Tips for onboarding remote employees effectively

Do you remember your first week on the job? Do you fondly recall the awkward greetings, uncertainty of what to do next, initialing a seemingly endless pile of documents, demonstrating proof of your identity over and over again, and assessing whether or not you will upset your new co-workers if you help yourself to the milk in the fridge? You may count yourself lucky if you had some form of an onboarding experience, which likely consisted of a pile of collateral dumped on your desk (or uploaded to your computer) for you to read. 

Over the last few years, however, many organizations have come to realize that neglecting to optimize the onboarding process is a massive missed opportunity. And now, with the added complication of onboarding remote employees, it’s more important than ever to leverage employee onboarding as a unique value proposition—especially in an environment where the war for top talent rages on. 

The benefits of better employee onboarding 

There are many reasons why our clients invest in designing and developing superior onboarding programs. New hire orientation training is a pivotal moment in the employee lifecycle; welcoming employees into your organization is an opportunity to immerse them in your culture and accelerate job readiness and time to productivity. And the world of remote and hybrid work has brought with it a renewed focus on employee engagement and affiliation as a way of reducing the costly attrition brought on by the pandemic and the Great Resignation. The key takeaway is that there’s never been a better time to focus on a formal onboarding program that becomes a competitive advantage. 

Hybrid workforce employee onboarding

There’s no question that onboarding remote employees is more challenging than doing it on site. Here are some tips to maximize new employee engagement, whether on- or off-site. 

Get going before the official start date 

Starting a new job often comes with uncertainty, which can cause anxiety, and can be exacerbated by the ambiguity of a hybrid or remote environment. It’s also a relatively new practice for organizations to implement a fully virtual onboarding process, so the new hire probably hasn’t experienced virtual onboarding before. That’s why it’s important to be empathetic to the new hire scenario and to create a plan that mitigates first-day nerves.

One way of doing this is to establish a relationship and set up various structures before the employee’s actual start date. This could include:

  • Appointing an onboarding liaison (other than the employee’s direct manager) and having them proactively reach out to the new employee before the start date so that the new hire has a chance to ask questions.
  • Finding ways to make new remote employees feel welcome in advance by sending them a note with some company swag.
  • Setting up technology before the start date and offering each new employee a session with IT to go through the various channels and platforms that are used organization-wide. 

Build strong relationships across the organization

In an on-site office environment, spontaneous and organic relationship-building happens at the water cooler, over lunches, at after-work drinks, and at office meetings and events. In a remote setting, you need to be intentional and proactive about setting up both formal and informal one-on-one interactions between the new employee and other people in the company to help build connections by:

  • Creating community and building in touchpoints with a series of informal and formal experiences.
  • Building strong relationships by encouraging your new hire and their teammates to set up informal interactions over coffee or lunch.
  • Creating a broad network across the organization to prevent the individual from operating in silos with the same groups of people. 
  • Having your new hire sit in on group discussions from day one.

Use L&D technology to create engaging remote employee onboarding experiences

When new hires have a good understanding of the organization and the culture they are joining, coupled with insights about the journey ahead, they are more grounded and better-positioned to succeed in their new roles. But new remote employees don’t have the same ability to observe and absorb company culture as those in the office. That’s why remote employees actually need to spend more time learning about company culture and the informal ways business gets done in the organization. 

One of the most effective ways of onboarding remote employees is to build custom, immersive scenario simulations based on real-life situations. Using immersive simulations and other discovery learning activities enables new hires to:

  • Become productive much more quickly
  • Internalize the organization’s values
  • Improve their time to integration
  • Become advocates for and embodiments of the brand
  • Build a foundation for a successful, long-term career in the organization

Blueline Simulations has worked with talent-driven organizations around the globe to deliver simulation-based onboarding experiences, including an award-winning onboarding implementation at the legendary consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. The Booz Allen employee onboarding program we designed took the form of a branded, phased, 12-month series of events designed to help new hires engage with the organization, feel comfortable joining their teams, and internalize the firm’s culture and core values.

A week-long interactive learning program named Firmwide Orientation kicked off the experience by immersing new employees in the firm’s history, legacy, mission, vision, and values and provided them with opportunities to start building a professional network within the firm. We used a broad range of engaging learning activities to drive networking, skill development, and early career planning. For example, a two-day “year in the life of a consultant” simulation paired two star generals and newly minted MBAs as teammates working together on a realistic consulting project team—with the aim of readying them to engage with clients during week two on the job. Through competition, experiential learning, and teamwork, teams made decisions and experienced consequences that fast-forwarded them through the learning curve of a full year’s worth of typical consultant deliverables and associated processes and challenges. 

Booz Allen Hamilton’s onboarding program delivered significant behavior change, increased affiliation and engagement, reduced attrition, accelerated productivity, increased compliance, reduced risk, and equipped new hires for success at Booz Allen Hamilton. As a result of the program:

  • The speed of new hire readiness increased by 6%
  • The company eliminated $1.2 million in annual program costs
  • Unwanted attrition reduced by a full percentage point

Watch this video to learn more. 

Invest in engaging employee onboarding experiences

Onboarding is one of the most important drivers of employee success. Today’s organizations need to develop onboarding programs that reflect the times and current technology. At Blueline, we design and produce specialized onboarding programs using a combination of our custom Blueline BlueprintTMlearning visuals and ExperienceBUILDERTM scenario simulations. Our synchronous, team-driven, discovery-learning experiences help new hires get a fast start by building relationships and broadening their networks in remote and hybrid settings

Get in touch with the Blueline Simulations team to develop an intentional program for onboarding remote employees that forms a solid foundation for employee development, engagement, performance, and tenure. 

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.

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.