How Deloitte Made Learning a Game
by Peter Bijkerk
“Training is a funny thing,” James Sanders, Manager of Innovation at Deloitte Consulting, told me recently. “No matter how easy you make it to access, or how brilliant the learning programs are, training is simply not the first thing people think of doing when they have some free time. Let’s face it, for most people, on a typical Sunday morning, if given the choice between ‘Am I gonna watch ESPN, or am I gonna do some training?’ training will not win out.”
And yet, by using gamification principles, Deloitte has seen use of its Deloitte Leadership Academy (DLA) training program increase. Participants, who are spending increased amounts of time on the site and completing programs in increasing numbers, show almost addictive behavior. Since the integration of gamification in to Deloitte Leadership Academy, there has been a 37 percent increase in the number of users returning to the site each week.
Gamification takes the essence of games — attributes such as fun, play, transparency, design and competition — and applies these to a range of real-world processes inside an organization, including learning & development. The technology research firm Gartner, Inc. predicts gamification will be used in 25 percent of redesigned business processes by 2015, this will grow to more than a $2.8 billion business by 2016, and 70 percent of Global 2000 businesses will be managing at least one “gamified” application or system by 2014.
Deloitte is well on its way to staying ahead of the trend. DLA is an online program for training its own employees as well as its clients. DLA found that by embedding missions, badges, and leaderboards into a user-friendly platform alongside video lectures, in-depth courses, tests and quizzes, users have become engaged and more likely to complete the online training programs. The Academy has had over 20,000 executive users since its inception in 2008.
DLA uses content from such top tier business schools as Harvard Business Publishing, IMD, Melbourne Business School, and Stanford Graduate School of Business. The content on the site falls into three categories: videos, “in-depth content,” and self-assessments (tests and quizzes). Some are interactive forms and others are PDFs, but all offer a section for learners to interact with each other or to leave questions or comments. To help solidify the community, each learner’s home screen receives news feed updates from the users they follow. They can then interact with each other’s status updates, in a format similar to that on Facebook.
Before learners even begin the online learning programs they must complete their first mission, dubbed the on-boarding mission. They do this by watching a 3-minute video, which explains how to use the website, and in the process of watching the video, they are instructed how to personalize the site to their individual learning priorities. Upon completion, learners receive a badge for their on-boarding mission and then have the option to connect to their personal networks on Linkedin and Twitter so they can easily upload a profile and photo. This level of customization is important, because it breeds a higher level of engagement.
As learners complete each online learning program, they receive a badge to mark their achievement. Most of those badges are won upon completion of straightforward competencies, but some are ‘secret’ badges, dubbed “Snowflake” badges. These are created to surprise and delight learners and are unlocked only by achieving certain goals. For example, if all members of one department watch the same video during the same week, they all receive a snowflake badge. “This is an unpredictable reward, which is a surprise and a delight for our learners,” says Sanders. The average user completes enough online learning programs to earn three badges.
DLA’s design of its leaderboard is also instructive. Instead of displaying one standard list of the top ten scorers overall, each general “level” of user has its own top-ten leaderboard, so that each user’s competition for top-ten is limited to other users on that same level. That board resets every seven days. “Traditional leaderboards are, in fact, counter-productive,” Sanders says. “The same consistent top users, with astronomic scores, turn off everyone who knows they have no chance of beating them.” Instead, with Deloitte’s model, “Every week you have a new chance to be the best learner on the site,” he says. This seven-day reset also means that executives won’t be discouraged from using the site just because they missed a few weeks — and fell behind in scores — while on vacation or traveling for work.”
Getting Started: Using Gamification For Learning & Development
Executives interested in implementing this popular new tool should think of gamification as a business improvement initiative, and start by asking business-related questions such as:
What are your business goals? Define the business problem that gamification is trying to address as clearly as possible. Determine if gamification is something that can contribute to solving this problem or if it will supplement existing plans. Benchmark what your peers in similar organizations are doing with gamification and understand what works and what does not work.
For example, do you want to add gamification for learning as a way to have more learners complete their certifications or compliance programs? Or are you appealing to a growing segment of Millennials who express a desire for learning to be fun, engaging and highly collaborative?
Who is your audience? Will this be directed to internal employees or external stakeholders such as dealers or distributors? Do you want to design prescriptive missions or create more open experiences? View the game from the learner’s point of view. No one wants to perpetually be at the bottom of a leaderboard. Instead demonstrate to users how they can progress toward higher levels of mastery.
The goal is not to “game” or manipulate target audiences, but rather to mesh behavioral science with social technologies to increase collaboration and engagement levels among your users.
How will you track success? Have a plan in place for measuring the effectiveness of your gamification efforts. It’s not enough to capture data; you need to analyze it as well. Some measures to think about include: level of engagement among users, number of power users on the site, learning completion rates among users, satisfaction rates among users and the relationship between engagement and achievement levels on the site and individual promotions, and other external career progressions among your users.