Onboarding

Questions about the learning innovations that are shaping 2015?  Blueline has the answers. 

New technologies are making it possible to create incredibly immersive learning solutions at a price point that wasn’t imaginable just a few years ago. For example, a Fortune 100 wireless carrier needed an immersive simulation with integrated social media to onboard and encourage networking among new Sales Representatives. Because retail and wireless change so often and so fast, the solution needed to be easy and cost effective to update and maintain. Learn how Blueline partnered with our client to design a 3D “Level 4” simulation that could influence your learning organization’s vision for the future.

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Onboarding Sales Professionals with Online Simulation

In a previous blog, I described how we created an award winning onboarding experience for the legendary consulting firm: Booz Allen Hamilton. And in the one prior to that, I outlined our secret recipe. (If you missed that blog you may want to take a look now, because I’m going to showcase new ways to provide context, create a strong first impression, ensure engagement and fun, and reflect the client’s culture.)

Today I’d like to tell you about an ambitious “Level 4” simulation we developed. That is, it uses a gaming engine with rules and probabilities, as well as deeply pathed scenarios that mimic real-life customer interactions.

We built it for a retail client who was looking for an immersive, updatable experience for their Sales Representatives in an accurate store setting. And given the fast-paced nature of this retail space, our team’s goal was to build an experience that could be easily updated.

We developed a solution that uses a “mashup”of several technologies. It’s broken into several components which all work together to speed learner development: the Overview, the Virtual Store and the ASK System.

The Overview of the course is a 3D model of a typical retail store.  It showcases all of the devices that can be found in the stores and provides links with detailed information and videos. Facets of the store, such as the demonstration area, use green screen video of a narrator in front of rendered virtual elements to instruct on its use. Because change is constant in a retail environment, all of the devices can be easily updated or changed, and the information provided in many of the links often points to materials that exist elsewhere to simplify maintenance.

After exploring the Overview, learners are invited to navigate the Virtual Store and interact with customers. They “walk” through the environment by panning with the mouse or using the arrow keys. As they encounter customers in the store, they can click on them to begin a sales interaction. There are dozens of scenarios, each representing a different sales conversation with multiple endpoints. They focus on a range of relevant sales concepts: either a service, a detailed portion of the sales process, or the features and functions of a new product. As they interact with each customer, the learner can experience a range of up to nine animated emotional states.

Learners are evaluated on sales and customer satisfaction. Relative success in one scenario can cause other “virtual” customers in the store to be angry or happy, which affects subsequent interactions. Feedback is typically provided at the end of the interaction.

In the ASK System, we filmed and indexed approximately 100 videos of our client’s associates to support best practices, tips, and advice on selling. The videos serve as a virtual coach and can be accessed at any time via search or in response to frequently asked questions. Using tagging and scoring, the videos (and associated FAQs) intelligently arrange themselves based on rating and “relatedness” to the video that is currently being viewed.

Together, the Overview, the Virtual Store and the ASK System provide new learners with a comprehensive, risk free learning environment in which they can hone their skills. And because the content is kept up to date, learners are encouraged to return often to use it as reference and to learn about new devices and sales techniques as they are introduced.

It’s another great example of how virtual tools are creating incredibly robust learning solutions at a price point that wasn’t possible even five years ago. The world of learning is changing fast. At Blueline Simulations, we’re committed to staying on top of it, and bringing you the very latest and best technologies.

We’ve got a few more learning tricks up our sleeves. We’d love to show you, and then help you imagine the incredible levels of efficiency, engagement, retention and organizational change that are available to organizations like yours.

Taken from The Words of That Great Orator Paul Harvey: And Now, The Rest of The Story.

We’ve shared with you in recent posts about our overall work with onboarding and specifically our onboarding work with our client partners at Booz Allen Hamilton. In this post we want to disclose the results of our combined efforts there and the tools that we are utilizing in our current and future work in the onboarding space.

Since the onboarding program at Booz Allen Hamilton launched in November 2009, more than 8,000 employees have participated. Survey results both objective and subjective reveal that the more engaging and interactive program has netted positive results in many areas:

1. Reduction of risk and better adherence to compliance starting in week one. New hires have an improved awareness and understanding of critical firm compliance policies which enhances decision making that could vitally impact the firm’s credibility and legal culpability.

2. Productivity gains attributed to the job readiness of new hires going through the program. Data collected from internal surveys reveal higher (6% average increase) 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 4 out of 5 or higher 75% of the time. This is a full 23 points above the benchmark norm.

Booz Allen Hamilton estimates that for each day the organization’s new hires are not productive, the firm could lose up to $1 million dollars in potential revenue. Clearly the new program has contributed significant monetary gains.

3. Attrition rates for employees with tenure of 6 months or less have been reduced by four percentage points since the launch of the enhanced onboarding program. This is six percentage points below the norm of similarly-tenured staff at other benchmark companies.                                                                                                                                                            When new hires have a good understanding of the organization and the culture they are joining, in addition to insights about their journey ahead based on immersion into simulated real life situations with real life decisions, they are more grounded and well-suited for what lies ahead – not surprising.

4. The firm has experienced increased levels of new hire affiliation and engagement. A few of the most revealing facts include:

* Greater than 95% of participants acknowledge the program had a positive impact on their impression of the company. This has contributed to the decline in attrition as mentioned above.

* Interactivity and networking components are two of the most commonly mentioned positive attributes of the enhanced onboarding.

* Program surveys indicate that the firm’s enhanced onboarding program is outperforming the legacy program in 6 out of 7 survey question categories, including environment, logistics, guest speakers, instructors, objectives, and ROI.

* 96% of participants have rated the enhanced onboarding curriculum, ROI, instructors, and program logistics higher than comparable components of the firm’s legacy onboarding program.

The complete and immersive approach to onboarding at Booz Allen Hamilton promotes accountability while creating value for new hires, their managers, and the firm in a variety of ways.

But we haven’t stopped with this success. At Blueline Simulations 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 the solutions that we create to be the best that have been experienced and we have lots of creative solutions for accomplishing that.

Gone are the days when live classroom training that involves travel, meeting space and logistics are required.

By making the most of remote meeting technologies such as GotoMeeting and Adobe Acrobat Connect, the possibilities are limitless! We are taking advantage of these tools and others like them to facilitate training remotely.  The use of storylines and journals, live and archived interviews, individual and team assignments completed remotely or live, chat, polling, remote whiteboard and breakouts all ensure that the level of engagement and retention remain high.

We look forward to sharing more with you about our successes and ideas in future blogs.

Onboarding: This Is Not Your Father’s “First Day on the Job”: Blueline Simulations looks at the organizational phenomenon

Remember your first day on the job, on your first job, all those years ago?

I do. I remember awkward introductions. (“If you need anything at all…” “Hook ‘em horns!”)

I remember paperwork. SO much paperwork.

And I remember pulling up a chair in my undecorated closet-office and going straight to work.

And that was my “onboarding” experience, which, come to think of it, was a term that nobody used. Sure, I had enough human resiliency to eventually navigate my way through the organization.

But today’s organizational practitioners are arguing that launches like mine were a missed opportunity.

Today the “get them to work fast” ethic remains, but the process is tempered by a more nuanced, employee-focused conversation: What value does this job deliver to ME? How do these tasks connect to my sense of aspiration, my purpose, and my own unique value proposition? How does this role position me for the next step in my career? The days of “and here’s the supply closet” are long gone. Onboarding is itself a unique value proposition, an edge in a marketplace desperate to grab the top talent.

Okay, sure, you still need to tell the new employees the after-hours code to the elevator. But there are some more urgent dynamics at work here, because in a world where many dismiss company loyalty as a fossilized idea, some are nonetheless making a bold bid for engagement, enthusiasm, cultural fit, and an instant network that serves as a hedge against costly attrition.

This comprehensive reimagining of the new hire’s “first five days” (and “the first three months” and perhaps even “the first two years”) is a huge investment, but the idea is that it delivers big dividends down the road. In practice, this is indeed proving to be the case.

It is also proving to be a realm of real innovation in learning, with many organizations engineering rich, immersive, and original experiences all for the purpose of extending that new hire’s honeymoon into a solid, lasting relationship.

Blueline Simulations has worked with some of the world’s leading talent-driven organizations to deliver these onboarding experiences. Stay tuned for our next blog, and we’ll give you a peek at some of the breakthrough practices that some organizations are implementing to create high-performing, engaged, and – perhaps most tantalizingly – loyal and committed associates.