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Case Studies

Identifying Hidden Barriers
Fortune 500 Company

Challenge / Opportunity

At a large U.S. financial services company, the leaders of the Recruiting and Learning organizations were jointly concerned about significant variations in the data they were seeing about the "speed to competency" for new bank tellers across the country. In some branches, new hires were ready to run their own teller window after 15 days, while others were taking more than 30 days. The initial inclination of the project team was to double-down on the existing “best practice” training program and implement controls to ensure compliance. But were there factors that weren't represented in the data?


After we were engaged, we encouraged the project team to better understand WHY the existing program worked well in some locations and not in others. What could they learn from the outliers that might help them make more informed decisions about how best to remedy the situation? We led the project team and the organizational leaders through a brief training program on ethnographic research. Because some members of the project team were well-versed in how tellers SHOULD perform, we stressed the importance of observing to LEARN how things were working, not to evaluate and correct individual tellers, trainers, or managers. Afterward, we partnered with the project team to conduct observations at 20+ sites, including the top and bottom performing branches, to learn how the realities of each physical environment impacted the new hire training process.


For example, one of the low performing branches had their new tellers taking the computer-based part of their training at a desk in an area that was open to the public. This meant they were routinely being interrupted by customers asking for assistance, which drastically slowed down their learning and retention. In contrast, the high performing branches had desks set up in a back office for the new teller to learn without disruption. The observation teams uncovered other differences, as well, that were nowhere to be found in the data that simply reported training outcomes.


Armed with fresh insights into the “real world” enablers and barriers, the project team and their key senior stakeholders embarked on a journey to transform the new hire training program.



The revamped training program accommodated the conditions and constraints that previously had not been considered. In addition, the team leveraged the relationships established during the observations to continue to gather input and feedback from the bank managers and trainers to ensure that the benefits of the revised program were sustainable. 

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