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ATD Dallas AXIS Awards recognize innovative organizations that achieve results in workplace learning and talent development. The AXIS Awards are open to small and large private, public and not-for-profit organizations from the DFW area.

Congratulations to the 2023 AXIS Awards Winners!

2023 AXIS Awards Winners

Best of Show

Highland Homes

Career and Leadership Development

1st Place – GM Financial

GM Financial’s STEM Program encompasses the STEM Practicum program and partnerships with organizations that help drive STEM initiatives. The program vision is to foster a diversified STEM talent pipeline through STEM education for all. The focus expanded to cultivating, empowering, and employing the next generation of technology and innovation leaders (internally and externally). Through this initiative, they address STEM challenges such as the talent pipeline shortages, diversity, education and experiences, and interest, and leadership development. Their strategy is multi-year, multifaceted to influence the future of STEM and career and technical education (CTE) and promotes opportunities for all.

As the program vision is created, horizon planning aids in developing a plan for one to two years and three to five years that ties to the core values and strategic priorities of the organization and lays the foundation for completing the work. They ensure the program aligns to the overall talent strategy for the organization and the specific current and forecasted information technology talent needs (e.g., high demand roles, critical and hard-to-fill roles, new technology skills). They also develop a strategy for how and with whom to form partnerships within the community. Through this strategy they increased their community partners, partner events (e.g., Lego challenges, office and career tours, Day In the Life of an IT professional, DECA competitions, advisory board committees).

2nd Place – Sendero Consulting

In 2022, Sendero refreshed their existing Talent Review process to help foster their talent's growth and development while also giving Senior Leadership insight into current talent health status. Talent Reviews help identify which individuals are doing the best work, who has potential to grow quickly within the company, and who might be a retention risk. Sendero refreshed their Talent Review process to more efficiently gather data on each employee’s growth potential, performance, and retention status.

With the refreshed process, the Talent Review Board evaluates the current health of our talent based on automatically gathered talent health data, which helps identify areas they would like to focus on to ensure their talent is growing, performing, and is retained. They have now been able to collaborate and turn insights into action and to strategically manage their talent throughout the year and into the future.

Talent Strategy and Management

1st Place – Invitation Homes

The pandemic created unprecedented challenges for Invitation Homes, forcing them to reevaluate their Talent Management strategy in a way that would enable them to compete effectively in the Single Family Rental Industry. They knew that retaining top talent would be essential to success, and so they listened carefully to the feedback from our associate surveys. What they heard was clear: associates wanted more career growth and development, along with more leadership development.

In response, they took steps to rebrand their Talent Management team as Talent & Culture which includes Learning & Development, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Culture, and Career & Leadership Development.

They created a Career Philosophy, Career Growth Framework, and 8 Leadership Competencies that would enable them to provide the support and resources their associates needed to thrive. To drive adoption of these resources, they organized Careers Month, a dynamic program of virtual events, spotlight videos, and eLearnings that inspired associates to think more ambitiously about their own careers. They also established a High Potential Leadership Development program that would help to cultivate their top talent and prepare them for leadership positions within the organization. The success of these initiatives is reflected in the significant increase in their "Growth" score, which demonstrates the profound impact of their new Talent & Culture approach.

2nd Place – Children’s Health

In 2020, children’s health started work on defining a consistent leadership competency framework that would provide a structure for selecting, developing, assessing, and promoting leaders using a common language and set of expectations. The competencies launched with integration into hiring, leadership development courses, and performance management. With over 900 leaders and unprecedented growth, this initiative was created to clearly communicate the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors required for leadership success in the organization.

The framework was based on the organization’s strategy, mission, and values to promote experience, inclusion, and engagement throughout the workforce. The focal areas are Talent Acquisition, Talent Development, Performance Management and Succession Planning. A key component of their design was to provide leaders with tools to help them develop their competencies so they could strengthen their skills. The Competency Compass provides clear guidelines on the competency required for different levels of leadership, a self-assessment tool, detailed behaviors to identify where their leaders are in their competency development, and additional resources to continue your growth.

A new set of leadership competencies has improved their ability to attract and promote leaders who are passionate about their mission and have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to achieve outstanding performance. This competency structure also simplifies how they assess and develop leaders using a consistent lens to measure and calibrate performance across the organization.

Data and Analytics

1st Place – Sendero Consulting

At Sendero, consultants work with clients that span a variety of industries with a diverse range of business needs. Sendero purchased the Degreed Learner Experience Platform (LXP) to act as a one-stop-shop for learning material for their consultants, hoping to better equip them with more accessible resources, templates, and tools they need to perform their roles. Degreed is also used internally to organize and provide job-specific information for all roles. The Learning and Development (L&D) team manages the platform and reports usage to leadership.

Since the Degreed go-live in 2018, they saw steady decline in overall engagement and utilization by all team members. Locating and accessing materials from different sources reduces efficiency and increases cost, which ultimately impacts their client delivery.

The L&D team quickly learned there were several barriers preventing employees from taking advantage of this platform. As a result, they launched a ‘Degreed Optimization’ initiative, which built a foundation for Degreed usage, governance, and data collection. They were able to curate data and insights on user engagement, content, social activity, and skills, and are reaching the goal of providing personalized learning content for team members based on focus skills, business practice areas, roles, and industries.

Evaluating Learning Impact

1st Place – Exeter

Prior to 2021, Exeter Finance was doing very little to measure the effectiveness of their training beyond the basic post-course satisfaction survey. This made it difficult for their talent development department, and business leaders, to determine where to invest their development efforts and where to put their focus as they created their long term training strategy.

In 2021 they begin laying the ground work for building a strong measurement strategy by having a designer certified in Evaluating Learning Impact through ATD.  That team member was then tasked with creating new policies and procedures with a focus on the best way to gather and analyze information to better understand the results of any given training project.  New tools and standards were developed so that all members of the team were prepared to gather data and analyze trends for the projects the delivered.

The new strategy was implemented at the start of 2022 and, by the end of the year, all designers and facilitators were gathering metrics and 60% of projects were using a data collection process and being evaluated for not only satisfaction and behavior change, but also impact and return on investment. These trends are now being tracked year over year, and contributing to the development of strategies and focus areas for new training programs and initiatives.

More importantly, Exeter’s new approach has resulted in increased confidence and buy-in from their business partners and consistently helps them to prove the value of the talent development function to the business.  

Knowledge Management

1st Place – Highland Homes

For over 30 years, Highland Home’s first time Construction Managers depended on the company’s Construction Manual for all the details on how to build homes that meet the company’s high standard from empty lot to final inspection.

However there was a problem.  Over the years the printed, 275-page binder was updated by different people, with varied writing styles. It had inconsistencies and had not been fully updated since 2017. The content needed to completely refreshed and circulated in an economical way that also allowed for easier ongoing maintenance and wider distribution of revised content. 

Highland’s solution was to use Sharepoint to develop a digitally-based tool that would be available on all devices, and easy to navigate using search functionality.  Over the course of the initiative, all the content was updated and streamlined with consistent formatting and intentional language. Pictures, diagrams, instructional videos, and other key documents were migrated from other platforms to the tool to ensure all relevant information was accessible in one location.  The Sharepoint platform ensured the tool could be easily maintained by business leaders in real time. 

By going digital, the manual is not only accessible to the 370+ people involved in the construction process, but to all employees in the company. 

For Highland Homes, this initiative provided an opportunity for numerous areas of company to collaborate to ensure an accurate, updated tool, that can be applied to any role or function was available to all teams across organization.

2nd Place – Children’s Health

Communication is a foundational interpersonal skill that shapes interactions and is the root cause of numerous negative outcomes. This can range from a tainted working relationship with a peer due to a difficult conversation that was not handled properly to an adverse patient event due to a lack of clear and concise communication.

Nationally, healthcare is experiencing increased burnout, understaffing, and violence – all of which are directly impacted by communication. At Children’s employees at all levels of the organization were expressing a lack of confidence around communication, specifically on how to have a difficult conversation and the impact was showing up in key metrics, including the company’s inclusion and engagement survey.

A collaborative multidisciplinary team comprised of learning development specialists, a career advisor, a program director focusing on leadership education and a program manager for wellbeing analyzed the learning need and developed the Communication Learning Series, covering key topics around navigating difficult conversations, effective communication, giving effective feedback and practicing assertiveness The program was delivered throughout 2022 to over 850 employees.  As a result of the program, respondents indicated their confidence level in handling difficult conversations increased from 3.05 to 4 on a 5 point scale.

Technology Application

1st Place – PrimeLending

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our organization would fly all sales new hires to Dallas for a 3-day training event. New team members would meet senior leaders, discover department processes, and explore how to use our best-in-class technology. This was a chance for our new hires to feel our culture come to life and become culture ambassadors themselves.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we knew we had to go virtual quickly. Our focus was to keep our culture alive while delivering the same quality of training. We introduced topics in a self-paced eLearning course and added weekly calls to dig deeper into each topic. Our data showed positive results for the virtual program. Our facilitator satisfaction score increased to nearly 98.5%. Over time, however, we discovered a slight decrease in confidence in applying the materials they learned in training. Respondents on average said they could apply 89% of the materials learned.

With the decision made to keep our program virtual, we knew we needed to find a solution for virtual training. The search began to find a best-in-class learning experience platform to add to our technology stack. It was important to find a tool that would help us increase learner engagement, retention, and confidence, while also still cultivating our company culture through social and peer-to-peer learning.

We found an incredible partner with NovoEd. Their ability to spark human connection through cohort-based learning perfectly aligned with our mission. The LEVEL UP program launched in NovoEd in July of 2022. From July to December, 159 sales new hires completed the program. In that time period, PrimeLending’s facilitation satisfaction score increased to 100%. All learners agreed that facilitators explained things in a way that the learner could understand.

2nd Place – Children’s Health

eLearning test outs provide physician and nurse learners an opportunity to “test out” of formal instructor-led training if they display knowledge mastery and task proficiency. However, due to rapid workflow enhancements, upgrades, and regulatory changes, our test outs quickly become outdated and a poor testing method for our learners. To find a more robust training solution to replace all eLearning modules while providing learners a hands-on learning experience of their workflows through simulation, we implemented Epic Corporation’s Autograder test out solution. With this model, learners log into a training platform to complete scenarios of their primary workflows to the best of their ability. Once completed, learners submit their responses directly in the training platform for evaluation. Since implementation two years ago, over 1,000 physicians and nurses have completed an Autograder test out with a 99% passing rate and close to 3,000 training hours saved benefiting learners in making their learning efficient without sacrificing the quality.

Learning & Development Design & Delivery

1st Place – Gainwell Technologies

In October of 2020, our organization was a brand-new company that was spun off from another organization. Our newly formed HR organization partnered with business groups to define how we onboard new employees and personalize their experience for success. There was a massive hiring initiative at the time and we were charged with creating a brand new program that would eventually operate utilizing SAP Success Factors.

As a result, our global new employee onboarding process was launched– enabled by SAP SuccessFactors, championed by hiring managers and supported by onboarding mentors. Our onboarding program helps attract top talent, drive engagement and expectations of employees in different onboarding roles, increase visibility to completion tracking, accelerate speed to productivity, and builds a solid foundation for our culture.

Today, process utilization is thriving globally, and agile releases – informed by industry best practices, our hiring strategy and satisfaction survey results – continue to improve the onboarding experience for new employees, their hiring managers and onboarding mentors.

2nd Place – Sendero Consulting

At Sendero, their mentorship program is critical to employee growth and cultivating a healthy culture. Their “Career Advisors” (CAs) guide, coach, and help develop more junior members ("Advisees") in the firm through one-on-one mentoring. CAs engage, support, and empower their Advisees on their career path. In early 2020, Sendero Talent Management recognized their CAs and Advisees not only struggled with fulfilling their various roles, but there were other gaps that needed to be addressed: motivation for engagement, performance management protocol, communication, virtual environments, and productive habit formation.

Through stakeholder interviews, focus groups, and current research, their L&D team delivered a multifaceted, virtual training for CA's and Advisees, utilizing the following solutions: Targeted Microlearnings, Video Interviews, Interactive Performance Management Knowledge Checks, Gamification, CA & Advisee resource hubs (“Playbooks”), templates, job aids and optional, scenario-based training for "Difficult Conversations"

Their audience reported positive impact following training and gave rave reviews for the content.

Performance Improvement

1st Place – PrimeLending

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, PrimeLending knew they had to go virtual quickly for their mortgage loan officer onboarding. Their focus was to keep their culture alive while delivering the same quality of training. They introduced topics in a self-paced eLearning course and added weekly calls to dig deeper into each topic. Their facilitator satisfaction score increased to nearly 98.5%. Over time, however, they discovered a slight decrease in confidence in applying the materials they learned in training. Respondents on average said they could apply 89% of the materials learned.

With the decision made to keep their program virtual, they knew they needed to find a solution for virtual training. The search began to find a best-in-class learning experience platform to add to their technology stack. It was important to find a tool that would help them increase learner engagement, retention, and confidence, while also still cultivating their company culture through social and peer-to-peer learning.

They found an incredible partner with NovoEd. Their ability to spark human connection through cohort-based learning perfectly aligned with PrimeLending’s mission.

2nd Place – Children’s Health

Sepsis is a life-threatening response to infection within the body and is considered a medical emergency. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 individuals who die in a hospital had sepsis during their hospitalization and 87% of those with sepsis had the infection prior to entering the hospital. Children are especially vulnerable, with more children dying from sepsis than pediatric cancers each year. For this reason, it is crucial healthcare providers recognize and intervene as quickly as possible when sepsis is suspected. Despite the use of traditional, formal training, key sepsis care measures were not improving in alignment with our organization’s sepsis guidelines and care goals. A simulation method typically utilized to train medical providers in advanced life support, called rapid cycle deliberate practice (RCDP), was adopted and designed to support a structured, high fidelity simulation performance improvement learning experience for clinical nurses to systematize sepsis intervention and escalation. Through this formal initiative, escalation communication, fluid boluses, and antibiotics are occurring and being administered faster. By focusing on a training process that combined case scenarios, hands on learning, and the opportunity to practice skills to achieve mastery, our team improved the clinical performance of nurses at the bedside in providing safe, quality care to treat sepsis.

Change Management

1st Place – GM Financial

GM Financial’s 2022 employee engagement survey showed low scores for how the IT organization manages changes. Although IT senior leaders already had an idea this was an issue due to high change saturation, low adoption, and low change management training in the IT organization overall, the survey scores were a clear indicator of the problem.

Scores in this area coupled with low and moderate scores relating to training, resources, communication, and leadership started to paint a picture of the change management needs in this part of the organization. While the engagement survey did serve as an official diagnostic assessment for the purposes of this initiative, the newly created change management team also had one on one conversations with stakeholders to assess deficiencies within their areas of the IT organization.

The IT Organizational Readiness team (A.K.A. change management team) established an official project and selected a sponsor: an assistant vice president in IT with high visibility across the organization who is also a member of the Change Management Center of Excellence.


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