The Training Game: Using Gamification to Train a New Generation

Sales Huddle Group

Our workforce is changing.

By 2020, 1 out of every 2 employees in the workforce will be a millennial. It is a generation that will have played over 10,000 hours on a gaming platform before 21 years of age. It is a generation that has grown up not only playing, but mastering the skill of gaming. From Pac-Man to Angry Birds, the generation entering our workforce has grown up in a make believe world that has changed the way that they engage and interact.

It is a fact that the face of our workforce is different. The question is how do companies adapt to this reality?

To approach this question we must first understand what is happening to younger people at the college level. With more colleges than ever before, the concern over the quality of the education that is being delivered is real. Not all college degrees are equal, and more than ever people are starting to wonder if it is worth it. Is the price tag worth the return? Is the price tag worth the years of struggle that they will face under an often startling amount of college debt? These new fears compound the one young people already face in wondering how quickly they are going to be able to find a job.

However, despite these concerns the impact of the cost of college education is not the primary issue. The greater worry should be that most academic programs are not moving fast enough. They are not moving fast enough to update and align their curriculum with the new demands of today’s workforce. Questions about if we are teaching and developing young people in a manner that properly equips them with the skills and competencies needed to succeed in today’s economy are not producing positive results. We must do better. We can do better.

It is the responsibility of a society to train and educate their people. And further it is the responsibility of an organization to always be seeking more effective ways of educating and developing their employees. Understanding the state of younger workers entering the workforce should motivate companies to re-think the way they are preparing their people. We are facing a different generation of workers, with different skills, different learning styles and different experiences. We cannot continue to prepare people in 2015 using the same content and approach in which we trained people in the 1980’s. In my travels working with organizations, most companies have the majority of their training material in a workbook, on a clunky online learning platform or simply delivered through a multi-day lecture style workshop. These platforms are proving ineffective if the true goal of our training are outcomes that develop skill and a training environment where knowledge sticks.

So how do we fix it? Here are three action steps we need to take to ensure that a training program incorporates the principles necessary to ensure it is effective at improving the performance of all employees:

1. Stop Lecturing. Research by leading cognitive scientists into the way the brain learns proves one basic truth. The brain learns by doing. A recent study by Harvard Business School unveiled that 87% of content learned in a 1-day training will be lost within 4 weeks of training completion. Today most training programs have created a culture of training ‘at’ people instead of engaging them in the learning process.

Most education, on boarding and staff development training leans heavily on seminar style workshops and online learning platforms, the reality is that while these platforms can be effective at improving knowledge they leave a major gap in the learning and skill development process. We must find a way to make training content come to life.

2. Training Simulations. I would never get on an airplane with a pilot who has just read about how to fly the plane – and I hope you wouldn’t either. However, today we have put an over emphasis on self-learning that does not require a hands-on component. A major tool to develop these skills, habits and behaviors is roleplaying. It is the only way to actually practice the word tracks and difficult conversations employees face everyday with customers – especially in today’s marketplace where over 80% of jobs have customer facing job responsibilities. The truth is employees will get the practice whether you role-play or not. The question is do they get the practice in the training room or on the customer?

3. Keep Score. We live in a world today where our customer’s and employees love to collect points, stars, and badges. Game based applications are everywhere when it comes to customer rewards programs – like your Starbucks Gold Card app for example. These young workers are in fact ‘gamers’! Why not tap into an employee’s current competitive mindset to make training more engaging? Today, 9 out of 10 millennials say that employer’s need to make the workplace more fun and interactive. Find ways to gamify you’re training sessions or program by tracking points and delivering rewards for the successful completion of different ‘levels’ of your training program. It is a simple way to measure and recognize employee improvement.

Training cannot simply start and stop by watching online modules. You can’t set it and forget it. It takes work. For organizations that must ensure a team member is either selling or servicing a customer in a very specific way, the training and development program must focus on putting that team member in scenarios that they will face in the real world. Engaging new training concepts like gamification and more simulation based training experiences can begin to move organizations in a direction that can dramatically improve the success and efficiency of their training program.

A worker being confident and prepared on the job is important. We must continue to strive to find new ways to help prepare our people to succeed.

About Sales Huddle Group
Most training fails. Today, a new generation is entering the workforce and looking for the tools to help prepare them to succeed on the job. Sales Huddle Group has designed the 1st game based training & simulation platform, the Training Game, that brings together the latest research and training concepts around gamification to ensure training sticks.

Sam Caucci
Twitter: @samcaucci

Sales Huddle Group
Twitter: @saleshuddle