Archives for May 2013

3 eSteps to Lasting Behavioral Change

These are demanding times for eLearning courses. Any eLearning course designed for in-house corporate training programs must meet several difficult constraints on a training efficacy checklist. The course must: Meet an ROI threshold; make valuable use of learners’ time; disseminate information on subjects ranging from hard facts about policies to the softer aspects of customer service; and change learner behavior, improving their performance on the job

A case study

Changing behavior, in the best of times, is tough. Changing behavior through an eLearning course is tougher still. Yet, with careful instructional design, one just may be able to pull it off the way we did for one client.

The client is a large energy and public utility company. Its goal was to train its field personnel in the following two areas:

  • Work Area Protection–where workers learn how to execute maintenance projects on roads efficiently and safely.
  • Customer Service Orientation–where workers learn to be more sensitive to customers. This goal arose after the company found that, although proficient in their tasks, the employees were usually brusque with the public.

The company identified eLearning modules as the training intervention for these requirements. They were also very clear that they wanted engaging eLearning modules where their field personnel wouldn’t just click “Next” to get through the training. They wanted the employees to click “Next” and, they hoped, change their behavior.

After an initial discussion with management and a preliminary review of the material, our training team wondered about the extent to which an eLearning course could meet the company’s goals. As

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it turns out, quite a lot, if you do it right.

The strategy

We took our design approach from Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. This book addresses the issue of achieving lasting behavioral change, especially when the training is hard. The book’s insights seemed relevant to the design of the eLearning modules in the project. For any lasting behavioral change to occur, according to the authors, training must impact three areas:

  • The objective understanding of a situation
  • The subjective response to a situation
  • The environment in which the change takes place

We devised an instructional strategy that would have the eLearning modules for the client address all three aspects.

Step by step

1) Affecting the objective understanding of a situation:

The book makes it clear that the learner must have clear, direct instruction as to what do in a particular situation.

Most of the client’s employees working in the field had manuals showing diagrams of correct work area protection. Usually the supervisors who planned the projects followed these instructions. However, workers who executed the instructions often did not understand them. To help them we:

  • Made the diagrams solution-focused. We did away with isolated diagrams. Instead, we used scenarios to explain how a diagram was actually a solution for a specific problem. This helped workers and supervisors get a context for reading diagrams and understanding the underlying strategy of these diagrams.
  • Outlined specific behavior. Here, we focused on training workers and supervisors to get a “preparation and troubleshooting” mindset that is critical in work area protection. We created training nuggets that had specific information, including:
    • A checklist of factors to consider while designing a work area
    • How to read a blueprint
    • Methods to ensure that work areas were under frequent supervision, with details on where to focus
    • Critical mistakes to avoid and methods to correct any errors

2) The subjective response to the situation:

As the book notes, more information does not mean creating lasting change. A deeper engagement, however, does. The key is to get people to feel more about something instead of simply knowing more about it.

Most of the customer’s field personnel believed that customer service was the responsibility of the customer service department. They did not see the “payoff” of being polite.

To address this gap, we worked on a strategy that first got workers to care about their job and then move on to caring about who the job was for. So,

  • We developed a campaign, not a course. We leveraged the company’s history of innovation and service to design an eCommercial. The aim here was to sensitize employees to the fact that their work affected millions of people. We got them to see that their range of operations was not simply a road or an avenue, but the whole city.
  • Narratives and videos were used to build empathy. We utilized the company’s stock of videos showing work performed on roads. We wove a strong storyline around these videos to show every situation from three vantage points: (1) the way the public views a work area, (2) the way workers themselves view the work area, and (3) the way the work area actually looked. This strategy was used to get learners to empathize with their customers, the public.
  • We taught specific behaviors that conveyed a “customer-focused” mindset.

3) The work environment where the situation must change:

Lastly, the book shows that effecting change could depend on tweaking the situation. Many times, altering a situation to support change can be the catalyst for lasting change to occur. In order to keep the training relevant and fresh in the learners’ minds, we worked on bringing training close to the task.

We developed a strong repository of job aids that learners could use in the field. These aids included checklists, diagram configurations, and do’s and don’ts on how to respond to customers. This way, there would be constant reinforcement of the training.

With these three areas addressed, we were able to get eLearning to accomplish that elusive learning objective, creating change that lasts.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions magazine

With Social Media, The More The Better

One of the more common misconceptions when speaking about innovation is to pigeonhole it as solely new products or breakthrough innovation — that “aha” moment. However, a cursory glance at the history of invention shows that most of the products people use today are the results of creative individuals building upon work that had already been done.

The same is true when it comes to talent management. The way employees’ talents are managed has improved incrementally as new research and practical applications have come about. When the two disciplines merge, it becomes working with creative people in creative ways, and the results can help drive a company’s success and profitability.

Innovation matters. Companies that have shown high levels of innovation are also more profitable and better positioned for future profitability than their competitors. Human capital consultancy The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) launched a survey on the topic in January 2012 that more than 300 participants worldwide answered.

It asked questions about organizations’ effectiveness in different types of innovation such as breakthrough, incremental and business process, as well as the learning and development, rewards and recognition, and business strategy practices associated with innovation.

Among the findings were the answers to the basic question of whether innovation is correlated to market performance — the answer is yes — and also which types of innovation practices were statistically more likely to be correlated to more successful companies.

Two practices that showed a high correlation to market performance are 1) sharing knowledge by using technology-enabled collaboration or social media tools and 2) hosting internal tradeshows or similar forums.

Crowdsourcing: Power in Numbers

Social media is often touted as a panacea for all business problems. Problems with employee engagement? Try social media. Need to improve facilities management? Try social media. But its actual effect on innovation and creativity remains under-researched. Michael Muller, research scientist for the Collaborative User Experience Group at IBM, is working to change that.

“We look at how to simplify in terms of making our internal processes better, and about every two years, even how to change the values of the company,” he said. “It’s a pretty sincere effort at crowdsourcing.”

The idea of crowdsourcing is not new, but actually using it to engage employee knowledge to solve a business problem is still rare. Muller explained one of IBM’s approaches:

“One of the programs, led by Jason Wild, usually lasts two days overnight, and we do what might be called a micro-jam in order to come up with new ideas about what our client has told about on the first day. This is by pre-arrangement, so around about 5 or 6 o’clock a few of the people on the staff support role put the questions in a forum, in one of our traditional IBM communities, and people start brainstorming, [possibly] in their pajamas. This goes on for 12 hours, and we have IBM consultants with the customers.

“At 9 a.m. they present, maybe not draft solutions, but draft approaches taken from 50 to 100 or more IBM staffers. It’s kind of a wonderful experience of putting a whole lot of IBM’s minds behind a question very quickly.”

A lot of the power of crowdsourcing comes from bringing in ideas and knowledge outside of an organization’s normal employee base. Muller said many sessions have been open to customers, suppliers and family.

“Ten to 15 years ago one of our VPs had a slogan, ‘None of us is as smart as all of us,’ meaning that it is better when there are more diverse minds out there,” he said. “We recently did an analysis of 26 of these very fast 12- to 72-hour brainstorming special events. We looked at diversity in terms of country and division within the company — kind of a disciplinary diversity. We found that the more sources of diversity were represented, the more productive, engaged and intercommunicative people were.”

The specific metrics used to measure productivity were the number of contributions divided by number of people who were invited to normalize the results, since some of the more heavily attended online events were generating more ideas.

Engagement was measured by quantifying the number of different contributions a person might make and how often the individual returned to the forum. Intercommunication required looking at unique pairs of people who exchanged ideas. IBM found the correlations were statistically significant overall.

“We agree that ‘none of us is as smart as all of us,’” Muller said. “The conversation gets more interesting, richer, the more different people get involved.”

It’s not just company-sponsored events where technology-enabled communication can make a difference. Shortly after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, a number of IBM employees held one of these meetings to try to gather as many ideas as they could on some basic emergency management questions.

Questions such as “How can we plan for disasters like this?,” “What technology would help in these situations?” and “How can we meet the most immediate needs?” were presented to the online community that IBM created in the immediate aftermath.

“Nobody got paid to do this, this was no one’s day job,” Muller said. “[Some] 1,200 people joined, 275 made some contributions, and the total number of contributions was 350, yet the cost of participation is extraordinarily low.”

With IBM’s permission, he analyzed the discussion, looking for statistics on breadth such as how many contributed to the conversation, and depth such as how long each reply lasted. He found a significant amount of each, but was surprised to see how few of the participants were from Japan. Twelve hours later, he said, Japan was able to get to computers and contribute too.

With so many clients in the country, this wasn’t a feel-good exercise for IBM. It gave the company a chance to better serve its clients by harnessing all of the creative minds that are important to business and the people the business serves.

Sharing at a Show

Using technology and social media platforms to increase communication can be helpful in idea generation, but talent leaders also will want to consider how it impacts actual hands-on product creation. That is not so easily shared using a digital format. Sometimes people need to touch, feel or use an item to understand it, or to be moved enough to light that creative fire.

Laura Shanley, employee communications specialist on internal tradeshows at Qualcomm, a wireless technology and services company, has been working on a solution to that problem.

Qualcomm has a number of venues to foster innovation. For instance, it has a three-day innovation experience where employees submit ideas, and their papers are reviewed by experts in the field, with rewards and recognition going to the best.

However, those sorts of activities are targeted at employees who normally work in a traditionally innovative role — ones in which creativity is associated with the job. But what about the rest of the employees? How do they engage in the product development at the heart of Qualcomm’s business model? Shanley explained how it works via the story of how the internal tradeshows came about.

“We as a company have a lot of marketing folks who attend tradeshows on a regular basis, like CES or those other large tradeshows. All employees can’t all go to those necessarily, so part of this is bringing that experience to employees so they can see what’s going on across the company,” she said. “We have several different divisions, so people tend to get their heads down in their work, and it makes it easy to lose sight of what’s going on across the company. This gives employees a chance to literally come outside and see what’s hot right now — what’s going on within the different groups outside of your silo.”

For the last five years, Qualcomm hosted a company-wide tradeshow. The annual event lasted about a half-day, and featured about 40 booths showcasing technologies from multiple divisions across the company. Employees had an opportunity to see and use the technologies, and to talk to people in other departments.

This knowledge sharing was not confined to the yearly event. Recognizing the need to have more idea exchanges while not taking valuable productivity time from employees, Qualcomm also hosted demo showcases attached to other meetings, such as during the employee all-hands meeting.

“There would be an employee update, a financial update, what we were looking forward to,” Shanley said. “With that we would invite employees an hour prior to the meeting to set up demos in the lobby in front of the meeting place to see them. That’s a low-effort way to put on a tradeshow and attaching it to a business-related event.”

To judge the tradeshows’ effectiveness, Shanley’s group surveyed attendees and participants, and found employees were more informed about what the company was working on, and that the shows increased employee collaboration and engagement.

This works well if a company produces tangible items, but things are different when innovation centers on business models or processes. Shanley said Qualcomm’s corporate R&D department also held an annual tradeshow across multiple floors in its R&D center where employees could walk up and down the hallways and in and out of the labs, see poster boards and hear what peers are working on.

Not all creative ideas make something out of nothing. Some of the best ideas build on what has been done before. When it comes to managing people, taking some of these ideas and repurposing them can facilitate innovation in most organizations.

Reprinted from Talent Management magazine


Employee Health Incentives: Myth or Miracle?

The debate over workplace wellness incentives is becoming more pronounced, as some are saying that they don’t motivate workers to improve their health while others contend they can be crucial to boost program participation and outcomes.

The Affordable Care Act expands the parameters for employers to reward workers who achieve wellness goals. Starting in 2014, employers will be able to enhance financial incentives in the form of lower premiums, deductibles and copayments to workers who achieve healthy biometric levels or are nonsmokers, for instance. Employers can apply up to 30 percent of the cost of coverage to rewards or penalties under the law.

Writing in the journal Health Affairs in March, three legal experts concluded, after review of recent studies, that it “may be overly optimistic to assume that workplace wellness programs can lower costs through health improvement.” They found little evidence that wellness incentives drive behavior change, lower company health care costs or improve health outcomes.

Still, many employers offer wellness incentives. Human resources consultancy Mercer’s 2012 survey of 2,809 employers found that nearly half of all large companies have added incentives and penalties to boost participation in wellness programs, and 18 percent link incentives with health outcomes.

Large employers offering incentives see higher participation rates in biometric screenings, health risk assessment completion and lifestyle management programs, the Mercer survey found.

The trend toward incentives is accelerating, says Steven Noeldner, a senior consultant at Mercer’s total health management practice. But employers should be clear about their goals when establishing wellness programs, he adds.

“We ask our clients what they are trying to accomplish with incentives,” Noeldner says. “Are you trying to get employees to take action or support long-term behavior change?”

Many organizations look to incentives to drive higher participation rates in health risk assessments and biometric screenings, and several studies show that financial rewards motivate workers in these areas. A 2009 study of 36 employers with a total of 560,000 workers indicated that financial incentives tied to a communications strategy and workplace culture boosted employee participation in health risk assessments.

Benefits-integrated incentives such as lowered health premiums worked better than cash incentives, according to the study. The study was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The amount of cash incentives necessary to get half of all employees to complete health risk assessments dropped by $80 per employee with better communications and operational strategies, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. A March 2013 study by the Mayo Clinic indicated that financial incentives boosted weight-loss goal achievement among employees more than no incentive.

“Incentives work to get the ball rolling,” Noeldner says. “The qualifier is you have to apply best practices.”

However, Glenn Riseley, founder and president of Global Corporate Challenge, a 10-year-old workplace health program found in more than 100 countries, says incentives and penalties don’t work.

Riseley likens workplace incentives to paying your children to brush their teeth. In other words, incentives don’t encourage personal responsibility; they undermine it.

“This is about changing people’s behavior long term,” Riseley says. “That can’t be driven by waving cash around.”

The Global Corporate Challenge uses friendly competition and a round-the-world game to get participants to take 10,000 steps throughout the day. The challenge runs for 16 weeks each May with a six- to eight-week follow-up challenge in December to reinforce good habits.

“By the time they are one or two months into the challenge, they realize the benefits of walking,” Riseley says of participants. “For us, that’s what it’s all about.”

Some 3,400 organizations totaling more than 1 million people have participated in the Global Corporate Challenge program, he says.

Creating long-term behavior change that improves workers health is, for many employers, the ultimate goal for wellness programs. Better health improves productivity and lowers heath costs.

But Riseley contends that many employers paying workers to take health risk assessments and do biometric screenings are “spending a huge amount of money to measure something that’s already been measured.” Namely, that a good portion of their workforce is in poor health and does not exercise.

Noeldner agrees that incentives aren’t enough to motivate workers. Instead, workplace wellness programs should be well-designed and supported internally.

“We need to move from an external motivator to a more intrinsic motivator,” he says, adding that games and competition may not be the answer. “This concept hasn’t been around long enough to say this will create long-term behavior change. I’m cautious about claims that this is the holy grail.”

Reprinted from Workforce

8 Skills Leaders Need for Effective Social Networking

Managing and leading in today’s organizations is growing more difficult. More products are coming to market faster, partnerships among companies in different industries are increasing, global expansion has created huge multinational companies, and trends toward matrix management and cross-functional teams are accelerating.

All of this makes communication more important, and your people’s—especially your leaders’—interpersonal networks are vital to organizational success. Technology-based communications systems will only take you so far; ultimately it comes down to the development of trusting relationships among colleagues.

Networking Supports Success

Research indicates that successful managers spend 70 percent more time networking than their less successful counterparts, and that people with rich social networks are better informed, more creative, more efficient, and better problem-solvers than those with limited social networks.

Why does networking make leaders more successful? Effective networkers can access the people, information, and resources they need to identify problems and potential solutions and get things done. By having a trusted set of advisors and advocates, effective networkers make better decisions faster and are more likely to have support for their ideas and plans.

Your leaders’ skills at creating effective interpersonal networks will have a significant impact on your organization’s success. Yet studies show that most managers are not comfortable developing their network of relationships. In fact, research at the Stanford Shyness Institute suggests that almost 60 percent of young adults have difficulty in social settings.

Given that business networking is positively associated with salary growth, number of promotions, perceived career success, and job satisfaction, this finding is troubling. Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon, leading experts in networking skills, have boiled the research down to eight critical skills needed for effective social networking.

8 Critical Networking Skills:

  1. Understand and leverage personal style: Networking is not just for the extrovert. Introverts can be just as effective at developing interpersonal networks; they just do it in a different way.
  2. Strategically target your activities: Not all networking events or organizations are equal; you need to determine which events will give you the best return on your investment.
  3. Systematically plan networking: Meaningful connections don’t just happen—planning activities, evaluating experiences, and anticipating next moves lead to great connections.
  4. Develop relationships over time: You don’t meet someone today and become their trusted advisor tomorrow. You need to learn how to build relationships and who to build them with.
  5. Engage others effectively: Sure, laughing and socializing with others is fun, but it is not how you create effective business networks. You need to learn how to engage meaningfully, remember people’s names, and make sure they remember yours.
  6. Showcase your expertise: You can learn to talk about your accomplishments and skills without coming across as a braggart, and it is essential to do so if you are going to have an effective network.
  7. Assess opportunities: Easy to join, hard to leave—it is essential that you evaluate your networking experiences relative to your changing goals and decide when to get more involved and when to exit gracefully.
  8. Deliver value: At its core, networking is an exchange of value—whether it is time, information, or your talents. You need to be able to recognize what you have to give, as well as what you want to get.

These eight skills reflect a comprehensive body of knowledge that gives leaders the skills they need to immediately begin to build organizational and personal success. For individual leaders, effective networking can lead to faster salary growth, more promotions, and greater career success. Organizations can achieve better performance, have more effective employees, and bring products to market faster if they devote time and effort to building effective networking skills.


  • The Little Book of Big Networking Ideas,N. Bilchik, 2006.
  • Foundation of Social Theory,Colman, 1990. Harvard University Press.
  • Effects of networking on career success: A longitudinal study, Wolff and Moser. 2009, Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(1), 196-206.
  • Managerial level and sub-unit function as determinants of networking behavior in organizations. Michael and Yukl, 1993, Group and Organizational Management, 18, 328-351.
  • Importance of relationship management of the career success of Australian managers, Langford, 2000, Australian Journal of Psychology, 52, 163-168.
  • Developing Business Leaders for 2010,Barret and Beeson, 2010, The Conference Board.
  • The social side of performance, Cross, Davenport, and Cantrell, 2003, MIT Sloan Management Review.
  • A social capital theory of career success, Seibert, Kraimer, and Liden, 2001, Academy of Management Journal, April.
  • Shyness, social anxiety, and social anxiety disorder, L. Henderson and P. Zimbardo, 2010, In S. G. Hofmann & P. M. DiBartolo (Eds.), Social Anxiety: Clinical, Developmental, and Social Perspectives (2nd Ed.), Academic Press.

About the Author:

Michael Leimbach, Ph.D., is vice president of Global Research and Design for Wilson Learning Worldwide. With more than 25 years in the field, Dr. Leimbach provides leadership for researching and designing Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities.

Reprinted from Training Magazine Network

5 Reasons You Can’t Ignore Gamification

There may just be whispers about it in the workplace now, but if learning leaders haven’t heard much about gamification yet, they will soon. At the annual National Retail Federation conference held in 2012, gamification was touted as the next form of work-based social media where people interact and socialize around a common bond of knowledge, competitive strategy and fun.

CLOs, HR directors, and operations and innovations teams across various industries are integrating gaming into learning and development strategy to drive performance, highlight achievement and boost engagement. But gamification is more than newfangled training. Elements of game play engage employees with new knowledge, encourage competition among peers and bestow public rewards and recognition on those who excel.

It can cover just about any topic, including improving operations, cutting logistics costs and challenging employees to understand how their roles contribute to enterprise success.

In the future, managers will see people playing games at work. After all, Gen Y professionals have been nurtured and brought up on gaming, and Time magazine reported last year that the average gamer is 37 years old.

As boomers reach retirement age, two other generations will make up the majority of the American workforce: Generation X and Generation Y, also known as millennials. It’s important to consider millennials’ role. They have essentially grown up digital, and that has changed how they engage with others in their day-to-day work lives. They come to work expecting the same engagement they find in the digital world.

According to technology research company Gartner, by 2014, 70 percent of global organizations will have at least one gamified application; by 2015, 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify them. Many of the world’s largest brands are deploying gamification, including Coca-Cola, AOL, Nissan, Nike and Viacom, and as more studies become available, the advantages to gaming in the workplace will become widespread.

Learning leaders who have made the jump are motivated by different things. One primary lever promoting gamification is that employee satisfaction, which is closely related to retention, can no longer be achieved through financial compensation alone. Ultimately, the big-stick approach doesn’t always work, and it is not the only method available to motivate and encourage team efforts.

To stay on top of the game, managers must be forward-thinking. The challenge now is in understanding why gamification is so effective and how to introduce it seamlessly into an organization.

What follows are the five reasons why leaders can’t ignore gamification and its potential to empower business.

1. Gamification improves knowledge. Most people start learning to play games at a young age, and the human brain is built for game play. Certain functions in the brain organically work toward logical problem solving. Gaming takes this natural process and makes it fun and rewarding.

Typically, this requires the player to remember information, make judgments and seek certain outcomes. Knowledge retention is a big part of an employee’s daily life, so promoting the most effective types of learning isn’t just important for the employee, it’s essential to an organization’s growth.

Jeanne Meister, author of Corporate Universities, said that interactive learning games can increase long-term retention rates by up to 10 times — a significant statistic when considering knowledge retention (Figure 1).

2. Gamification gives employees the power to actively gauge their performance.
Annual evaluations are a necessary evil, but leaders increasingly find that employees perform better, learn more quickly and correct behaviors when they receive immediate, real-time feedback.

Gaming offers an immediate cause and effect. If an employee chooses the wrong path or makes a wrong move in a game, the individual will be immediately corrected. Similarly, if the individual makes a strategically smart move, he or she will receive immediate positive reinforcement.

Gamification also offers feedback to the employee and helps to accelerate knowledge retention. This offers companies an advantage because it creates a more efficient and engaging way to monitor progress. Instead of learning the hard way and having to wait for insight from their manager or peers, gamification allows employees to receive feedback immediately. It fosters transparency about how performance is measured and where the employee really stands.

Imagine if businesses used gamification to help streamline that type of information so that employees would know exactly how their skills are advancing and potentially which ones have actually grown instead of wondering, “How am really I doing?” “Is my work performance being ranked fairly?” and “How am I supposed to set goals if I have no idea what I am trying to achieve?”

For example, in 2007, IBM created a business process management (BPM) simulation game called Innov8. It was originally designed to help develop college students and young IT professionals, but during the past five years, it has evolved into a program that gives both IT and business players a better understanding of the impact of successful BPM on an entire business ecosystem.

At its core, Innov8 was created to help people work smarter so they can help build a smarter planet. Players quickly see how practical process improvements can help meet profitability, customer satisfaction and environmental goals while addressing real problems municipalities and businesses face.

3. Gamification boosts achievement across the board. Companies spend thousands of dollars annually sending their employees to seminars, conferences and targeted development sessions. There are benefits to being able to display the fruits of learning achievements via certificates displayed on desks, letters behind one’s name and highlights on a LinkedIn page.

People often enjoy competition, and they like to win and receive validation. In the workplace, people are judged on their knowledge, achievements and overall reputation. Allowing employees to become skilled masters in their particular roles and creating a community that openly recognizes their accomplishments will not only facilitate overall workforce development, it will ultimately help an organization reach its business goals.

4. Gamification builds engagement and can promote emotional connections with others. Most people appreciate some sort of social interaction in the workplace. Employees enjoy having lunch partners and playing on kickball teams during company outings, and they may voluntarily spend their off hours at team-building events. People like to feel that they belong and to help others, that they matter and that they are more than a cog in the corporate machine.

In 2011, the winner of the SAP Gamification Cup had the idea of gamifying SAP’s vendor invoice transaction. For each invoice and line item, users and their teams can earn points, raise their status and participate in daily or monthly challenges for their team. The reward at the end of the month is a dollar amount that is donated to charity.

Gabe Zichermann, an author and the founder of the Gamification Summit, stated in 2012 that “Gamification can run a loyalty program that has all the bells and whistles of something like [United’s] MileagePlus, but cheaply. Traditional loyalty programs fail because they don’t typically generate new or additional revenue streams and can cost a company more in the end. What drives loyalty is not giving away free stuff, but status and recognition. People are very into status once they achieve it, and they don’t want to lose it.”

Gaming creates a virtual world where employees can be productive and still have a good time. Incorporating fun into the workplace can be good for business because it fosters productivity, which helps to create a better work environment. Happier employees often generate higher revenue.

5. Gamification emphasizes learning and development. Many companies are embracing gamification as a way to encourage innovation among their employees. At a 2012 Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise conference, Zichermann described the crowd-sourcing game Foldit, developed by the University of Washington.

In 2011, 46,000 people using Foldit worked for just 10 days to determine the structure of a key protein that scientists believe may help cure HIV. Scientists had been working on the problem for 15 years.

An organization may not be trying to cure a deadly disease, but fostering innovation can mean life or death in today’s marketplace. Reinforcing learning and development within a team will not only foster a productive work environment, it helps to create opportunities for career advancement and job security for employees down the road.

However learning leaders spin it, gamification is a fast, effective and fun way to train and motivate employees. Be on the lookout for it — or better yet, be the pioneer who brings the idea to the company.


How do the best get better? Delta Air Lines tackled this challenge with its call center professionals in 2012.
Call center employees handle customer needs, upsell additional Delta products and cross-sell partner promotions. Many of these employees were already leaders in sales metrics, but the airline sought further improvements.

Delta’s training team partnered with e-learning company NogginLabs Inc. to develop a game-based training program that appealed to the call center professionals’ competitive nature, challenged their skills and engaged the audience by delivering learning that didn’t feel like a required course.

“We are continually trying to build more interesting and appealing training for front-line reps,” said Ryan Mizusaki, Delta’s general manager of reservations field support and learning. “Historically, we have embedded games in our learning modules, so with the concept of gamification we thought, how do we change the paradigm and embed learning into a game?”

The solution was Ready, Set, Jet!, a travel game that presents seven cities across six continents. Delta content is paired with cultural content and enmeshed into the game to the point where no Delta branding is noticeable. By decontextualizing Delta content from the employee’s job role, learners can immerse themselves in gameplay.

“The real-world experiences from the game will provide knowledge and skills representatives can use in their interactions with customers each day,” said Allison Ausband, vice president, reservation sales and customer care at Delta. “From knowledge about our products and services, to a better understanding of routes and geography, to improving customer service and selling; this game will undoubtedly improve the reservations experience for our customers. And it also provides employees with some fun and healthy competition.”

As players navigate the globe, they access activities and mini-games that allow them to progress toward milestones and achievements. The objective is to climb to the top of the leaderboard, which encourages competition. Applying metrics within a learning game drives engagement and continual play, and the game’s metrics include money gathered and spent, time and miles traveled, learner’s rank, tasks and games competed, cities visited, and an overall score shown on the global leaderboard.

To further build the gaming community, Ready, Set, Jet! allows several types of interactions between players, which are administered through the players’ company email accounts. They can challenge each other to a mini-game via email, staking money they’ve earned through the game.

Players also can earn souvenirs throughout the game, and have the option to exchange the souvenir for game money or leave it in a city for another player to collect. Within the game, players also can tag their favorite mini-games, adding an element of crowdsourcing similar to that used by many social media platforms.

The game’s architecture allows for a living world that continually changes and evolves, and Delta plans to expand the game with new cities in subsequent development phases.

Reception of the game has been positive. During the initial launch period of Oct. 1-15, more than 1,400 players voluntarily engaged in the game. Since that time, more than 3,300 challenges have been issued and more than 1,000 souvenirs left for fellow players. In the first two months since the initial launch, Delta call center professionals have voluntarily logged more than 16.2 million minutes of game time, the equivalent of more than 30 years.

Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer

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Our new “Xpert Thinking” program is a way of starting discussions among industry experts and human resource professionals. Stay tuned for our upcoming Webinar Wednesdays series, where HR and

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training experts will share the latest knowledge, how-to’s and insights with WorkforceXpert readers.

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