Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations to clients in more than 40 industries. Forty percent of Accenture's workforce has been with the company for two years or less. Accenture's UK consulting practice employs about 12,000 people.

In Accenture's UK consulting practice, 300 to 500 new analysts, most of them recent university graduates, join the Analyst Consulting Group (ACG) every year. These are success-oriented, hard-driving people, but Accenture is a complex organization with lots of moving parts. New graduates need to familiarize themselves with how the company works and develop new knowledge, skills and behaviors in their first few weeks and months on the job.

Accenture UK wanted to design an onboarding program that would effectively engage new hires and help them (1) become familiar and comfortable with the culture of the company; and (2) learn and practice new behaviors and build habits related to learning and collaboration; health and wellbeing; and finding and maintaining the right networks.

What can be done in 30 days to strengthen relationships and build engagement with new hires?

Strategy and solution

What can be done in 30 days to strengthen relationships with new joiners and prepare them to work and think differently as employees of Accenture? That was the question asked by the onboarding training development team for new analysts in the United Kingdom. The team itself was made up of recent analysts themselves, helping to maintain timeliness and relevance of the design so it would focus specifically on the questions new joiners typically have in the important first few weeks.

The team used Accenture's latest thinking to help accelerate change and encourage positive behaviors in light of that change. Using human-centered design workshops the team identified the key "moments that matter" to new analysts (critical junctures that influence performance and engagement) and then crafted learning experiences targeted at those moments.

The team worked with a digital learning platform, Cognician, to build a series of fun, informative and engaging daily challenges, each specifically designed to reinforce one of three key behaviors.

Each day the new analysts receive a different challenge, which they can complete on either a PC or mobile device. Three steps are involved:

  1. A new micro-action is delivered via the digital platform. The program sponsor's avatar guides participants through the day's activity.
  2. Participants access the challenge and complete the day's task. Each assignment takes about 10 minutes or less to complete.
  3. The sponsor's avatar poses a series of questions to reflect on the day's challenge. Insights are shared across the group, and peers can "like" and comment on each other’s key takeaways.

Gaming elements in the interactions enrich the learning experience, engender competition and help maintain engagement. Weekly awards are given out for completing tasks, and a leader board showcases top performers. The effectiveness of the program is due in part to its grounding in current understandings of neuroscience and learning: the use of smaller “bites” of learning and experience (which are more readily retained), and the fact that some competitive pressure can accelerate learning and behavior change.

The learning program is continuously enhanced through analytics, providing real-time data and monitoring to help Accenture continuously improve the program.

Three behaviors were highlighted as especially important to help new analysts assimilate to the company:

Learning to learn for yourself: Time to productivity.

The program is focused on helping analysts learn how to learn for themselves, using all the knowledge management, collaboration and learning tools available at Accenture.

Learning to support yourself: Time to connectivity.

Building a network of practice contacts, career counselors and mentors is a key enabler of success and is a goal of each start group. New analysts build peer networks as they share their insights during the 30-day program.

Learning to look after yourself: Time to engagement.

Research shows that health and wellbeing are key enablers of engagement and, ultimately, the productivity of the organization. The learning challenges nudged analysts towards available wellbeing support.

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Effective learning often depends on taking risks and not being afraid to fail. The digital technology at the heart of the Accenture learning program creates a space to learn and practice new behaviors in a safe environment, while harnessing passion and competition to accelerate professional development.

Experience from the program administration to date has pointed to several insights about how to make these kinds of focused, short-term learning challenges especially effective:

Make it clear and understandable but also obviously valuable

The daily challenge needs to resonate with actual needs of the new joiners.

Don’t make it too easy 

Let people struggle a bit—maybe even try and fail occasionally—while also providing guidance through coaching.

Space out the learning

Build in repetition and practice because learning new behaviors requires practice as much as learning new skills.

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