Training Top 125 Best Practice: Visa Inc.’s Technology New College Grad (NCG) Onboarding Program
The Technology New College Grad (NCG) Program serves all New College Grads (NCGs) in global payments technology company Visa Inc.’s Technology and Operations function. It is the company’s largest organization, representing 40 to 50 percent of global employees.
Visa set a goal to hire and onboard at least 600 new college graduates (NCGs) in technical fields over two years (fiscal year 2018 and 2019), of which 95 percent will achieve expected time-to-productivity for their role (e.g., coder in three weeks vs. network architect in six months).
The year-long program begins within 30 days of hiring. Key program elements include:
- Cohort-Based Social Learning: Visa supports integration of new hires into the company and their new teams by providing a structure to learn with peers: cross-functional cohorts of 15 to 25 individuals.
- Tech “Step Up” Boot Camp: A week-long in-person event is held at a Visa office for each cohort group, covering program expectations, the Visa Business Model, Industry, Professional Skills, and Visa-Specific Technology. This is a combination of lectures, discussions, teambuilding activities, and hands-on exercises. Faculty are Visa leaders and experts.
- Executive Support and Promotions: At least two SVP/VP-level business leaders kick off each cohort’s Tech Step Up Program.
- Project-Based Learning: Learners form groups toward the end of the Tech Step Up Boot Camp to apply what they learned, and within 24 hours, develop a new product idea and build a working demo, which they present to business leaders for feedback and judging.
- Live Seminar Series: Current and alumni NCGs participate in regular, ongoing lunch-and-learns, seminars, and Webinars on technical skills.
- Online Resources for Self-Paced Continuous Learning: Visa provides a rich digital library of online training courses, exercises, videos, books, and Webinars, and encourages managers to help NCGs select relevant courses based on their role.
- Real-World Experience, Right Away: The Visa NCG program provides all participants a custom online sandbox environment (a “sandbox” is where coders “play” with new codes) to produce a working Proof of Concept (POC) of a new idea in the payments industry in 24 hours. This simulates real-world projects but in a safe and supported environment. The simulations are so real-world that many innovations from the sandbox environment have been nominated by business leaders for patent submissions.
- Mentoring and Coaching Opportunities: NCG program participants have peer-to-peer teaching opportunities and also give back to the company’s NCG hiring efforts by volunteering to mentor and coach tech interns over the next 12 to 18 months. As some would say, the best way to learn is to teach, so NCGs get plenty of invitations and opportunities to do so on an ongoing basis.
The Technology New College Graduate Program has built-in learning reinforcement, including:
- Access to Sandbox Environment: The working sandbox environment lets NGCs apply—and reinforce—their learning in a safe yet real-world environment, while collaborating with peers.
- Ongoing Learning Resources Promoted Through Newsletters: NCGs and their managers receive newsletters from Visa University with tips on Visa-specific continuing education resources every quarter.
- Communities of Practice: Each NCG belongs to a cohort they join during the Step Up Boot Camp week-long event (spending at least 40 hours face-to-face), and from there, they keep in touch to share experiences and information over time. This not only reinforces learning but also peer connections, which supports new hires during their first year and beyond.
Post-program, NGCs also reinforce learning for up to a year by coaching and mentoring peers and interns.
The Technology NCG Program was designed and developed using the design thinking process in collaboration with the business, and Visa continues to improve on it with feedback regularly solicited from hiring managers, participants, and business unit leaders.
All managers of Technology NCG Program participants are interviewed six to nine months after their NCG joins the program via empathy studies, focus groups, and surveys. In August 2018, manager observations indicated that 98 percent of their NCGs met or exceeded their productivity expectations (exceeding the target of 95 percent of NCGs achieving expected time-to-productivity).
Visa successfully hired and onboarded more than 700 new college graduates through the Technology NCG Program in FY’17 and FY’18, exceeding the goal of 600 NCGs. In addition, in FY’19 alone, three ideas from the NCG program were in “patent pending” status with the U.S. Patent Office, and another was granted a patent in full. These patents form the basis of product innovations in the organization’s future product roadmaps.