OBO designs virtual onboarding program to welcome new employees

New hires participate in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations virtual onboarding course, onboardOBO, August 19. Photo by Evan Lewis
New hires participate in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations virtual onboarding course, onboardOBO, August 19. Photo by Evan Lewis

By Tasheika Box, Sydney Arvanitas, Destini Robinson, and Kate Larson

At the Department of State, it can sometimes be difficult for a large bureau or office to operate as one team. With multiple departments, international time zones, disparate employee types, and, now, a virtual work backdrop, new employees need accessible resources and a strong network to help feel connected to their peers. In order to meet this need, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) launched “onboardOBO,” a single, streamlined onboarding course designed by OBO’s Office of Human Resources (HR) and Executive Office (EX) training team.

onboardOBO is a three-day, comprehensive course ensuring that new hires, regardless of technical discipline, hiring level, or employee type, are welcomed as one. Since its inception in November 2020, onboardOBO has assisted in the onboarding of more than 100 participants including 31 Civil Service employees, 15 Foreign Service officers, 32 personal service contractors, and 23 third-party contractors. And participants are given the opportunity to meet senior leaders; onboardOBO has hosted 70 subject matter experts, including Acting Director Henry Jardine, EX Director Melissa Johnson, Deputy EX Director Ronda Capeles, and all five managing directors.

In conjunction with the course, OBO/HR has developed checklists for both hiring managers and new hires to complete the week prior to onboarding. These checklists include links and resources (e.g., parking information and telework user guides) to ensure employees are equipped with the tools they need for a successful transition into the organization and are prepared for work in any environment. 

In less than a year, onboardOBO has garnered a notable reputation, with 100 percent of those onboarded reporting they came away from the course with a better understanding of the bureau and their roles. 

“This onboarding program sets a precedent for all other bureaus to follow. … OBO continues to set the pace and lead the way,” said a new employee in the course’s anonymous end-of-course survey.

The influence of onboardOBO continues as it welcomes students monthly and  provides the information, resources, and supportive network they need to accomplish OBO’s mission and to support the Department in executing foreign policy around the globe.

Tasheika Box is a social media manager within the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations’ (OBO) Office of Human Resources. Sydney Arvanitas and Kate Larson are members of the OBO/Executive Office training team. Destini Robinson is a sustainment trainer at OBO.

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