We helped Booz Allen Hamilton create one of the best onboarding experiences in the country. Here’s how.

There are many reasons our clients invest in designing and developing a superior onboarding program. While job readiness and time to productivity top the list, employee affiliation, reduced attrition, risk avoidance, and compliance follow close behind. You don’t have to work too hard to make the case for ROI.

Booz Allen Hamilton is one of the world’s most legendary consulting firms. The firm engaged Blueline Simulations to help redesign its onboarding program, an engagement that resulted in an award-winning solution that was also well-loved by participants. The program is built around two Blueline Blueprints™—dynamic, table-sized graphics that served as the launch point for a series of activities over four days of immersive learning.

We’re particularly proud of this engagement, which generated fantastic results for the firm:

  • A 6% average increase in levels of perceived job readiness.
  • Employees rated the program a four out of five or higher 75% of the time—a full 23 points above the benchmark norm.
  • More than 95% of participants acknowledged the program positively impacted their impression of the company. 
  • The enhanced onboarding program outperformed the legacy program in six out of seven survey question categories.
  • 96% of participants rated the enhanced onboarding curriculum, ROI, instructors, and program logistics higher than comparable components of the firm’s legacy onboarding program.

How the Booz Allen onboarding program works 

The onboarding program we created for Booz Allen is a branded, phased, 12-month series of events designed to help new hires quickly engage with the organization, feel comfortable joining their respective teams, and develop a strong level of knowledge regarding the firm’s culture and core values. The program is broken into three phases throughout the first year: Engage, Equip, and Excel. Each phase has its own milestones and objectives to ensure a consistent new hire experience. 

The new hire onboarding journey

Phase I: Engage

The Engage phase is designed to excite and prepare new hires for their first year. This phase typically spans two to three weeks. Two key program elements within this phase are the New Hire Portal and Firmwide Orientation.

Built on simulation-based learning activities focused on networking, skill development, and early career planning, the first day of Firmwide Orientation centers on a large, engaging, information-rich Blueline Learning Visual. Through this visual landscape, participants work in teams to explore the firm’s history, its people and culture, institutional structure, client service, core values, and mission. New hires collaborate in cross-functional table teams of six members each, spanning different work teams, regional offices, and levels. Working in these teams jump-starts the development of working relationships and networks.

Next, a two-day client engagement simulation immerses new hires in a realistic job preview and prepares them to engage fully with the organization and the firm’s clients. The teams encounter opportunities and challenges that test their decision-making and require them to adapt to realistic and changing situations. An adjunct instructor (a seasoned employee with experience in multiple firm engagements) provides real-world insights and examples from their career at the firm.

The fourth day comprises a highly interactive and hands-on workshop based on a firm-specific formula for success. New hires use laptops to explore internal resources designed to assist them in their career growth. Senior leaders play a key role in the program by delivering welcome messages and leading personal discussions on how to succeed. Meanwhile, new hires receive tips on navigating the company’s culture through structured networking events, which occur both in-person and online via the firm’s social media and knowledge management tool.

Phase II: Equip

Phase II encompasses the new hire’s second week through their first six months, providing employees with the tools, skills, and behaviors necessary for success at the firm. Key program elements within this phase include local orientation, 30-, 60-, and 90-day check-ins with the manager, toolkits, a six-month Pulse Check, and a series of e-newsletters. These are designed to reinforce and build on the information, knowledge, and relationships developed in Phase I by providing application within the person’s actual job context.

Phase III: Excel

Spanning month seven until the end of year one, the Excel phase is focused on continued professional development, affiliation building, and the embodiment of firm values. 

To complement the year-long program, the onboarding team also leveraged the firm’s social media and knowledge management tool to provide a social space designed to connect new hires (and those who support them) throughout their first year at the firm. As a member of the onboarding community, anyone at the firm can discover and contribute information, activities, and resources to support and enhance the first-year experience; they can also communicate via blogs and forum discussions. 

Blueline’s secret sauce to successful onboarding

In Booz Allen’s program, and all of our designs, we differentiate by emphasizing four elements: context, impression, engagement and fun, and a culture focus. Regardless of your onboarding program’s medium or approach, you would do well to review how well it provides context, creates a strong positive impression, develops engagement, and communicates and conveys culture.

The results of our combined efforts

Reduction of risk and better adherence to compliance starting in week one

New hires have improved awareness and understanding of critical firm compliance policies, enhancing decision-making that could impact the firm’s credibility and legal culpability.

Productivity gains attributed to the job readiness of new hires going through the program

Data collected from internal surveys established a 6% average increase in levels of perceived job readiness and impact among new hires participating in the enhanced onboarding program relative to the legacy program. When asked if new employees receive the onboarding they need to perform their roles effectively, employees rated the program a four out of five or higher 75% of the time—a full 23 points above the benchmark norm.

Booz Allen Hamilton estimates that each day the organization’s new hires are unproductive, the firm could lose up to $1 million in potential revenue. Clearly, the new program has contributed significant monetary gains.

Reduced attrition rates

Attrition rates for employees with tenure of six months or less have been reduced by four percentage points since the launch of the enhanced onboarding program; six percentage points below the norm of similarly-tenured staff at benchmark companies. 

The firm has experienced increased levels of new hire affiliation and engagement

A few of the most revealing facts include:

  • More than 95% of participants acknowledged the program positively impacted their impression of the company. 
  • Interactivity and networking components were two of the most commonly mentioned positive attributes of enhanced onboarding.
  • Program surveys indicated that the firm’s enhanced onboarding program outperformed the legacy program in six out of seven survey question categories, including environment, logistics, guest speakers, instructors, objectives, and ROI.
  • 96% of participants rated the enhanced onboarding curriculum, ROI, instructors, and program logistics higher than comparable components of the firm’s legacy onboarding program.

Award-winning design and implementation 

The Bersin Learning Leaders program identifies the best in organizational learning and talent management. Booz Allen’s onboarding initiative won the Learning and Talent Initiative Excellence award for a positive new hire experience. Booz Allen and Blueline also received the ATD Excellence in Practice award for the program, which was also featured in TD Magazine. 

Customized onboarding programs for your organization 

At Blueline, we customize solutions to meet the unique needs of our clients. And those needs are varied when it comes to onboarding programs. We want participants to be engaged. We want attrition rates to be low. We want to maximize employee satisfaction from the moment they sign into their company email address. And we want to onboard remote employees just as effectively as on-site teams. At Blueline, we have lots of creative solutions for accomplishing this. Get in touch with the team to learn more.

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