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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.

As an evolution of Best Place to Learn awards, the AXIS Awards are predicated on the idea that an axis is a steady point around which momentum occurs.  In successful organizations, talent development teams serve as the axis, cultivating organizational momentum and the core of their business—the talent. 

Congratulations to the 2015 AXIS Awards Winners!

Best in Show

Southwest Airlines - Emerging Leader Development Program

Succession Planning

1st Place - Southwest Airlines

In 2013 Southwest Airlines launched the Emerging Leadership Development Program (ELDP) to build a pipeline of strong, front-line leaders who are passionate about the organization’s Purpose, Vision, and Mission, and are prepared to lead the company into the future.     

The primary development tool within ELDP is a rotational component that builds expertise in the organization’s most critical operational roles. Candidates selected for the program embark on an 18-month journey of leadership development through three operational rotations. Each rotation is approximately six months in length; in addition, participants receive comprehensive leadership development, including mentorship, networking with Senior Leadership, and a thorough understanding of Southwest’s business.

Southwest Airlines has built in a rigorous evaluation process for all candidates in the program, including monitoring their progress in learning, touch-point calls with rotation managers, and the implementation of a full talent management process throughout the program to assess fit, performance and potential.  Each year, the program is tailored to meet the current and future needs of the business.

Overall, the company has seen a positive impact on program Participants, the operations in which they serve, and their direct Teams.  ELDP Supervisors consistently outperform their peers.   They have built solid business acumen and have improved both operational results and, more importantly, the Customer experience.  

2nd Place - TD Industries

TDIndustries has been on the Fortune 100 List of Best Places to Work in America for 18 years straight, only one of 11 companies to be on it since its’ inception. Over time, they found themselves having to turn away business because they did not have the leadership to run jobs or provide the mentoring to grow employees. 

During a strategic planning session, it was determined that one of the organization’s biggest barriers to growth was the lack of a leadership talent bench at all levels of the organization.   Given that, TDIndustries set out to implement a succession planning solution for the senior leader level and expanded it over the years to include the entire organization.  Today, leaders at every level of the organization have development plans and succession planning sessions occur semi-annually to ensure accountability for ongoing development.  

TDI Industries has seen many positive business results from their commitment to succession planning at every level of the company.  Sites that were once low performing have seen significant improvement in supervisor scores on employee engagement surveys;  revenue has increased significantly year over year and turnover has dropped from 21% to 6% this past year.   Employee engagement scores continue to climb in a positive direction and more employees are engaged in addressing local issues. The positive feelings employees have about the company has had a direct impact on the quality of service they deliver. 


1st Place - MaryKay

Mary Kay Inc. developed the Power Initiative Program (PIP) with the goal of helping Independent Sales Force leaders become better coaches, stronger leaders and move up the career path to the ultimate position of Independent National Sales Director (NSD).


PIP uses social media and technology to deliver a two-year educational program rich with training modules along with accountability, support and recognition. It also involves regular monthly conference calls between Lead Directors and their groups and a gaming element that has led to stronger relationships and increased engagement. Strategic monthly challenges and leadership development activities help participants understand concepts while staying focused on their goals.


The results speak for themselves, participants have seen an increase in total number of new unit recruits, total number of future leaders, and offspring Sales Director counts.   Since the program’s inception less than five years ago, eleven participants have debuted as Independent

National Sales Directors – the highest level of leadership among the independent sales force.

Performance Improvement

1st Place - BioRad

At Bio-rad, internal customer surveys revealed a large knowledge and skill gap among technical trainers at the Bio-Rad Plano Training center.  To address the issue Bio-rad established a rubric based on the competencies in the Certified Technical Trainer CTT+ certification. This rubric serves as a baseline for multiple feedback activities including one/one’s, discrete teach back sessions on specific topics, and periodic assessment of trainer's skills and knowledge throughout their tenure that is aligned with the year performance appraisal.


All trainers in the department are required to maintain a certain level of performance on periodic evaluations and through quarterly practice teach-back sessions.  As a result of this imitative, the metrics and key performance indicators that are used to measure success are providing a level of transparency to senior managers to show the health and status of the L&D function. The quality and caliber of the instructor workforce has greatly improved as the expected incoming skill sets have been reevaluated and elevated.

Learning Technology

1st Place - MaryKay

The Mary Kay Color Confident program is part of the Company's strategy to elevate the brand's positioning.  Research discovered that there was a perception that Independent Beauty Consultants did not have color makeup application credibility and that they lacked confidence selling and recommending color products to their customers. In order to make color education available to the entire independent sales force where and when they need it, the Color Confident program was developed with responsive design allowing them to access the education from any device.


The Color Confident program offered many "firsts" for education at Mary Kay. In addition to using technology in a new way by developing an educational program with responsive design, and thereby providing a Beauty Consultant a new level of flexibility in her learning and development, it was also a first to tie recognition to education.  Independent Beauty Consultants earn recognition at Company events for having  completed the Color Confident program and earning the Advanced Color Consultant designation.


In a survey conducted with Independent Consultants in March 2015 about available educational opportunities 65% stated that education about color/makeup application techniques contributed to their sales and 78% said education helped boost their income. Moreover, customers of Independent Beauty Consultants who complete the Color Confident program order about 76% more color products than those of Beauty Consultants who don't.

2nd Place - PepsiCo

As a result of a global competency assessment, Pepsi identified a skill cap in their sales team relative to influencing skills.  Pepsi partnered with Infinitude Creative Group to develop a customized solution that focused on real customer situations.  “Influencing Others to Act”  is an eLearning course offered in PepsiCo’s Sales College that directly supports the Global Sales Competencies and Career Framework.  To develop both the art and science of selling, the program was designed around realistic role-play scenarios that introduce key skills such as reading body language, adapting style based upon the customer, and selecting the proper phrasing based upon the person, situation and desired outcome.


The solution seeks to place the learner in a real world situation, have them make decisions and see the outcomes of those decisions.  In the final scenario, the learner is required to flex their style based on what they know about two members of the customer’s organization.  As in real life, they have the opportunity to overcome mistakes if they recognize them early enough.  So far, feedback for the course has been overwhelmingly positive and other PepsiCo functions are considering the applicability of it to their audiences as well.

Design and Delivery

1st Place - HCSC

Centers for Medicare & Medicade Services requires sponsors to implement effective compliance programs.  Health Care Service Corporation is constantly looking for ways to improve the employees’ understanding of the company’s core values and how violations of the law, government contracts, corporate policy and Code of Business Ethics and Conduct (Code) impact the business’s success..

Recently, ECD transformed the traditional computer based compliance training to a storytelling approach that not only reinforces policies but also engages the learner in a way that will help them remember and apply the information later.  This approach covers required compliance topics using stick figure animation, relevant scenarios, custom pictures and conversational language.  Employees experience ethical dilemmas along with characters played by their coworkers and two main animated characters of a visual story and practice identifying and addressing compliance risks.

HSCS’s storytelling technique for compliance training has received several awards, including a Health Ethics Trust Best Practice Award, a Best of Blue Award from the Blues Association; likewise it won ‘best’ in the eLearning Guild’s 2015 Demo Fest.  The recognition from the compliance and ethics field and healthcare industry, combined with recognition from the learning field and even the media industry, has strengthen senior leadership’s trust in the company’s innovative techniques for increasing learning retention and engagement.

2nd Place - Frito Lay

The FritoLay frontline managers struggled to teach route delivery personnel the nuances of gaining efficiency in the field.

In partnership with Infinitude Creative Group, FritoLay designed an interactive experience that centers around the importance of working efficiently. The training addresses the goals of operational consistency and the drive for improvement. It also provides content in a manner that is far more engaging and entertaining than past efforts. Using humor and game-like story lines (parodied after the Amazing Race television program), it provides consistent organizational language for the field in an effort to get the entire FritoLay operations on the same page.

Participants are now being held accountable for their actual performance. They are required to show improvement where efficiencies can be gained and so far the results have been very positive.  Moreover, the eLearning courses have created a 'buzz' among participants and freed up field trainers to focus on more advanced topics.

Leadership Development

1st Place - Southwest Airlines

In 2008, Southwest Airlines surveyed the senior leadership team on leadership development practices and found potential future leaders were lacking several core competencies.  As a result, Southwest sought to expand their existing Manager in Training program,  focusing on the areas of strategic thinking, change leadership and business acumen.  


Managers-in-Training, Level II (MIT II) was developed for Managers and Directors who are seeking a long term career with Southwest Airlines and pursuing the next level of Leadership.  The learning experiences in MIT include mentorship by a senior level executive, action project requiring a presentation to the Vice

President Team, cohort learning, and a week at a dude ranch to summarize the experience. It is a competitive program that accepts only those who are dedicated to personal development, leading the Southwest Way. 


The success of the Managers-in-Training Program (MIT) has been evaluated in several ways including, promotion and retention rates and an increase in the implementation rate of the strategic proposals recommended each year.  Graduates of the MIT II Program demonstrate improved leadership skills in several areas including business acumen, well developed connections across the business, stronger buy-in to current senior leadership, higher employee engagement and stronger mentoring and coaching skills.

2nd Place - Chili's

In 2013, Chili's reignited its growth strategy by focusing on opening 10-12 restaurants a year.   The new strategy resulted in a need for talented Area Directors who could oversee multi-unit restaurants.  Chili's identified performance gaps between the roles of General Manager and Area Director and developed a program, VERGE,  to solve for those gaps.

VERGE, which stands for Vision, Excellence, Results, Growth, and Engagement,  supports the needs of the individual's growth and the organization’s need to strengthen its talent bench.   The program is designed for General Managers who are ready to advance to the role of Area Director within the next 12-18 months and is designed to reduces the time to proficiency for a newly promoted Area Director to display leadership and effectiveness in their new role. General Managers participate in individual and group training with guidance from top level leaders and coaches.

VERGE has helped Chili's develop a strong talent bench for the Area Director position. In its most recent offering to 45 participants,  9 were promoted to Area Director, 6 promoted to Sr. GMs  and of the remaining participants, 5 have been identified All Stars (Immediately promotable) and 17 continued to be supported by the region team on the Area Director bench.

Talent Mobility

1st Place - Southwest Airlines

In 2014 Southwest airlines launched a project to better align their core competencies and job roles to the future state of the company, with the aim of improving performance.

Southwest Airlines designed an approach to build core competency models across the company that support business imperatives and the future of work at Southwest. To keep the model simple, Southwest identified  3-4 core competencies per job family and  learning opportunities at each level to support career progression.   This approach resulted in 4 specific outcomes: role clarity, clear performance expectations, learning and development specific to each competency and career path options.

As a result of their work, Southwest Airlines has noted an improvement in talent management and engagement. Leaders are able to have specific conversations with their employees about performance and future career development, they are able to use the models to determine job fit, and talk with employees about career development.

Change Management

1st Place - Brinker International

In 2009, Brinker had four different restaurant brands all doing different work and going after different results. Brinker realized that it had to be unified, with a singular focus and we had to build a culture of accountability.


Brinker partnered with Partners in Leadership, a world leader in accountability training and culture change to develop a solution.  They began by focusing on using experiences to create beliefs within the organization that people at all levels could come up with better ways to do things and self-determine any number of appropriate actions.   Their solution included accountability training for all Restaurant Support Center Team Members and the incorporation of new language and tools used by the restaurant teams.  Within 18-24 months, the new cultural language began to take root and the company is now seeing better results in four key metrics:  Guests, Team, Member Sales and Profits.   Restaurant Managers and our Restaurant Support Center Team Members take ownership to achieve focused results, provide constructive feedback and work across boundaries. 


As a result of this culture shift,  Employment Engagement scores related to accountability have shot up from 29% in the spring of 2011 to 77% in the spring of 2015 and the new behaviors have created impactful business results that have filtered out to the entire organization.


14070 Proton Rd. - Suite 100
Dallas, TX 75244

Email: info@tddallas.org

Phone: 972-233-9107 ex. 224

Fax: 972-490-4219

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