Classroom Simulations

Our Customers are Telling us They Want Blueline Innovation… but at a Lower Cost and with High Value.

We’ve been listening! Our customers are telling us they want Blueline innovation… but at a lower cost and with high value. We’ve borrowed a little bit of seasonal North Pole magic to make your wishes come true.

Today, we’re introducing lower cost-alternatives to Blueline custom training solutions. But we’ve got a few other surprises under the tree, including innovative methods for saving on travel costs, implementing mobile learning, and sharing training and communications resources.

Introducing a new suite of high-value, low-cost solutions from Blueline Simulations:

eBooks: The contemporary online elearning solution that can also be delivered via iOS, Android and Blackberry mobile devices.

Imagine your favorite interactive “magazine” format (e.g. CNN.com or the Wall Street Journal Online). As a learning and communication tool, these eBooks are incredibly effective… and are far more accepted by the new generation of learners than old school rapid development platforms like Captivate, Lectora and Articulate.

And the new technologies introduced in 2011 enable our team of developers to design eBooks that will run on all Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad), as well as Android devices and Blackberry’s new Playbook tablet.

In other words, it’s a single solution for a broadly distributed audience operating on multiple operating systems. The applications are endless, and we’d love to show you some of the innovative ways we’ve put eBooks to work for our clients.

Journey Maps: The simpler, faster, lower cost alternative to a Blueline Blueprint –when only a picture will do.

A Journey Map is a smaller, 11 x 17 rendering that visually depicts complex messages. By design, these highly flexible images can carry change messages quickly and efficiently through your organization over a variety of media. The icon-driven approach, simple timeline presentations, and short marketing-style copy have been proven to be the perfect combination when rendering complex systems with simplicity and emotional engagement.

The value of the Journey Map just keeps going: The primary design elements of the document can be isolated and delivered as individual graphics for use in other applications. For example, individual icons may be placed within explanatory documents in Word format, or used in online documents. Our clients have used the Journey Map elements to add context to their company intranet, employee handbooks, strategy presentations, internal communications branding, and more.

Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT): Transform your classroom training into high-impact, virtual-instructor-led training online and save tens of thousands of dollars in travel costs.

At Blueline Simulations, VILT is much more than a “web meeting.” Today we are creating engaging, interactive learning events… while still saving time and money. We are exploring this new medium with:

•         Immersive story lines and passports

•         Collaborative team-based activities and assignments

•         Socratic discussions, remote synchronous role-plays and networking

•         Rich interactive debriefs

•         …and more.

Yes, it can be done. And when it all comes together, it is a thing of beauty.

Want to learn more about how cost effective it is to make learning a competitive advantage for your business? Call the talent management experts at Blueline Simulations today!

Take Your Instructor-Led Training. Take Your Virtual Learning. Now Put Them Both Together, And…

We feel your pain, because we’ve been there, too.

We love our face-to-face classroom training, but in the age of tight budgets and geographically dispersed workforces, it’s fast becoming a thing of the past.  It was fun while it lasted.

I know it’s easy to dis on e-learning and e-simulation. And while there is still a plague of shallow point-and-click programs out there, a lot of folks are savvy enough to build in richer methods of engagement. But I frequently bump up against the limitations of online interaction. Don’t you? There is almost always content that requires the benefit of interaction with other learners and a live facilitator.

If only there was a way to create a hybrid that delivers the best of classroom and e-learning.

Enter virtual instructor-led training, or VILT.

Okay, don’t tune me out yet. Plenty of us have had lame experiences with new technologies like Acrobat Connect, Live Meeting, GoToMeeting, and others, which have simply become another medium for slogging through PowerPoint with a little bit of Q&A thrown in. (And if we are being honest, no one wants to look stupid by asking a question that they fear might have been answered while they were instant messaging a friend, or catching up on the latest web news.)

VILT took a good concept – less time and money – to its logical conclusion. Along the way, it lost sight of how people really learn.

But all is not lost.

We have discovered that VILT can be engaging, interactive and built on solid adult learning principles, while still saving time and money. Blueline designers and developers are pushing the envelope of this new medium with a broad range of proven immersive teaching methods including story lines and passports, online team assignments and collaboration, and rich interactive debriefs.

Imagine highly engaging team-based activities including Socratic discussions, remote synchronous role-plays, networking, and competitive team challenges.  And individual exercises that create “whole brain” learning through visual templates, use of competition and interactive quizzes.

Yes, it can be done. And when it all comes together, it is a thing of beauty.

Do you have existing instructor-led content that needs to be transformed into high-impact, engaging, VILT?  We’d love to tell you about some of the methods that we have implemented in organizations all around the world. Call the training experts at Blueline Simulations today.

Blueline Applies its “Secret Sauce” to Booz Allen Hamilton’s Award Winning Onboarding Program

If you recall in a previous post we shared the “secret sauce” that distinguishes the onboarding experiences Blueline creates for its clients.  Now let’s look at how the four elements we identified amount to a “quadfecta” and form an award-winning onboarding program for Booz Allen Hamilton.

1. ContextBlueline created two immersive classroom-based experiences for Booz Allen new hires. First, a Blueline Blueprint learning visual engages new hires in a visual and interactive tour of Booz Allen’s history and culture. Learners work in teams to answer questions, move along a visual timeline of events, and interact with illustrated data.  They see the “big picture” and gain insight into the core values, seminal events and cultural underpinnings of this distinguished organization.

Next, a simulation situates participants in the role of a consulting project team at Booz Allen. Through competition, experiential learning and teamwork, they make decisions and experience consequences that fast-forward them through the learning curve of “what is it like to work here?”

2. Impression – We never get tired of hearing participants in the onboarding programs we create use words and phrases like: “Wow” or “I’ve worked at a lot of companies and have never experienced something like this…” or “This really demonstrates a commitment to employees that I’m excited about.” Blueline and Booz Allen have had the pleasure of being awash in these comments every time this program is run.

3. Engagement and fun – Koosh balls and Lincoln Logs may equal fun in some training experiences, but to what end? Booz Allen new hires represent some of the most experienced and intelligent former military, corporate and government talent in the world. Blueline’s definition of fun in this, and frankly, all of our efforts, is much more sophisticated. In Booz Allen’s onboarding program participants debate ideas (that’s fun for geniuses), compete (of course), and explore information (root cause analysis anyone?) in ways that keep them wanting more.

Teams move along a “game of life”-type visual; making decisions based on knowledge they acquire in experiential activities. Decisions affect consequences that earn or lose “chips.” These chips amount to points accumulated against three key dimensions that represent real-world success at Booz Allen. Events intervene, setbacks occur and promotions and accolades accumulate. We have to practically force them to take breaks!

4. A Culture Focus – There are few corporate cultures we have encountered as diverse and inclusive as Booz Allen Hamilton’s. An administrative new hire from Mumbai may be seated in the onboarding classroom next to a former full-bird Colonel. Blueline and Booz Allen collaborated intently to be sure this experience represents and includes the myriad of roles and textures that make up the Booz Allen organization. The Blueline Blueprint learning visual grounds each new-hire in the cultural foundation of the organization, then allows every participant to find him or herself in a character or a role represented in the simulation.

Stay tuned for the “rest of the story.” In our next blog we’ll share what has happened at Booz Allen since our intervention and where Blueline is going next in this dynamic onboarding space.

We Helped Booz Allen Hamilton Create one of the Best Onboarding Experiences in the Country. Here’s How.

Booz Allen Hamilton is one of the world’s most legendary consulting firms. More than a century old, the Virginia-based firm is credited with inventing the field of management consulting.

The firm engaged Blueline Simulations to help redesign its onboarding program, and to implement the four program elements I described in my blog a few weeks ago.

Their program 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. These phases are: Engage, Equip, and Excel. Each phase has its own milestones and objectives to ensure a consistent new hire experience. The design provides a recognizable framework that is applicable to all new hires across the firm, while allowing regional offices to tailor some local content for enhanced value. Orientation attendance is mandatory across the firm in order to drive a consistent new hire onboarding experience for all employees.

New Hire Onboarding Journey Map

Phase I, ENGAGE, is designed to excite and prepare new hires for their first year. This phase typically spans two to three weeks (from acceptance through a new hire’s first week on the job). Two key program elements within this phase are the New Hire Portal and Firmwide Orientation.

Firmwide Orientation has been transformed from a two-and-one-half-day program that occurred around week four, to a four-day program that occurs during a new hire’s first week. The new Firmwide Orientation provides an engaging and interactive learning experience that teaches new employees about the organization, and provides them with opportunities to start building a professional network within the firm.

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, and core values and mission. New hires collaborate in cross-functional table teams made up 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, which are critical components of success at Booz Allen Hamilton.

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. Exposure to foundational planning and analysis skills and tools helps prepare new hires for performance on the job. An adjunct instructor, a seasoned employee with experience on multiple firm engagements, provides “real world” insights and examples from his or her career at the firm.

The fourth day, a highly interactive and hands-on workshop, is based on a firm-specific “formula for success” which is introduced on the first day.  New hires use laptops provided in the classroom to explore career development at the firm and 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 at the firm. Meanwhile, new hires learn the “secrets to success” and receive tips on how to navigate 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, spans a period encompassing the new hire’s second week through their first six months, and provides 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 eNewsletters. All of 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, is focused on continued professional development, affiliation building, and embodiment of firm values. This phase spans month seven until the end of year one, and its key milestone is the new hire’s first annual assessment.

To complement the year-long program, the onboarding team has 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, which support and enhance the first year experience, and can communicate via blogs and forum discussions.

Today, the program that we built with Booz Allen Hamilton is recognized as a “best in class” solution. The work has been recognized with a Bersin Learning Leaders’ Award for Learning and Talent Initiative Excellence; and also an ASTD Excellence in Practice Citation.

Even more importantly, the onboarding program has been successful in increasing affiliation, reducing attrition, and equipping new hires for success at Booz Allen Hamilton. And that, more than any other acknowledgement, gives us a tremendous sense of pride.

Next, up we’ll look at a very different type of onboarding experience being used by one of the nation’s largest wireless carriers.

Chances are, you or your competitors are hiring again. Maybe now is a good time to talk about Strategic Onboarding.

Having weathered the deepest recession of our generation, many organizations are beginning to report that they are hiring new employees. Others seem to be waiting as long as possible before bringing new people on board.

Those who do delay adding new employees will have a heightened need to get new people up to speed and productive as quickly as possible to provide relief for overstretched resources.

I’d like to tell you about three very influential organizations we’re working with who have implemented world class new hire training,  all of whom we expect will be given accolades for their inspired designs: consulting legend Booz Allen Hamilton; a Fortune 10 financial institution; and America’s largest wireless carrier. Today they’re seeking to bring new people up to speed, as quickly and productively as possible.

Why make such a fuss about Onboarding?

There are lots of reasons our clients invest in the design and development of 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.

Blueline Simulations has received the training industry’s highest accolades for our onboarding work, and I don’t mind sharing our secret sauce. In all of our designs (and I’ll give you a closer look at several of them in the next few blog posts), we differentiate by emphasizing four elements.

  1. Context
    The use of immersive simulation, whether classroom or online, puts the training in context. This dramatically shortens time to productivity and diminishes risk. Too many onboarding curriculums fail to create a “safe environment” for the learners to practice, and as Elliot Masie likes to say “provide them with the opportunity to fail forward.”
  2. Impression
    A well-designed onboarding curriculum makes a strong first impression. And as the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a strong first impression. Our clients strive to create a memorable experience that elicits pride and reinforces the person’s decision to come on board. This has an immediate and measurable impact on affiliation and attrition.
  3. Engagement and fun
    Sure, fun is part of making a positive impression. But “fun”is a strategic design consideration that has been shown to significantly increase learning and knowledge retention. Plus, top quality new hires have high expectations when they join an organization. If their first experiences don’t engage and excite them, then a significant opportunity to engender commitment and passion for the company is wasted.
  4. A culture focus
    In many of our designs for these influential companies, we provide an engaging “tour” of the company, including its history and important cultural elements. Even beyond this exercise in organizational storytelling, every experience needs to reflect and convey the culture. We pay attention to how employee diversity is portrayed in the graphical elements, and even focus on how the formal and informal language is used. That’s because we are determined that all aspects of the onboarding experience must reinforce the culture and values of the organization.

Regardless of the particular medium or approach taken for your onboarding program, you would do well to review how well it provides context, creates a strong positive impression, developments engagement and communicates and conveys culture.

Next week, we’ll look at how Booz Allen Hamilton built from these four foundations.