Business Simulations

“Can We Hold Class Outside?” Taking Your People to the Field for Full Immersion Learning

In our previous blog entry, we looked at Blueline Simulations’ full immersion approach to learning. These are highly coordinated learning events that take your people out of the organization, away from the computer screen, and away from the classroom – and then place them in an unfamiliar environment where they can begin making connections to big ideas that they can take back to their work.

We shared with you one example, in which we took a global biotech sales firm to Disney, Starbucks and Apple to explore engaging customer experiences.

Okay, here’s another example. Recently, we built an Innovation Tour of San Francisco for a global manufacturing firm. These executives were immersed in the alien world of Silicon Valley where they encountered innovation practices at places like Google, Frog Design, Oracle, The Institute for the Future… and even the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Yes, it was jarring and disorienting. And, in the words of that organization’s CEO, “was one of the most meaningful, valuable learning experiences of my career.” (At this very moment, they are rewriting their five-year strategic plan based on the connections they generated on the Innovation Tour.)

We’ve learned some key principles for making these experiences work.

  • Define the target. No big surprise here; Learning experiences must always be designed in the context of well-defined learning objectives. Don’t start with “let’s go to the Magic Kingdom!” Instead, define the pressing business challenge… and then identify the organizations that have something valuable to bring to that conversation.
  • Get lateral. Theorist Edward de Bono describes lateral leaps as a key capability for breakthrough thinking. Lateral thoughts happen when we connect one idea to another that was seemingly unrelated. When we build immersive experiences, we do identify organizations that are very similar to our clients. Equally important, we identify others that are dissimilar, and can create a productively disorienting lateral leap. That’s how a group of manufacturers found themselves exploring abstract paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and how pharmaceutical executives found themselves in line at an Apple Genius bar to engage customer service around issues with their iPods.
  • A little showmanship doesn’t hurt. The mind is never as engaged as it is at play. That’s why we are purposeful about building in a “cool” factor to our immersive learning experiences. Wouldn’t you just love to visit Google, or hang out at Disney’s EPCOT for a day in the name of learning? Of course you would. So would your people. And the high engagement delivered by these experiences translates to lasting, “sticky” learning.
  • Connect it back. There are critical conversations that must happen for the immersive experience to produce change in the organization. So, what, exactly, did that afternoon at Starbucks say to you? What did you notice, see, hear, smell, experience… and what are the principles behind those experiences that can deliver value at our (very different) organization? In our experience, these facilitated connections conversations are the genesis of true organizational transformation.

Ready to give your employees a peek at a world of possibility far different from your own? Call the learning experts at Blueline Simulations. We’ll build a transformative, immersive learning experience that delivers on your unique learning objectives – all while ensuring that your people will never view their world in quite the same way again.

What’s Next after Experiential Learning? Welcome to Full Immersion.

Here’s how it usually plays out: Client X comes to us with a PowerPoint deck of 300 bazillion, text-dense slides and says, “this is our old training program. Can you do something with this?”

If you’ve clicked around this website at all, you know the answer is yes, we certainly can.

Through simulation, narrative, game mechanics, and more, we transform content from our client partners into a rich experiential learning event that is informed by the latest research in adult learning theory. The applications are nearly endless. And we’ve spent our careers creating some groundbreaking, experiential programs for our clients – in the classroom, and virtually.

But there’s another level that we offer; a fully immersive approach in which your learners step away from the training room or computer, swing open the doors, and step outside into the sunlight and a broader world that is dense with learning opportunity.

Last year, we sent the sales staff of one of the world’s most influential biotech firms to Disney World. Our guess is that a few of them squeezed in a ride on Space Mountain, but that’s fine with us because the purpose was to observe, capture, and reflect upon the ways Disney is able to deliver its legendary, exceptional customer experiences.

We’re talking about a whole-body, fully kinesthetic learning in which learners are plunged into a world that is dissimilar from their own… all for the purpose of unearthing big ideas that can transform their own businesses.

(We even sent those same biotech leaders to Starbucks and Apple stores to explore different varieties of customer experiences. The insights they brought back to their own business were revolutionary.)

In our next blog entry, we’ll take a closer look at these “full immersion” learning events, and draw out some principles that will allow you to begin considering your own.

Are You Feeling The Pressure to Deliver Training ROI? Here’s an Idea for You.

Return on investment, it’s a pressure that everyone I know in training is feeling these days.

Sure, a clear ROI has been the Holy Grail for training and development for years. But these days it’s different. In this economic climate, there is a heightened sensitivity to cost and to delivering maximum return to the business.

As a training professional, how do you answer the ROI question when your boss comes calling?

I’ve been in the training industry for nearly a quarter century now. In all that time, I have encountered only one kind of off-the-shelf solution that consistently delivers immediate impact to the bottom line: developing business acumen.

Surprisingly, it’s a challenge that exists even in the most high-performing organizations in the world: without a business acumen lens, employees are unable to see the impact of their work on the larger enterprise. That’s why business acumen training solutions are so powerful. They give employees a practical understanding of how each decision they make can impact the business and their future.

Imagine that everyone in your business, from housekeeping to the CEO, practically understands how the decisions that they make contribute to your bottom line.  It’s a feasible vision, and I’ve seen companies make amazing strides by equipping their employees.

Let’s have a little fun with the math:

Assuming that your company has 5,000 employees; and that every employee makes a decision that can save the company $1 a day.  In a single year, that translates to $1,825,000.

If your business typically returns a net profit of 10%, that means that your business would have to generate $18,250,000 in revenues to have the same impact.

Alternatively, imagine how much that $1,825,000 can return to the business over the next decade: over $6,000,000 at a 12% return on capital.

And this is a conservative scenario! Remember, this assumes that the average employee makes a decision that can save your company a single dollar. Imagine if every employee committed to make a daily decision that saves your company $5, $10, or even $100/day.

In my experience, employees adopt this sensitivity when they are equipped with an enterprise view of the organization, and understand how the financials work.

It’s training that delivers a dramatic return.

So what do you say? Are you looking for a way to make a quick impact on the bottom line – one that can pay dividends for years? I’d like to show you some solutions that will build your employees’ business acumen.

Check out the broad range of business acumen solutions Blueline delivers.

Then give me a call. We’ll discuss how to put these solutions to work for you.

Did You See Our Work in T&D Magazine?

Forgive us if we come across like proud parents passing around pictures of our kids. But the onboarding program we developed for Booz Allen is getting a lot of attention and…. Well, gosh, you can’t blame us for wanting to share the good news with friends like you.

Specifically, Blueline Simulations has received the highest distinctions by ASTD, Bersin and others for its innovative onboarding solutions. And in August, the Booz Allen program was featured in T & D Magazine’s “Solutions” feature.

It’s an exciting solution, and you really must see it. The program is built around two Blueline Blueprints™, and those dynamic, table-sized graphics serve as the launch point for a series of activities over four days of immersive learning.

We’d love to tell you more. But there we go, getting all excited again. If you wish, take a look at the article. You’ll learn more about our strategic approach, and the compelling outcomes that the legendary Booz Allen continues to enjoy from the solution.

Want to talk “onboarding?” Join us online!

We’ve got lots of resources available — detailing ways that organizations like yours can use new-hire training as a strategic onboarding opportunity…connecting them to the culture; compressing the learning cycle; and preparing them for immediate success. Come check out our Blog, articles and case studies or join Training & Development Magazine and Blueline Simulations for a free webcast later this month.

What: “Onboarding for Managers”

When: Thursday, October 27, 2pm EST.

Register for this event today!

Want to talk more specifically about how Blueline can bring best-in-industry practices to your onboarding program? Contact Blueline Simulations today.

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.