Playing for points and staff attention

The latest trend of mixing training with gaming is having positive results for staff engagement and learning.

Orbit Housing Event

Orbit developed a game called You’re Secure to train staff

When Capgemini wanted to ensure employees worldwide engaged with and understood changes to its brand guidelines in 2012, it turned to ‘gamification’ - or applying game dynamics to a campaign to encourage employees to take part and train them to understand the new guidelines. A multiple choice quiz was developed that rewarded employees who took part collectively and individually, as well as incentivising people to share the quiz with colleagues.

“We had a positive and massive reaction,” says Emmanuel Lochon, head of group advertising, web and branding at Capgemini, which worked with technology platform Leaderboarded on the project. “We have more than 120,000 employees worldwide and almost 20 per cent of the company participated in our game [in just two weeks].

“There was a real buzz and the viral aspect worked really well.” It is part of a growing trend, particularly when it comes to ensuring that employees understand and buy into a brand’s culture and values, and Gartner predicts that by 2014 more than 70 per cent of large global organisations will have at least one ‘gamified’ application, ranging from mastering a specific skill to improving one’s health.

While gamification is an increasingly popular way to encourage brand ambassadors, companies are also using the approach to enable employees to build personal brands. US business consultancy Bluewolf worked with gamification specialist Bunchball to launch #GoingSocial, which helps staff use social media to collaborate more and build up their own reputations and influence - internally and externally.

“Within our internal social network, employees received points for posting on the blog, contributing knowledge and sharing a link from within [CRM system] Salesforce,” says Natasha Oxenburgh, product marketing manager at Bluewolf.

“Points were also awarded when other people clicked these links. When you increase your Klout score [which measures your overall influence across social media], you get points as well,” she explains.

Employees earn points and badges and they can exchange these at the company’s reward store for tangible rewards, such as lunch with the chief executive.

She adds that the online social profiles are the most important part of the programme, as Bluewolf employees manage these themselves. “They get points for making a ‘packed profile’ - the profile includes skills, functional and expertise and links to their social networks, pulling in their three most recent tweets.”

Medals 2012

Deloitte, an Olympic sponsor, has used gaming to train 10,000 senior executives

Bluewolf has seen a 153 per cent increase in blog traffic since the beginning of 2012 and a 57 per cent increase in average activity on Chatter, its internal social network.

Building personal brands is an area IBM is also exploring. It recently implemented gamification into its Digital IBMer hub - a resource that aims to educate employees about social media while enabling them to participate and put into practice IBM’s values in the digital world.

“Gamification helps IBM employees with experiential learning, or learning by doing,” says Ethan McCarty, director, enterprise social programmes, IBM in the US, which worked with Bunchball on the project. He says the company has seen improved engagement on the IBMer site since introducing gamification, and a “modest, but measurable” increase in task-completion.

Corporate policies

Other organisations are using gamification to better instil corporate values and policies. America’s renowned Harvard University wanted to explore ways of creatively engaging staff when training them on compliance issues, something that Gary Cormier, director of HR consulting, feared “might otherwise come across as a regurgitation of rules, regulations, policies and procedures”.

Harvard’s goal was to explore testing in a much more interactive way to engage staff in their learning, “finding ways to stimulate thinking and involvement by bringing the participant from a passive observer to a more active participant”.

Harvard worked with True Office to test out a ‘sexual harassment module’, creating a fictitious case study that involved the participant as the investigator of an alleged incident in the workplace. “The module included a series of twists and turns along the way that challenged the participant’s thoughts and reactions while engaging in the story,” says Cormier.

“Harvard’s policies and procedures were embedded in the game and served as a guide and reference for the participant to use in working through the challenge,” he explains.

Questions were asked at the end of the module to test how well the participant had understood the information, with a test score indicating areas where additional training might be necessary.

Orbit Group, one of the largest housing groups in the country, has also turned to gamification to train staff in the rather dry but necessary subject of data protection among its 3,000 strong workforce, from executives to call centre staff. As Paula Tighe, head of information governance at Orbit, says: “Although it is good to inform, in order to educate and develop you have to engage people’s imagination and desire to participate and take part.”

Working with Creative Bridge, a board game called You’re Secure was developed. This used cartoon characters to represent each of the core data protection principles, while introducing realistic scenarios and a game journey to engage employees. Phase two saw the development of a Wii version of the game, which is now used alongside the board game in training for housing associations nationwide.

“The board game and the digital game encouraged trainees to get up off their chair and move around, and digital media such as the PC game controlled by a Wii controller enables fun to be brought into a more serious topic,” says Tighe. She claims that knowledge levels increase by more than 99 per cent after the training.

Healthy competition

Of course, fun is not the only aspect integral to the learning process when applying game dynamics to training - competition also plays an important role.

Harvard

Harvard wanted to explore testing in a more interactive way

As Cormier at Harvard University says: “The competitive nature of the training session increased the likelihood of participant engagement for anyone involved. With the gamification approach to learning, it’s human nature to want to complete something when it draws you in, makes you think, gives you decision-making authority and tests your comprehension.”

IBM’s McCarty agrees, adding that it is “critical” to have a competitive element. “Some games are competitive against other individuals, some games are competitive against environments, others are competitive against one’s self. There is a natural human tendency to want to ‘level up’ or group a level - that is very powerful in gamifying routine tasks.”

Lush is also tapping into people’s competitive spirits, with Lush Quest pitting the company’s 100 plus stores against each other as Lush UK trainer Tina Juden explains. (See box p39)

“Shops like to compete against other shops, so there is a league table for the whole of the UK and it ranks everyone based on the average staff number - so it doesn’t matter if you have 50 staff or 15, it averages out your score. Some stores are more competitive than others but for those teams that are really driven by that it is a nice big push to get in there and play.”

Staff feedback

But while the competitive element - supported by the transparency of how each employee or team is doing - is key to driving participation, it also provides valuable feedback for the company. Tom Richardson, now chief executive of Latitude Leadership Academy, was the founder of the Deloitte Leadership Academy (DLA), an interactive online learning portal for Deloitte’s 10,000 senior executives around the world.

IBM event

IBM believes its games should have a competitive element

The DLA partnered with gamification company Badgeville to add gaming to its leadership development programmes. Richardson says that effectively measuring learning is a universal challenge that can be addressed by gamification. “By applying points to learning we had a unit of measure we could use to recognise and reward learning, and measure return on investment.

“With online learning and assessment you have all the analytics behind the scenes which tells you how much time people are spending, what questions they get right and what learning is occurring. With gamification combined with online learning, you bring the analysis to life and can generate competition by making learning transparent.”

The DLA rewards learning behaviours such as viewing content, passing assessments and contributing to peer discussions. “For each of these behaviours you receive points and then badges for stages of completion,” says Richardson. “There is a league ladder for executives to compare themselves to peers and all of the badges you earn are visible to the community.” Deloitte has seen a 45 per cent uplift in learning, repeat visits and course competitions since introducing gamification.

Media company PHD has also developed an online portal, or global operating system, for its worldwide workforce of more than 3,000 people to collaborate on projects, learn from each other and share knowledge. It uses a game to help identify people’s skills across the business and encourages them to talk to each other. It can also help to recruit people into roles internally.

As well as ranking people globally so that the best people with certain skill sets can be identified, the leader board created by the game also ranks offices by country. “It really encourages a collective spirit and urges people to work together,” says PHD worldwide strategy and planning director Mark Holden.

Cost benefits

Aside from the benefits of increased participation, greater motivation and global accessibility, online gamification is also proving cost-effective for brands. Richardson says that the cost of online training is $5 (£3) per person per hour, while face-to-face training equates to $50 per person per hour.

“The online training with gamification simply requires the additional investment in the gaming technology, which when combined is still well below [the cost of] any face-to-face course,”explains Richardson.

Capgemini’s Lochon says his company had a “very limited budget” to implement its game, adding that “at the end, the cost involved in this project compared to the participation was very good”. On average each participant took the quiz four times.

Harvard

Harvard wanted to explore testing in a more interactive way

“The level of awareness has been developed. We have lots of testimonials that are very positive about the brand,” he says.

For PHD, return is more complex and it remains to be seen how its investment pays off after only launching its ‘massively multi-player online game’ officially in January 2013. But Holden is optimistic following a successful pilot period.

“There is no question what the ROI benefit will be - from people spending more time in the right places to the use of optimisation tools. It will drive efficiency in our model and free up people’s time,” says Holden.

Perhaps we have glimpsed the future, as McCarty suggests: “Using gamification to train employees is just the tip of the iceberg. I think the real potential is much broader. For example, we have seen incredible engagement in serious game environments that compel people to solve big problems collaboratively and collectively, create environments of mutual trust and professional expertise sharing, and crowdsourcing (earning points/levels for authoritative contributions).

“Training is a great entry point for gamification, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Case study: Lush

Lush products

Lush’s game drove staff to look at product information online

Brand building

UK cosmetics retailer Lush has embraced gamification on a pilot basis, working with KEO Digital and DESQ to design an interactive training programme to reinforce its brand and product knowledge among employees. They answer several questions in the game - called Lush Quests - before going to a face-to-face training session.

The company also uses the game to drive employees to its existing hub of assets, such as product videos and ingredient information, which already sit on its website, explains Tina Juden, UK trainer at Lush.

“We have so many videos expressing the value and freshness and everything we do, but we were thinking are staff really watching them? Do they know how much information we have on our website?” Lush recently ran a Christmas Quests game that required employees to watch its ‘We Believe’ video then answer questions. “That really helped us to reach more staff with the bigger messages really effectively.”

While Lush has deployed gamification to support face-to-face training, it is still seeing value for money. “A lot of managers have said they can see a difference between staff that have completed the online training and those that haven’t. If it encourages confidence on the shop floor that will makes staff much more efficient it will, therefore, pay for itself.”

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