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.

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