High-Impact Training

High-Impact Training


Like all banks, teller turnover is a challenge For Wachovia. With approximately 8,000 new tellers hired annually, even the slightest incremental percentage change in the turnover rate has major business impact.

This is a significant factor behind Wachovia’s Teller Team Academy. The innovative training initiative, developed in 2006 and rolled out in 2007, replaced the company’s legacy teller training. The training was designed to improve onboarding and engagement, speed new hire productivity, reduce teller turnover. In January 2008, Bersin & Associates recognized Wachovia and the teller training initiative with a Learning Leaders Award in the category of operational excellence.


One of the nation’s largest diversified financial services companies with assets of $754 billion and a market capitalization of $95 billion, Wachovia serves 13 million household and business customers in 21 states. Globally, clients are served through more than 40 foreign offices.

The Teller Team Academy’s quality is a direct result of extensive due diligence and the use of classic best practices for training development. A cross-functional HR team — representing areas such as recruiting, training and organizational practices — was assembled to direct the initiative. To ensure all requirements were identified with an objective perspective, the team selected Allen Communications to conduct a formal needs assessment.

The assessment included analyses of existing online and classroom content; usability tests to pinpoint areas of learner struggle; interviews with tellers, teller trainers and managers; focus groups to determine skills gaps between experienced and new tellers; and a detailed examination of the training processes and curriculum involved in onboarding.

The assessment findings—coupled with the company’s desire to create a training program reflective of today’s corporate philosophy, branding and customer service goals—prompted a complete overhaul of new teller training.

Because the program needed to be comprehensive — beginning on an employee’s first day and covering all skills and behaviors needed for on-the job success – the team agreed that a blended approach was the best solution.

“This was an opportunity for us to take advantage of all training techniques,” says Jennifer Jageler, vice president of human resources and learning services. “Relying solely on e-learning wouldn’t do the job. We wanted to employ simulations, labs, job shadowing and mentoring in order to give our audience the best onboarding experience possible.

“Plus, we knew these diverse techniques would help us better address the target audience: entry-level individuals who are typically between 18 and 26 and have a high school education.”

To gain executive support, the HR team outlined the findings and its recommendations for direction and content with key stakeholders and business partners.


The team established specific and measurable goals for the training initiative before any work began. These included:

>> Reduce teller turnover. At current minimum wage, the cost to replace a new teller is approximately $3,700.

>> Reduce times out of balance, policy violations and losses. Any reduction in loss amounts have significant, positive impact on profitability.

 >> Improve candidate vetting. With a realistic preview of job responsibilities, new hires can quickly determine if the position is a good fit before incurring additional costs. Additionally, new hires have an opportunity to see career growth opportunities.

>> Maintain/grow teller service level scores. The American Customer Satisfaction Index rated Wachovia as the top consumer bank for five years straight. Maintaining high levels of customer service is paramount to the company’s strategy.

>> Ensure all training materials align with Wachovia’s branding standards. In addition to bringing the look and feel of the program in line with corporate standards, the program must convey Wachovia’s vision, brand promise, service philosophy and commitment to diversity.

>> Quickly develop proficiency with Wachovia’s teller processing system. Tellers must learn to process 42 different types of transactions without error.

>> Engage learners with high levels of interactivity and realism by using process simulations, goal-based scenarios, exploratory learning activities, games and quizzes, and animations.

>> Ensure courseware content is easy to update and maintain.

Allen Communications did most of the “heavy-lifting” development. Five Wachovia staff members were assigned to the project to oversee the project, supplemented by SMEs, reviewers and others who assisted with quality assurance, LMS integration and testing.


The cornerstone of the Teller Team Academy is a sophisticated Flash-based multimedia course. Primarily accessed from CDs, the 28-hour course gives new tellers a realistic preview of the corporate culture, sets job expectations, defines responsibilities and promotes a sense of belonging within Wachovia.

Most of the instruction is done through a series of virtual mentors, all drawn from Wachovia employees. The information communicated by these mentors, who hold positions such as teller, teller manager and regional manager, comes from expert interviews conducted by Allen Communications. In fact, in some the virtual mentors’ dialogue is drawn straight from actual transcripts.

“We wanted our mentors to look and act like real people new tellers would meet and work with,” says Debbie Gill, area vice president of human resources and curriculum project owner. “We’ve incorporated into dialogue what employees experienced when they were new to the job, what they wished they had known, and how they have grown with the company.”

All settings and composites used in the course are based on actual places and people, designed to portray daily life in Wachovia’s financial centers. Wachovia’s marketing organization also had a hand in the training to ensure that all branding guidelines— from fonts to colors and music—applied to the design and treatment.

Course design followed the ARCS model, which prescribes the following:

>> Gain learner’s attention in a compelling manner.

>> Illustrate how this topic is relevant to real life.

>> Demonstrate to the learner proven methods for accomplishing the required task, and build confidence that he or she can apply these methods on the job.

>> Provide opportunities for learners to practice and obtain a feeling of satisfaction for accomplishing the training objectives and mastering the information.

The course illustrates a variety of customer experiences, while also displaying the system screens and documents that the teller would be working with in the course of serving the customer. Learners choose from multiple responses and, accordingly, hear different outcomes. 

For instance, in a section of the course that covers the cashing of Social Security checks, a new teller learns how to examine checks and verify ID — with images of actual Social Security checks and drivers’ licenses displayed. Learners can enlarge document images and even turn them over to examine the backs.

In addition to teaching the learner how to best deal with customers, the course also instructs when checks can be cashed or deposited, how to make deposits and solutions to problems. The learner interacts with a realistic customer and, through a simulation, practices using the bank’s transaction processing system to actually make a deposit.

The online course covers all basic transactions typically encountered by a teller — as well as those that are exceptional. For example, another section of the course instructs the learner how to handle a customer request for a major cash advance on a credit card after the teller has already closed his or her workstation.

The online course, taken by new hires in the first several weeks of their employment, is supplemented with instructor-led practice labs where students get hands-on experience with the bank’s transaction system; observations and mentoring; and on the- job practice with mentoring.


Wachovia rolled out the Teller Team Academy by geographic region. The mandatory new-teller training is now used enterprise wide. The results have been positive. Evaluation data captured on several levels have shown training has had a positive impact in several areas, most significantly in the reduction of teller turnover.

In fact, during the program’s pilot, turnover in the first 31 to 60 days of employment dropped 1.2 percent; turnover in the first 61 to 90 days of employment dropped 3 percent; and overall turnover in the first 90 days of employment dropped 3.6 percent. Wachovia has the potential to save approximately $1.16 million annually for every 1 percent reduction in turnover, so initial pilot results are encouraging.

In addition, new tellers in the pilot program out-performed new tellers throughout the rest of the company. This included a 15 percent reduction in times-out-of balance, a 19 percent improvement in sales credits, a 14 percent reduction in total policy violations, and fewer policy violations per people month than new tellers in the rest of the company.

New tellers who feel that the culture and job are not suited for them are able to self select out early in the training process, thereby reducing Wachovia’s overall investment in the employee, while those who elect to continue on with the training are provided with a sense of belonging and inclusion (in part through the extensive use of mentor characters in the course).

The course also prepares new tellers to work with corporate systems and customer service. The simulated workstation and customer interactions received rave reviews from both new tellers and company executives. Because the course was built in XML, it can be easily localized, translated into other languages, and updated as systems, policies and procedures evolve.

“Wachovia’s teller program is an outstanding example of high-impact learning,” says Josh Bersin, president of Bersin & Associates and one of the Learning Leader judges. “The program is carefully aligned with business goals, built on a well-executed needs analysis, and blends learning techniques into an engaging and relevant experience for learners.”

Says Jageler: “Wachovia places great importance on a partnership approach to business. The reason this program is so successful is that we had the input, help and support of so many people and organizations throughout the company.”

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