HOW BOOZ ALLEN HAMILTON’S ACCELERATOR BRINGS THE EMPLOYEE VALUE PROPOSITION TO LIFE

Booz Allen Hamilton is a global consulting firm serving federal and commercial clients. The organization solves problems for clients, leveraging a breadth of management consulting, technology, engineering, and scientific expertise to deliver breakthrough ideas, solutions, and products. Booz Allen’s success is predicated on attracting and retaining diverse minds with the technical and innovative prowess to power client solutions and drive business growth.  

Employee experience survey results and focus group insights showed that staff seek opportunities to develop and apply their skills in meaningful ways that advance their careers. Booz Allen has a compelling and differentiated value proposition for employees who aspire to build fulfilling careers with the firm. But those additional employee insights presented an incredible opportunity to reimagine internal mobility in ways that would more effectively move people across jobs, projects, business lines and geographies; while also accelerating staff careers and improving the overall employee experience. 

In the summer of 2016, the firm launched an internal mobility pilot, the Accelerator, to speed staff career experiences and drive the business forward. The pilot program included approximately 4,500 staff within a single business division. The Accelerator provided support to employees who were between projects or had available time by directing them to productive opportunities. Most importantly, the Accelerator worked with staff who anticipated future availability, enabling them to find a next role before their current project ended.  

Working with Accelerator agents, individuals found their next client-facing role; identified skill gaps and took training to develop and expand their capabilities; and/or worked on active internal projects. The program was digitally-enabled to capture staff preferences and interests, and provided transparency into the firm’s breadth of opportunities. The successful pilot resulted in a 2018 organization-wide launch of the program to provide support for approximately 24,000 employees. 

The Accelerator is a key program that brings to life Booz Allen’s employee value proposition, and the enterprise-wide launch was well received by business leaders and staff. The firm continues to evolve the Accelerator service model to focus on customized employee-driven experiences with the goal of driving organizational growth, and improving retention and the employee experience.

Booz Allen Hamilton was selected as an i4cp Next Practice Award for this case study. Marlene Aquino accepted the award on stage at the i4cp 2019 Next Practices Now Conference. 

Business Challenge 

Booz Allen’s Accelerator was created to improve the movement of people across the firm to new opportunities and to advance their careers—all while improving the employee experience. The firm implemented this new way to identify and engage with individuals transitioning between projects as a response to employees’ desires to gain new experiences and have a voice in the opportunities to which they contribute. In addition, the Accelerator created a platform to connect employees with meaningful work when they were between client projects. This reduced unwanted impacts of down time, such as productivity loss and lack of engagement. 

To reduce the likelihood of employees seeking new experiences elsewhere, the firm needed to provide a solution that allowed individuals to learn about, search for, and create new experiences within the organization. The breadth of Booz Allen’s business portfolio and variations in the types and locations of clients served require purposeful ways of moving employees across business lines, functions and geographies. Many employees may know only a single client project or business line for multiple years, leaving them uncertain about how to explore all that the firm has to offer. The Accelerator provides a single talent marketplace where staff can access opportunities available across the enterprise, and creates a network to help employees build connections required to secure their next opportunity. 

Given the increasing pace at which careers, technology, and the world at large are changing, it is natural that Booz Allen staff want to explore new options, expand their expertise and create meaningful connections. The Accelerator is designed to put employees in the driver’s seat.     

Solution

To understand the needs of its current workforce, Booz Allen examined the employee experience, culture survey data and exit interviews. That data showed access to new project and development opportunities to be very important. Yet, staff found it easier to find new opportunities by leaving the firm to than to move to another project within the enterprise. Booz Allen conducted industry research and benchmarking to understand how other organizations approached internal talent mobility, and identify experiences sought by today’s workforce. To test initial concepts of optimizing available time toward productive work and delivering an improved experience, the pilot was launched in 2016 within a single business division and targeting about 4500 staff.  

After documenting more than 12 months of strong, positive pilot performance, Booz Allen dedicated an executive to build the enterprise vision, scaled the pilot design in partnership with HR and business leaders, and identified and trained a program team. The firm-wide Accelerator launched in April 2018. Core services included focus on resource management and deployment, access to available internal project work, training, and firm events consultation. Additional key improvements were adopted for the firm-wide solution as well.  

The program included a primary digital interface (website), help-desk support, and individual customized consultation via Accelerator agents. To ensure awareness and understanding of the Accelerator program, leaders and staff were invited to overview briefings, webinars, and special topics sessions. In addition, managers and staff were provided with FAQs, tools and resources. Accelerator educational webinars continue to be held weekly to bring newly eligible staff up to speed.  

An agile approach was applied to continually evolve the program’s services based on continuous feedback from business leaders and staff. That feedback is solicited through one-on-one interviews with business leaders and focus groups with staff. As existing services are improved or new services are developed, employee and leader user groups are engaged to test communications and functionality.  

Results

The Accelerator program achieved two key outcomes:  

  • Improved deployment of available employees against productive activities: client-facing projects, internal capability-building projects and training.  
  • Improved overall employee experience. Among employees participating in the Accelerator, 80% have been placed in a new role (client-facing or internal), are working with program agents to find their next role, or are registered for training programs to develop and expand their skills. In addition, 70% of employees with anticipated availability in the next six months are participating in the program. Working with employees before they are available enables the firm to better anticipate and improve the transition to their next role. The program has reduced indirect costs for the firm, improved mobility of available employees, and increased retention.  

The Accelerator has positively affected employee experience. The most recent results from Booz Allen’s annual employee experience survey questions related to internal mobility reflect some of the largest improvements year-over-year: growth of more than 5%.  

Feedback from employees about the Accelerator includes strong reviews. Two examples:  

  • To me, the Accelerator equals inclusion since it helps staff feel valued, inspired, supported, connected, and empowered while they search for their next client project. Through the Accelerator, our team expanded their skills, expertise, and network, as well as received and provided mentorship.”  
  • I learned that I would be rolling off my current contract in two weeks. I am appreciative for the support provided by the Accelerator team—for their professionalism, positive feedback, and backing during this time of project uncertainty, [and] to the firm for having the foresight and resources available to provide this kind of service to its employees."  

Conclusion

The Accelerator is viewed by business leaders and staff as a significant improvement to Booz Allen’s internal mobility program. Moreover, it is seen as a key program to power the firm’s employee value proposition.  

Booz Allen continues to expand the Accelerator’s services to ensure that employees are empowered to own their experiences and act as the CEOs of their careers. 

  • Performance feedback, goal planning and meaningful networks are important in finding a next role.
  • The Accelerator provides resources and access to find a next role.
  • Career managers are encouraged to leverage the Accelerator to support their employees’ career development. 

Reflections on the pilot and firm-wide launch, revealed the following lessons:  

  • Change is incredibly hard and requires constant communication and open feedback mechanisms.
  • An agile approach to firm-wide rollout was incredibly valuable in creating the flexibility for rapid program evolution based on needs.
  • A digitally-enabled program design facilitated its scaling.

With a continued focus on frequent employee and leader feedback, the Accelerator program will continue to expand its services to create customized employee experiences, allowing staff to opt for support in specific areas of career interest. For example, employees will be able to proactively indicate their interest in opportunities internationally or in specific market areas. This option will empower pursuit of their ambitions beyond their current delivery.  

Additional data and engagement will enable Booz Allen Hamilton to meet growing business and workforce needs with internal talent. Three years and many iterations on, the Accelerator is more than a simple talent mobility solution; it is a game-changing differentiator for talent that brings Booz Allen’s employee value proposition to life.