Strategies For Success: Onboarding Games and Simulations

Training Top 125 winners and Top 10 Hall of Famers provide their learning and development best practices on onboarding games and simulations and social learning strategies.

It has been well documented that participants absorb and retain more information when actively engaged during live learning events. Engaging learners during new hire orientations can be challenging due to the vast quantities of information an organization expects new hires to understand in a short time frame. This information overload often conflicts with an organization’s desire to accelerate the time it takes for new hires to become productive, so they quickly can become valued and contributing members.

Through our experience while refreshing the Welcome to Deloitte program, we have found that the experiential learning gained by participating in simulations and gaming activities is a more effective path to helping new hires become productive on Day One.

Deloitte, a professional services organization and Training Top 10 Hall of Fame member, has annually hired approximately 18,000 new professionals in the U.S. and India over the last few years. All of our employees attend a two-day, in-person Welcome to Deloitte onboarding program. This event is held more than 350 times per year at multiple locations and is facilitated jointly by business leadership and Talent professionals. The goal of this program is to provide a consistently friendly and informative experience for all new hires and orient them to Deloitte’s culture, mission, and business objectives.

While new hires reported feeling welcomed and oriented to our firm’s mission and values, we learned during an assessment of the Welcome to Deloitte program that they were missing key skill sets for quickly being productive on the job. For example, a tech support walk-in center audit revealed that IT staff was spending an inordinate amount of time with some new hires to help them perform basic tasks related to firm technology and tools. We also learned that some new hires were not aware of, and, thus, were not using, firm research tools and knowledge management systems that would accelerate their time to productivity.

In an effort to resolve these issues, Deloitte restructured some aspects of the Welcome to Deloitte program. The first step was to move almost all administrative tasks and general knowledge sharing into pragmatic activities a prehire could perform or review online on a secure portal. The second step was to replace facilitated presentations in favor of engaging, experiential learning such as a simulation and video game on technology and internal knowledge management systems.

Through the use of simulations and games, Deloitte’s new hires now learn how to perform typical tasks that replicate activities they would perform in their actual jobs on Day One. Our video game introduces new hires to standard firm technology tools such as time and expense systems and instant messaging and requires them to use the tools to progress through the game. Once new hires have some practice with these tools, they then move on to “work” through a simulation. New hires are grouped into teams and are required to collaborate to create a basic report using firm research and knowledge management and technology tools. This simulation requires new hires to come to a solution together, as a team, which is a key tenet to being successful at Deloitte.

Both the video game and the simulation contain practical business applications and are credited with the following results based on surveys, focus groups, and utilization studies:

  • Faster time to productivity since new hires already have experience using firm software and tools
  • Higher utilization of core support resources such as people collaboration and knowledge management tools
  • Accelerated network building through a shared experience with team members they can rely on throughout their careers
  • Increased confidence as new hires already have executed tasks they will have to perform during their actual job
  • Awareness of behavioral expectations as the simulation is designed to promote teamwork, information sharing, and teammate encouragement and support

We have found that the use of simulations and gamification in new hire onboarding is an excellent way to help our new hires hit the ground running, and have learned some lessons to incorporate into our programs going forward.

  • Set expectations up front. New hires may be caught offguard if they anticipate a more passive experience. Some new hires who previously have experienced a different kind of onboarding program in another job may not be prepared to participate in activities on Day One. Set the proper understanding in your communications before new employees come onboard so they will not be surprised that they will be expected to work and participate.
  • Let them struggle a bit. Simulations are purposefully designed to provide a degree of challenge. Resist the urge to hand hold. Facilitators should guide the discussion but not provide the answers. It’s in the struggle that participants tend to reap the greatest learning.
  • Have a back-up plan. Our use of simulations and gaming is technology enabled. On rare occasions, we have encountered slowness with technology, issues with Internet access, or the inability for a particular user to complete tasks. Both the simulation and video game have an off-line version, as well as an internal tracking mechanism for troubleshooting. The facilitator guide details how to enable these options if situations arise.

Introducing new hires to experiential learning through simulations and gamification on their first day can drive greater engagement with the organization. This higher level of engagement can be used to help the new hire get up to speed more quickly, thereby achieving accelerated productivity on Day One.

Social Learning
By Global Training and Development Team, VSP

Continuous improvement and agile learning is necessary in our fast-paced, ever-changing world. To stay ahead, perpetually developing high-performing skills and competencies isn’t just about sitting in a classroom while we listen to the latest and greatest methods for success. Additionally, it’s not about surfing the Internet to answer our questions. Our social world requires more than the formality and time commitment of the classroom—it also requires knowledge and accuracy as it pertains to the success of our business. We found an internal tool to help us with that:

Welcome, Socialcast.
Among other communication benefits within VSP Global companies, Socialcast is an opportunity to build and sustain competencies through a post-training environment for continued learning and application of content from the classroom engagement, while it offers in-house expertise the Web cannot. Some 1,700 employees use Socialcast, which offers an interface similar to Facebook, and learners (from individual contributors to executives) regularly post and respond to business-related inquiries; conduct break-out sessions with concentrated discussions; and maintain followup dialog, sharing applied experiences and continuously leveraging one another. Instantly, employees have the benefit of widely diverse perspectives and a built-in network for any development opportunity.

Employees also have built more than 120 groups around professional passions and interests. As examples:

  • Our “Social Media Squad” group shares the latest in social media best practices and includes 217 employees with a range of experience, from the social media savvy to those who are just beginning to dip their toes in the social space.
  • Our “IT Innovation” group offers an open channel to discuss new and alternative uses of technology in eyecare, the corporate world, and beyond.
  • Our “Mobile Response Team” group shares stories and updates from employees who have volunteered with the company’s mobile clinics that travel the country providing eyecare services to the underserved.

This platform accelerates our ability to capture ideas and collectively build a stronger, more well-informed workforce that is free to challenge and drive one another to think more deeply and further engage in our own development and creativity. In the short time we’ve used Socialcast— about 12 months—employees have exchanged more than 7,000 messages; posted some 12,000 comments in response to business-related inquiries; and confirmed or clarified accuracy of one another’s responses with more than 19,000 likes.

While this platform has been a successful means of sharing information within our enterprise, the implementation was a combined leap of faith and good governance. Launching the tool required that leadership trust employees to use it appropriately and in alignment with our values. Other challenges included accuracy of information posted and appropriate application of the content as it relates to the business. Again, trust was an essential component of our launch, augmented with an administrator to keep an eye on the flow of messages and train employees on use and etiquette. We also leverage the “power of the crowd” to help identify and correct any inaccuracies.

Using this platform enables our workforce to harness incredible talent, leverage diverse perspectives, and instantaneously connect areas of expertise for a collaborative and engaged enterprise.