Booz Allen teams up with Blueline Simulations to transform its
new-hire orientation program to quickly deploy record numbers of
While much of the nation has been fighting to survive the
recession, Booz Allen, a strategy and technology consulting firm,
has faced a different challenge: unprecedented growth. With an
increased focus on business delivery and utilization, new hires
need to be equipped with the knowledge, tools, and resources to be
engagement-ready. And they need to be ready faster than ever
The firms legacy onboarding program had many strong components, but
lacked the cohesiveness and accountability necessary to ensure a
consistent new hire experience for the firms growing workforce.
Aimee George Leary, Booz Allens director for learning, development,
and diversity, explained, We needed to develop a comprehensive
onboarding solution that increased new-hire readiness and
accelerated time to productivity to serve the needs of the
Before getting started, Booz Allen conducted a comprehensive
internal evaluation and external benchmarking analysis. Their
research led them to determine that it was essential the new
program do the following:
- Promote accountability and participation through a cohesive
brand that defines the program.
- Make a good first impression and generate excitement before the
new hires first day via an online new-hire portal.
- Maximize engagement and speed learning through a combination
of immersive learning activities that expose new hires to
- Drive results by integrating performance management and career
planning systems and processes.
- Encourage virtual networking through social media and knowledge
- Keep enthusiasm high through ongoing communication via social
media, newsletters, and guides.
Booz Allen partnered with industry experts to develop a branded,
phased, 12-month series of learning events and activities 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 firms culture and core values.
Because new employee orientation jumpstarts the onboarding process,
it is imperative that the revamped program makes a good first
impression, reinforces new hires decision to join the firm, and
delivers business impact.
Promote accountability and participation
The program is broken into three phases throughout the new hires
first year. These phases are branded Engage, Equip, and Excel. Each
phase has its own milestones and objectives. The programs design
provides a recognizable framework that is applicable to all new
hires, while allowing regional offices to tailor some local content
for enhanced value. Orientation attendance is mandatory across the
firm to drive a consistent new-hire onboarding experience for all
The initial phase, Engage, is designed to excite and prepare new
hires for their first year. This phase typically spans two to three
weeks (from acceptance through their first week on the job). Two
key program elements within this phase are the New Hire Portal and
Maximize engagement and speed learning
Booz Allens Legacy Orientation program has been transformed from a
two-and-a-half-day program that occurred around the fourth week, to
a four-day program that now occurs during a new hires first week.
The new Firmwide Orientation uses experiential and discovery-based
learning to create an interactive and engaging experience, connect
the learning to the real world of Booz Allen, allow for practice
and application, and provide for early networking opportunities.
Built on discovery-based learning activities focused on networking,
skill development, and early career planning, the first day of
Firmwide Orientation centers on an information-rich, table-sized
learning visual called a Blueline Blueprint. This unique classroom
design concept functions as a launch point for a broad range of
individual activities and team challenges.
Discovery learning techniques demand that learners play an active
role in the learning process and apply themselves in new and
different ways as they work in cross-functional teams, explore
different points of view, learn from each others experiences,
integrate new information with past experiences and current
In addition to its role as a launch point for a broad range of
interactivities, the Blueprint serves as a visual landscape,
inviting participants to explore the firms 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.
During days two and three, new hires are immersed in a realistic
job preview that equips them to engage fully with the organization
and the firms clients. Teams of three learners each compete in a
simulated, year-long client engagement. A second Blueline Blueprint
combines elements of a process map with a traditional board game
(not unlike Monopoly or The Game of Life). It serves as the
critical touchstone throughout the simulation.
The game also provides exposure to foundational planning tools and
analysis skills that help prepare new hires for performance on the
job. An adjunct instructor, who is a seasoned employee with
knowledge gleaned from client engagements, adds to the experience
by providing real world insights and examples from her career.
The fourth day, a highly interactive and hands-on workshop, is
based on a firm-specific formula for success. New hires use laptops
to explore online resources designed to assist them with career
planning and development.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 companys culture through structured networking events, which
occur both in-person and online via Booz Allens social media and
knowledge management tool.
Keep enthusiasm high
Phase II, Equip, spans the period encompassing the new hires second
week through their first six months, and provides employees with
the tools, skills, and behaviors needed for success at the firm.
Key program elements within this phase include: Local Orientation;
30-, 60-, and 90-day check-ins with the manager; detailed
onboarding toolkits; a six-month pulse check; and a series of
e-newsletters. All of these are designed to reinforce and build on
the information, knowledge, and relationships developed in Phase I
by providing opportunities for learners to apply them on the job.
Phase III: Excel, is focused on continued professional development,
affiliation building, and embodiment of the firms values. This
phase spans month seven through the end of year one, and its key
milestone is the new hires first annual assessment.
To complement the year-long program, the onboarding team also has
harnessed the firms 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. As a member of the
Onboarding Community, any employee can discover and contribute
information, activities, and resources that support and enhance the
first year experience, and can communicate via blogs and forum
Since its launch in November 2009, more than 8,000 new employees
have completed the new hire program. Greater than 95 percent of new
employees have acknowledged the programs positive impact,
reinforcing their decisions to join and stay at Booz Allen.
As a result, attrition for employees with tenure of six months or
less has been reduced by four percentage points. And new hire
time-to-productivity has been accelerated by several weeks, saving
the firm millions of dollars of lost revenue. Internal survey
results also reveal higher (a 6 percent average increase) levels of
perceived job readiness and impact among new hires.
Booz Allens onboarding program has been recognized as a best in
class solution. The work has been rewarded with a Bersin Learning
Leaders Award for Learning and Talent Initiative Excellence and
ASTDs prestigious Excellence in Practice Citation and Award.
Note: This article is excerpted fro T+D