Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (July/August 2017)

Each year Training magazine requires all Training Top 10 Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that is shared with our readers in a print issue. Here are the details of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Summer Games Internship Program and McCarthy Building Companies’ McCarthy Onboarding Initiative.


The Summer Games Internship Program is a part of the firm’s University Partnerships and Millennial Talent division and was started in Booz Allen Hamilton’s Strategic Innovation Group (SIG) in 2014. The Summer Games program was initially piloted with 60 interns in the Washington, D.C., Metro area as an alternative to the standard, apprenticeship-style summer internship model. In 2016, the program expanded from being offered to a select portion of summer interns to becoming the firmwide internship program across all lines of business in 10 geographies throughout the United States.

The program allows Booz Allen to attract, develop, and retain best-in-class university talent and engage them in complex problem solving. With an increasing focus on STEM talent, the program allows Booz Allen to build a talent pipeline that mirrors the recruiting needs of its markets. It also addresses the need for employee engagement for existing employees by including them as leaders in the program and reigniting their excitement for the firm’s work, as well as their appreciation for the caliber of talent the firm attracts.

Program Details

Content for the 10-week program is developed in partnership with the firm’s Talent Strategy team and leadership from the firm’s primary lines of business or Functional Service Offerings (FSOs), which include: Analytics, Consulting, Cyber, Digital, and Engineering & Science. The three main program components that leadership within the FSOs participate in managing are:

  1. Challenge Teams
  2. Challenge Leaders
  3. Challenge Cup

Challenge Teams consist of five to six interns per team with a cross-section of skill sets. Each team is assigned two Challenge Leaders who are Booz Allen employees at the middle-management level and serve as mentors and champions for the work the challenge teams conduct throughout the internship. The topics for the challenges are developed through an internal crowdsourcing platform, and the interns are given great autonomy in providing solutions. Challenge Teams participate in an FSO showcase at summer’s end to showcase their solution and attempt to qualify for the Challenge Cup. Two teams from each FSO advance to the Challenge Cup during which each team has 15 minutes to present their challenge, their proposed solution, and go-to-market plan, and five minutes to answer questions from a panel of judges. Many teams provide prototype demonstrations and other interactive components as part of their presentation. One team ultimately wins the tough competition each summer.

Additional program components and events include the firm’s Rising Leader’s Forum (RLF), consisting of Booz Allen’s junior employees interested in developing their own people development and project management skills. The forum provides TED Talk-style events and mentoring opportunities. Several other events such as digital scavenger hunts, hackathons, and sporting events allow the interns to build a strong network of peers throughout the program, share their expertise, learn from others, and continue practicing generating ideas and pitching solutions to real-world challenges.


More than 6,000 applications were submitted for 320 positions in 2016, and more than 7,000 students applied for 450 positions in 24 cities in 2017. The program experienced 235 percent baseline growth and is now the firmwide internship program across 24 geographies. The conversion rate to full-time hire is on average 85 percent with a long-term sustainability goal of 80 percent.


The McCarthy New Employee Orientation (NEO) program represented a serious commitment from both company and employee, requiring travel to Corporate Headquarters in St. Louis for 2.5 days of high-touch interaction with senior leaders and internal experts.

But as the company continues to ramp up its hiring— planning to hire an additional 393 employees (a 23 percent increase in company population) by the end of 2018—it discovered its traditional onboarding solution was not keeping pace with demand. With a cap of 60 participants per NEO session, McCarthy couldn’t efficiently schedule more than four to five programs per year due to cost and resources to implement. As a result, the wait time for new employees to attend this program rose from an average of three months to almost eight months. In addition, McCarthy recognized it did not have a consistent, centralized approach in place to reach pre-hires before Day 1 to increase engagement, reduce turnover, and support the components of the company’s Top Talent strategic anchor.

As a result of these issues, the company developed and implemented the McCarthy Onboarding Initiative to be used by all seven divisions of the company.

Program Details

The McCarthy Onboarding Initiative offers a technical solution that “escorts” each new hire through the onboarding lifecycle. This solution also bridges the company’s existing 2.5-day cultural immersion NEO program, as well as local, divisional-level solutions.

McCarthy created two onboarding portals (one for new hires and one for managers) that can be easily accessed via the employee intranet.

1. For managers: A portal with tools they can access to create an onboarding plan for the new hire. Having one landing page and portal that provides a consistent approach for managers to access was a breakthrough. For the first time, managers had access to tools including:

  • New-hire checklist
  • Onboarding template that starts pre-hire and outlines an integration plan for the new hire’s first year
  • E-mail templates for better communication pre-hire
  • Fact sheets addressing the benefits of onboarding

Sample check-in questions the manager can ask new hires to ensure they are getting what they need throughout their first few weeks and months

2. For new employees: A portal to access all the critical items they need most their first few weeks and months of employment as they are waiting to attend the NEO program. This also is branded to support the McCarthy culture and reinforces the Strategic Map. The portal includes:

  • Onboarding training curriculum and other knowledge resources
  • Who to contact for specific questions
  • Benefits information
  • Payroll information
  • New employee checklist to ensure they are on the right track

Rather than just launching the solution, McCarthy developed and implemented a comprehensive communication and training plan to provide the necessary change management needed to ensure adoption. The training approach consisted of:

  • Instructor-led sessions to managers locally in divisions
  • Live virtual sessions for “one-off” new hire managers
  • A help line and e-mail support to answer questions from new hire managers or new hires

In-person, Webex, and peer group meetings were used to train on McCarthy’s new solution. At rollout, McCarthy held one to two manager training sessions per division, and additional sessions specifically for HR directors, the Talent Acquisition Team, and HR specialists. Each session was tailored to the division and role. McCarthy also held Peer Group sessions in each division to do refresher training, see how employees are using the tools, and sharing best practices, asking “What is working well, what other tools would be helpful to you as a manager?”


Since rolling out the McCarthy Onboarding Initiative in April 2016, more than 400 managers companywide have been trained and 212 new hires have participated. Despite a significant increase in new hires, McCarthy is seeing an 80 percent increase in average Net Promoter Score (6.4 average score pre-rollout vs. 11.5 post-rollout) by new employees at the 60-day mark.

In the 60-day survey to new employees, McCarthy also saw the following results:

“My manager reviewed my role/responsibilities and how I fit into the team.”

Pre-rollout: 3.5 out of 5.0

Post-rollout: 4 out of 5.0

14 percent increase

“My manager has developed an onboarding schedule and reviewed it with the me during my first week of employment.”

Pre-rollout: Only a handful of formal onboarding plans for directors and VPs were created by HR.

Post-rollout: Some 69 percent said this had been completed.

In terms of business impact, one of the metrics McCarthy tracks is turnover rate for employment of less than one year. Since program inception, this turnover rate has decreased slightly from 0.73 down to 0.67.


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