legacy skills” plus the following four new capabilities:

>> Data Science – A newly emerging field that uses scientific methods,
processes, algorithms and machine learning extract knowledge and insights from its rich collection of available data.
>> Digital & Digital Marketing – Including a rich external digital social presence, the ability to deliver digitally enhanced consumer and agent experiences, and the technical capability to deliver and manage the IT platforms to support all this.
>> Operational Risk – Beyond NYL’s financial and product risk capabilities, the new risks associated with technology, including cyber and model risk, present new ways of viewing its work.
>> Human-Centered Design – Insurance product design is complex. Yet, there
is a growing consumer demand for a more simplified, easy-to-buy, easy-tounderstand and easy-to-service product. NYL contends that the lessons of new industrial product design — sometimes called “Design Thinking” or “Human-Centered Design” — will play a large role in NYL’s future customer and agent experience.

What’s more, NYL realized an opportunity existed to re-position its substantial learning capability to close this potential gap by providing standardized rich learning experiences that re-enforce the basis for the company’s culture (derived from Mutuality), as well as NYL’s deep connection to its customers (derived
from Career Agency).

In 2018, after 18 months of testing and pilot launches, NYL rolled out its solution to deliver the strategy described above: The New York Life Learning Exchange (LEx). New York Life Learning Exchange is a unified digital approach into a world of learning and development experiences designed to help its employees:

>> Understand and thrive through appreciation of NYL’s history, values and culture.
>> Keep skills current for their job today and develop skills emerging in the company’s business.
>> Grow, progress and be ready for their next job. The New York Life Learning Exchange brings to a single point all New York Life’s internal classroom training, e-learning and third-party programs, as well as reference documents from its Jive and Sharepoint sites. The Learning Exchange is organized around Academies and Pathways:
>> Academies – Domains of expertise, content curators and representatives
of best practice for various subject matter areas. These mostly reflect existing learning organizations.
>> Pathways – Role or function or skillsbased curricula. They are curated from any source and linked to success in a particular subject matter area. Pathways in areas, such as Leadership, Change Management, Customer Service, Managing People, Data Science, Accounting and more provide learners with guidance and direction on what learning is most important for their development.

An additional business strategy the Learning Exchange model needed to address was the continual and rapid pace of change in technology skill underpinning all the company’s business changes and the extent to which the team can keep technologists’ skills as current as possible. The “Flex Learn” program was designed in 2017, and fully implemented in 2018, to help technology employees learn what they need, when they need to learn it, using just-in-time learning assets. The initiative was also designed to empower technology employees and to help them feel that the company is investing in their professional growth and development.

NYL is a first-time Learning! 100 Award winner.


Amazon Web Services Ignites Sales Onboarding
Area of Excellence: Performance

“How do I do my job at Amazon Web Services?” sounds like a typical question that new-hire sellers might ask themselves, right? But, it’s a question that Amazon Web Services (AWS) was determined to answer through the launch of its Sales Onboarding program.

The Amazon Web Services Sales Onboarding program was designed to scale globally, providing the seller with experiential learning and reinforcement to improve the time it takes for a new-hire seller or manager to get to full productivity. The program is a combination of cloud competency learning, a four-day experiential learning class, an e-learning sales simulator that presents sellers with challenges that they may encounter in the first few months working with customers and a community of learning that is all designed to teach new commercial sales account managers the essential knowledge, skills, resources and tools to be successful in their role.

New account managers are able to dive in and get up to speed quickly by learning a practical approach to AWS’ selling methodology and tools, leadership principles and customerfocused culture, as well as how AWS innovates and differentiates itself. The
four-day course was very in-depth on understanding customer needs, product and service solutions, creating unique value propositions for each customer, dealing with objections and issues, and where to find answers.

Instructional methodologies included brainstorming sessions, case studies, demonstrations, field trips, group discussions, guest speakers, learning activities, lectures, mentoring, panel discussions, practical exercise labs, research/study, small group assignments, videos and web-based training. This blend of learning methodologies immersed the new account managers into an experiential adventure that helped them answer the original onboarding question, “How do I do my job at Amazon Web Services?”

Further, the program enabled these new sellers to learn how to listen to and understand customers’ needs, and then work backwards to determine what AWS tools and services helped solve those needs. In essence, the experiential approach helped invoke the critical thinking that changes the traditional selling approach of “let me tell you about our products,” to a process that leads to a deep understanding of customers’ needs, and then how to apply the vast portfolio of AWS solution possibilities to best service those customers.

Did it work? With more than 800 new products launched annually, account managers have effectively fueled AWS growth to $25.7 billion, a 45% increase over 2017. The new onboarding program has sped the time to competency, enabled higher sales performance and faster days to close. This is an enormous initiative that is expected to continue to spark the tremendous growth of AWS. AWS is a four-time Learning! 100 Award winner — all in the top 5.


Agilent Launches OFS School of Digital Innovation
Area of Excellence: Innovation

As a leader in life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets, Agilent’s instruments, software, services, solutions and people provide trusted answers to customers’ most challenging questions. This 50-year-old company comprises more
than 15,000 employees around the world.

Agilent fosters a strong learning culture in which employees work closely with their managers on their annual development plans. Within the Order Fulfillment and Supply Chain business, or OFS, Agilent has created the OFS Academy, an award-winning online portal that provides specific learning and development opportunities for 3,000 OFS employees.

Agilent is driving toward a digital future, one where it envisions smarter processes powered by cutting-edge technologies. To create that future, it needs a workforce that knows about the latest technology and how to leverage it.

However, to raise employees to that level, Agilent recognized it had to overcome several challenges:

>> Agilent employees’ education level ranged from high-school diplomas to
multiple university graduate degrees. So the company’s content had to cater to all levels of technical complexity
>> Lessons had to be long enough to be thorough, but short enough not to interfere with employees’ jobs
>> The program needed to be adaptable, both for employees who take classes and for OFS Academy leaders to modify content as corporate needs evolve
>> Courses would need to be interesting and effective enough to result in real learning
>> With employees across four continents, not all fluent in English, language appropriate instruction would be needed

Fortunately, there were no major business challenges. Agilent’s executive staffs at both the corporate and OFS level were committed to leaving no employee behind on its digital journey, so there was minimal red tape to slow the team down.

The company started with the OFS Academy, which provides articles, videos and other content that reinforces its global culture of learning. Later, as team members fine-tuned their long-term strategies, they identified a number of specific areas of focus — including artificial intelligence, robotics and so on. In 2018, Agilent launched the OFS School of Digital Innovation to support its digital transformation. This was a more formal curriculum with five levels of certification. Managers drew up performance goals around the OFS School of Digital Innovation, and employees have embraced the learning, with some even organizing groups of people to take the online classes together and then discuss how they could apply what they learned to their own roles.

The OFS learning and development plan is directly aligned with the company’s strategy and business aspirations — Agilent invests in its team because the company knows it’s the right thing to do. Specifically, in a recent strategy-activation sprint with OFS managers, 98.7% of them told management they would feel comfortable explaining Agilent’s digital transformation to their team, and 94.8% understood innovation was important for continued success. And in an annual survey of OFS employees, 93.7% said the company’s digitalization efforts will provide a positive impact on their customers. OFS School of Digital Innovation participation has been fantastic, with nearly 1,600 graduates as well as 56% of OFS employees as active students.

What’s more, Agilent has just launched a learning network for its OFS sites around the world to ensure no one is left behind in the digital transformation. The company’s learning champions will also help the team shape the future of the OFS Academy, and help tailor lessons to fit their sites’ specific needs. While Agilent has done a lot already, it’s just getting started.

“To ignite learning throughout your organization, it’s certainly important to invest in your people and leverage technology to accelerate that development,” notes Lily Wong, manager of OFS learning & development programs at Agilent. “But, that’s only part of the answer. People can learn a lot from each other, so it’s important to provide tools that encourage learning to happen through conversations and interactions. That could involve handson demonstrations, technology road shows, team assignments and group challenges.”

Agilent advances from its #8 ranking on the 2018 Learning! 100 list. This is the third award for Agilent.


Vi’s Masters Learning Measurement to Quantify Business Impact
Area of Excellence: Performance

Vi operates some of the most luxurious senior living communities in some of the most desirable locations in the United States. And, it has one of the best culinary programs in the industry, while all of Vi’s skilled nursing facilities have achieved fivestar Center for Medicare Services (CMS) status. The company recognizes, however, that at the end of the day, employees are what differentiates Vi from the competition. Vi’s community residents want familiarity and consistency with the employees who provide service and care to them. In fact, the company enjoys a 91% 2018 resident satisfaction score, with 95% of residents willing to refer others to Vi. Therefore, employee retention is key.

Vi’s investments in employee development and strategies to engage every leader, especially line leaders in the importance of employee development, is critical to the company’s value proposition to residents and a key driver of exceptional service and quality care.

Over the years, Vi has continued to refine and enhance the learning and development programs it offers. Whether it’s investing in its Management Development Program, Emerging Leaders Program or Breakthrough Leadership Program, Vi knows strong leadership contributes to a collaborative, high-performing and engaging work environment. But, how does one measure the business impact of learning?


Vi has aligned learning strategies to the business’s top priorities: Retention, Engagement and Advancement. The following are just some of the metrics used to assess the effectiveness of Vi’s learning strategy and solution along with associated results.

>> Attrition: Vi has effectively managed attrition down from 30% in 2012 to the
low 20s in 2017-18 (trending). The cost of associate turnover costs the company more than $18,200 per employee or $9 million. A reduction of turnover from 30% to 20% represents approximately $4.55 million in savings.
>> Internal Promotions: Since the inception of Vi’s Management Development Program in 2008, the company has had more than 800 employees participate in this year-long program. Across the company, and at each location, internal promotions range from 15% to 35% of all job changes.
>> Employee Engagement: Measures specific to training/development and ability to learn and grow queried by 2019 employee survey question, I have the training I need to do my job effectively. SCORE 90.

Vi uses many efficiency metrics to measure effectiveness of learning and development solutions. They range from Content development costs – completed on a per project basis; Content development cycle time – completed on a per project basis; Time to deploy a new learning initiative – completed on a per project basis; Costs for training delivery based on methodology – continually evaluates the costs of delivery of training; Time to employee readiness or competence – measures on a per project basis; and, Cost savings realized through use of technology – measures on a per project basis.


Impact is one of the most challenging statistics for learning leaders to master. Vi has accomplished this task across multiple business processes, including:

>> Hours of training completed by employee – The company not only measures hours per employee, but completion of learning plan.
>> Increase in employee knowledge – as an example of results, participants in Vi’s BLP Program experienced a 37% increase in knowledge measured one year after program completion.
>> Increase in skills capabilities – as an example of the results, participants in Vi’s BLP Program saw their skills increases from 6% to 13%.
>> Training ROI – as an example, Vi’s BLP Program has an estimated standardized ROI resulting in a total value of an employee’s performance of $123,520 based on an average participant salary of $105,000 and an upper total cost of training estimated at $5,000/participant.

Vi believes its focus on developing strong leaders continues to make a difference in the company’s high retention. What’s more, the company knows, based on its research, that it will need to continue to be innovative to differentiate itself in a
highly competitive market.

Vi is a nine-time Learning! 100 Award winner.


Shifting Needs Require New Strategy at DAU
Area of Excellence: Collaboration

DAU, Defense Acquisition University, is the education arm of the United States Department of Defense that serves the people who buy things on behalf of the department. That includes items as simple as office supplies to warplanes and carriers, as well as the cutting-edge modern tools of the defense industry. The U.S. Department of Defense serves a population of more than 173,000 people in the acquisition community through DAU.

Defense Acquisition University certifies acquisition professionals from campuses across the U.S. and worldwide. DAU employs 700 people and is the sole university for the entire acquisition system.

Today’s U.S. defense acquisition professionals must acquire timely war-fighting solutions that are adaptable and sustainable. The strategic challenge in this line of business is to adapt to rapidly advancing adversary capabilities. Defense Acquisition University is challenged to help the workforce foster innovative solutions.


>> Providing 24/7 global access of critical learning assets to the Defense Acquisition Workforce (in 112 countries worldwide)
>> Graduating 196,872 students (43,053 classroom and 153,819 online)
>> Offering 6 million hours of training, 129,000 hours of onthe-job support and 56,000 hours directly with customer organizations in their workplaces
>> The 173,000 acquisition workforce members also completed more than 722,616 continuous learning course offerings, which are available to them anytime and anywhere.


Learning and development challenges mandated a strategic shift. DAU asked: What is next and where do we go from here?

Driven by future workflow needs of its customers and the rapidly expanding capabilities afforded by new technologies, DAU again had to re-invent itself. That has driven the strategic shift that DAU is making now.

The team adapted a model from, “The Values Discipline” by Michael Treacy New and Fred Wiersema. They identified three primary value disciplines of successful organizations: Customer Intimacy, Product Leadership and Operational Excellence. For DAU, Customer Intimacy was the right one! The customer is the central focus of everything it does.

The shift to Customer Intimacy creates a new environment at DAU. To be successful in this new environment, the faculty and staff must adopt collaborative, adaptive and responsive behaviors. They will be working jointly with others, fostering creativity, building cohesion, focusing on collective strengths and accomplishing common goals. They also must be willing to see alternatives in ways to deliver learning, easily change approaches and be flexible in the outcome. Finally, they must react quickly, be open to suggestions and be enthusiastic in their approach to delivering learning.

The Customer Intimacy value discipline also resulted in massive changes to DAU’s web presence to better engage students and stakeholders. The most noteworthy change was a complete redesign of DAU.mil that, in addition to entirely changing the look and feel, brought content scattered throughout numerous sublocations into intuitive “buckets.”

So what else actually changed for DAU and its customers/students? The lines between classroom, online and consulting dissolved, and they are all equal parts of the solution set and scheduled with an eye towards the requirements of each market
segment customer. Faculty and staff actively listen to their customers and use the right tools to meet their needs.

“It’s an exciting time in both of DAU’s worlds — learning and acquisition…. Our success directly translates to the safety of our nation and the achievement of our national interests. As our workforce is successful, so are the men and women of our Armed Forces,” says Jim Woolsey, DAU president.

DAU determined that the best way to help the acquisition workforce and, ultimately, our nation’s warfighters, is to understand DAU’s customers so well that the team could deliver learning solutions that meet their needs every day, in whatever form and whatever place are most powerful.

DAU is an eight-time Learning! 100 Award winner and earned the top spot twice.


Shaw’s Performance Experience Process Empowers All
Area of Excellence: Culture

Shaw Industries Group, Inc., boasts a strong culture of learning, growth and teamwork that is supported by meaningful work experiences, access to a variety of tools and resources, and transparency around the knowledge, experience and competencies critical for each position.

Shaw’s business is changing faster than ever before with new products, new technologies and a rapidly evolving workforce. To keep pace, the company’s 20,000 associates must develop new skills required to succeed in the future. Understanding and managing this change is critical and requires constant focus on learning and practicing behaviors to act strategically, catalyze innovation and change, grow the business, and build and develop people.

The company has changed its learning program — from the education and training programs offered, to expectations of leaders as coaches — to align with the company’s business strategy and the specific leadership imperatives needed to succeed in the future. One of the top priorities was to reinvent the review process.

The review process was outdated and ineffective. A team was assembled to explore options to redesign and improve the process while also improving business results. Under the design-thinking framework, a more ‘human-centered’ approach was developed, termed Performance Experience Process (PXP). ‘What’s Next? You Decide’ approach is based upon accountability and empowerment — with a strong foundation of training and career counseling to help identify strengths, growth opportunities and potential paths forward.

Shaw provides ongoing individual career counseling and professional development, in addition to annual performance reviews. It begins with educating managers and associates about key company values and competencies, and corresponding development targets.

The PXP is designed to help leaders actively focus on professional development and performance throughout the year and empowers associates to take ownership of their career. Associates are encouraged to engage in biweekly one-on-one conversations with leaders that entail: what’s working, what’s not and what’s next.

Shaw’s talent model is updated as business goals evolve to ensure those priorities are well-communicated and associates are appropriately coached, trained and evaluated. Courses available through the Shaw Learning Academy correspond with PXP, making it easy for managers and associates to identify best sessions based upon their objectives and improvements.

Company sales grew 8% last year, the second year of PXE implementation. Shaw has also seen improved engagement scores and associate ownership of their own development progress.

Shaw Industries will continue to grow and evolve its learning programs to meet
changing business needs. Building on the success of a core curriculum program for new hires and first-time managers, Shaw will be rolling out core curriculum for all levels to address key leadership transitions. Expansion of Shaw’s Design Thinking programs and a change management program are in development, as well as the introduction of a coaching and assessment center to help leaders identify specific needs and create a more targeted development plan.

The company believes people are its competitive advantage and it wants to create an environment where associates can pursue their passions through careers across a wide range of disciplines. With options for keeping skills current and preparing for future moves, Shaw associates are the company’s top source of talent for leadership opportunities.

Shaw is an eight-time Learning! 100 Award winner.


Providence’s LEAD Rise Programs Reflect Modern Learning Culture
Area of Excellence: Culture

Providence St. Joseph Health is pursuing its 150+ year-old tradition of seeking innovative ways to transform healthcare by helping people live their healthiest lives and making its services more convenient, accessible and affordable for all. Providence St. Joseph Health’s 119,000 employees, known as caregivers, serve 51 hospitals, more than 800 clinics and a comprehensive range of health and social services across Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

The company considers its caregivers as more than resources, human capital or assets. Providence St. Joseph Health wants caregivers to feel supported to grow and flourish as individuals, while developing their gifts and talents in a community inspired by its mission and heritage. What’s more, Providence team leaders are dedicated to developing their caregivers’ skills and talents to maximize their full potential in their current and future careers.

The internal and external environment for talent is the toughest PSJH has seen in at least 100 years! For example, one-third of the company’s senior leaders may retire in the next five years. Providence is moving past “managing resources” and evolving from “enabling business strategy” to thinking about “workforce as a business strategy.” Thus, the organization is cultivating a mission-inspired workforce, preparing to deliver on the needs of its diverse communities, today and into the future! To support this, Providence is strengthening its talent pipeline by ensuring that every caregiver is developed in alignment with their professional aspirations and their personal calling. The company has found that learning and development remain among the top three reasons caregivers choose to stay with Providence — with career development being the number two reason.

Providence is transitioning from a traditional training/education way of learning to a modern learning performance culture. Its learning stakeholders identified six guiding principles: Integrated and Accessible, Technology Enabled, Capacity Building, Learner Centric, Engaging and Relevant, and Mission Aligned.

The next generation of learning at Providence will be based on an internally branded Learning Experience Platform (LXP). It will be packaged as an individual caregiver’s learning journey and tailored to their specific job needs and interests. Caregivers will have the ability to connect, learn, grow and renew through use of this platform. The caregiver’s learning journey will be self-directed with the ability to explore the universe of learning on their own through organic and curated content and the community of learners.

Furthermore, Providence has updated its strategy to enable a learning and development experience that increases caregivers’ growth, engagement and performance. The company’s promise to “Know me, Care for me, Ease my way,” is supported by being personalized (tailored learning), supportive (learner centric/ just in time/high-quality), and integrated (seamless, engaging and accessible). Providence will be implementing this by: Partnering with caregivers to improve access to learning; Implementing technology to ease the way of caregivers and bring all learning into one source; Creating communities of practice that are
integrated to drive top of license in design, delivery and administration; and redesigning current learning and development solutions to increase quality and performance.


Providence’s learning programs have demonstrated measurable business impacts. For example:
>> Executive Clinical Value Improvement (CBI) – To date, this program has trained 272 caregivers, with another approximately 400 caregivers directly affected by 30 projects. This translates to $2 million in hard savings.
>> Nurse Manager Development Program – This award-winning program  has trained more than 680 caregivers throughout the system and are on track to support 23 learning cohorts in 2019. Local session evaluations average 4.5 (out of 5).

Providence St. Joseph Health is a first time Learning! 100 Award honoree.


Gamification Motivates Colonial Life’s Sales Team
Area of Excellence: Innovation

Colonial Life is a market leader in providing financial protection benefits through the workplace, including disability, life, accident, dental, critical illness and hospital confinement indemnity insurance. The company’s benefits services and education, innovative enrollment technology and personal service support nearly 95,000 businesses and organizations, representing nearly 4.5 million of America’s workers and their families.

The company works to develop a culture where knowledge and skills are shared freely. Benefits counselors are encouraged to seek knowledge and skills and apply that learning when and where it is needed. Learning happens all the time, including classroom sessions both face to face and virtual, online communities, self-paced CBTs, and on-the-job training with instructors and mentors. What matters is that the knowledge and skills acquired are applied in the most-effective way in order to achieve the organization’s strategic goals.


Sales Training is responsible for the training and development of independent contracted sales representatives (1099 reps) and managers. It can be a challenge to get contracted sales representatives and managers, who are compensated solely with commission, to see the value in training because the nature of their business singularly emphasizes sales production.

Prior to the implementation of its learning management system, My Learning Connection, Colonial Life had training scattered across multiple systems. What’s more, Colonial Life lacked the ability to track and report training completions easily. Sales Training found it challenging to prioritize individual learning objects and show any ROI from the offered training.


The Sales Training team had to find ways to play off the competitive nature of the company’s workforce and their appreciation for recognition. Colonial Life’s gamification initiative would do precisely that. Through reporting, the team would identify underutilized training that their area believed was valuable for most individuals. They would assign points to these pieces of training, allowing users to accumulate points.

Each month, there would be a focus on five or six different parts of the training
that had points. Monthly playlists would help users identify these highlighted pieces of training. If a month’s highlighted training were completed, a user would automatically be assigned a certificate with a badge and additional points. Assigning the badge through the Learning Assignment Tool would trigger an email congratulating individuals and encouraging them to send the Sales Training team a selfie along with their certificate, which would be posted on the company’s Instagram account. A detailed communication plan would be developed to constantly
recognize the top reps and managers on the leaderboard and any individual who received the monthly badge. Reporting would be utilized to identify the top rep and manager with the most points at the end of the month. The second phase of this initiative would also engage users in training but would focus on retention. It would also outline ways to gamify content to help reps retain relevant business knowledge through game mechanics.

Managers are given the exclusive ability to assign training, access reports on their teams, create playlists, and have access to Connect communities to discuss important topics amongst each other and with the Home Office. The company can measure manager success in assigning training versus its (Home Office) success assigning training.


Through its gamification initiative, the team has seen a 133% increase in completions of highlighted Learning Objects (LOs). Since the initiative started in July 2018, more than 15,700 learning objects with points have been completed. More than 70 of the company’s sales reps have received badges for completing monthly highlighted training, which, on average, are six specific LOs within a single month. Some managers began running their own contests to get their teams excited about training, and the company’s LMS reports gave them the insight into their territory office’s training completions to be able to lead these reward and recognition activities around training for the first time.

By implementing game mechanics where appropriate, Colonial Life has been able to increase learner engagement through gamifying the learning process and training content.

Colonial Life is a first-time Learning! 100 Award winner.


Choice Hotels International Enhances Leader Onboarding Strategy
Area of Excellence: Performance

Choice Hotels is one of the largest hospitality franchising companies in the
world, with nearly 6,800 hotels across 11 brands in more than 40 countries and territories. Choice University, or ChoiceU, provides a variety of learning solutions to more than 70,000 learners annually. The organization’s franchising model, the number of open properties, its geographic dispersion, number of learners and shifting workforce all present unique challenges for learning.

In 2017, Choice Hotels’ focus was a complete transformation of ChoiceU features, functionality and content. With a strong foundation of learning capabilities and infrastructure in place, the ChoiceU team identified new ways to make strong connections between learning and franchisee performance.

Both data and experience show that the single-greatest differentiator in hotel performance is the leader: owners and general managers (GM). A key challenge, however, is the number of new leaders entering the system at any given time. In a given year, the number of new owners and GMs entering the system is greater than 2,000 globally.

Another challenge is the timing of when these individuals enter the system. Some of the new hotel openings and relicensing are planned well in advance, but the employment transitions can happen at any time. The longer it takes to onboard them, the more challenging it becomes as operational habits are formed and ultimately hotel performance can be impacted. An important goal, therefore, is to educate and support these individuals as early in the process as possible in order to increase their speed to open and their ability to elevate property performance.

In 2018, the company’s focus was to ensure owners and GMs were fully prepared to operate their property effectively. Key challenges included the scale and timing of these stakeholders entering the system.


First, the company sought to understand the extent of the opportunity and identified the number and types of new entrants. The ChoiceU team took inventory of current onboarding resources and found the only consistent resource was a two-and-a-half day, in-person onboarding program, called LAUNCH. The LAUNCH program was delivered monthly, but only reached about 400 of these key stakeholders. Upon deeper review, they determined the topics and delivery methods were not optimal and quickly realized there was a gap and much-needed opportunity to connect learning to franchisee performance.

With this information in hand, the company worked closely with its owner liaisons to establish buy-in. Although the ChoiceU team led the efforts, they worked in close partnership with their key stakeholders. They surveyed owners and GMs and asked them what they needed in order to optimize their performance. Blending their expertise with their feedback, the ChoiceU team identified key areas they needed to understand.

In January 2018, the company implemented Choice Onboard, a comprehensive, multi-tiered and audience-specific onboarding program. This program replaced the LAUNCH program and has a learner experience and knowledgeretention focus.


All programs are currently active, but were implemented at different times. Yet, overall results have been impressive. To date, Choice Hotels has achieved the following:

>> More than 500 new owners and GMs completed Choice Onboard – more than 10% increase over previous years
>> Participants indicated greater than 85% of what was learned during Choice Onboard could be taken back and implemented at their property
>> Choice Onboard properties increased Likelihood to Recommend (LTR) scores 6 basis points from 7.58 prior to the training to 7.64 at six months following the training
>> Choice Onboard properties increased Overall Service scores 5 basis points from 8.07 prior to the training to 8.12 at six months following the training

“Choice University reflects our ongoing commitment to empower hotel owners to be in business for themselves — but never by themselves,” says Tim Tobin, vice president, franchisee onboarding and learning, Choice Hotels. “We’re thrilled that Choice Hotels’ longstanding dedication to providing our franchisees with customized training and best-in-class resources is being recognized with this prestigious honor.”

Choice Hotels International is a three time Learning! 100 Award honoree.


UPS Markets to Learners and Wins
Area of Excellence: Performance

When UPS implemented an Enterprise Learning Management System, which integrated third-party courses and other active assets, the company knew a better learning experience challenge had developed. Passive assets, such as books, audiobooks, videos and Live Events, lost visibility — as learners could no longer log in to UPS’ legacy learning portal directly. With this change the company noticed a sharp decline in the utilization of these historically wellused and appreciated assets. A learning marketing team was assembled and was challenged with providing awareness of the key content to its learners. UPS’ first steps began during the team’s weekly strategy sessions, whereby UPS identified these learning priorities:

>> Audience focus of full-time supervisors and above
>> Mobile learning capabilities
>> Ease of finding third-party content in all modalities
>> Return of using portal to access Books & Video assets via an API-like link within the UPS LMS
>> Promotion of self-directed (organic) learning

Team members determined that they wanted their learners to search and easily find training to meet their needs; therefore, they decided to focus on marketing self directed learning. They developed a working project plan to implement and track their goals.

UPS redesigned and rebranded the Books & Videos site, and then brought attention to the mobile app with instructions and a graphic. Each quarter, the team updated the offerings under Featured Content. UPS updated the site and provided a direct link to it from within its LMS, which endeavored to help guide learners toward the Books & Video learning modalities. The team made finding content even easier by reducing the number of clicks learners needed to take to find learning assets. This spurred the company to create widgets or linkable tiles for the different categories or topics on the homepage, such as Audio Books, Book Summaries and Professional Certification paths, as well as Business Skills, IT Skills and Productivity, and Collaboration Tools. This proved to be exceedingly successful, as it took just one click for learners to find assets for topics they were previously searching for. UPS has tracked books and video usage since the site redesign and found a 57% increase in unique users and a 70% increase in accesses of these modalities since late 2017.

UPS’ next step was to focus attention on the mobile app, with instructions on how to access and download it with an easy-to-identify graphic displayed right on the homepage. The company takes further advantage of its marketing real estate by updating the offerings under Featured Content quarterly. UPS is mindful to always include a book, an audiobook and a video to promote these modalities. The company also works with its international partners, asking for recommendations to meet their business unit needs, such as Using Performance Appraisals to Advance Your Career. During a three-month period, usage of this course increased 26%.

UPS successfully leverages third-party content to create learning paths based on their learners’ level of responsibility. Specific content has been targeted for supervisors, such as Managing Motivation during Organizational Change to help as the organization embarks on a five-year transformation initiative all mapped out. An extremely popular program, titled Supervisor Learning Path (SLP), was created using third-party content to help supervisors improve, maintain or grow their skills using various assets from courses to books to videos. While this program is geared for part-time and full-time supervisors, UPS made it available to administrative
and technical employees as well, which allows them to prepare for the next steps in their career path.

The UPS marketing group has grown from non-existent prior to April 2017 to a cohesive team steadily working to update learners of the many different offerings, including: Productivity & Collaboration Tools; Leadership; Live Events; Professional Certifications; Books & Videos, including audio books; The Mobile App; and Promotion of Featured Content.

To measure the program’s progress, UPS identifies, strategizes, tracks and measures its success. Weekly meetings allow the company to keep the lines of communication open and help everyone check and adjust to any just-in-time
needs. UPS also hosts quarterly partnership summits, where the team reviews
the metrics with detailed discussions regarding trending and ROI. These meetings allow UPS to determine not only where it has been, but it is an excellent opportunity for team members to determine where they want to go with their next investment.

UPS is a four-time Learning! 100 Award winner.

2019 Learning! 50 Elite Celebration of Excellence

And below is the full list of the 2019 Learning! 100:

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