A global software enterprise initiated a cross-company project to re-write its core values. Management envisioned this as a joint effort with the employees, with the goal of producing an updated set of core values that reflected the company’s current and future culture, and expressed the company’s aspirations and strengths.
The first phase of the implementation campaign took place at the beginning of 2013. The primary challenge for the organization development (OD) unit leading the campaign was to create awareness and preliminary recognition of the new values. They were to do this in a relatively short period, and involve more than 50 sites worldwide in a fun and absorbable way to produce a positive first impression and acceptance of the change.
To meet the preliminary implementation challenge, the OD group chose a social online gaming platform (Wheeldo). The platform offers a variety of game templates that you can adjust and customize to specific needs and design requirements.
In this case, the designers selected the game template "Pass the Parcel," and customized its name to "Value Box." The game has two main layers: the base game layer and an additional social layer.
Players pass a virtual surprise box by mail among company employees. Each employee receiving a box peels off a layer of its wrapping and passes it on to another peer. All game interactions award points. Interaction includes sending and receiving a box (Figure 1), as well as recognizing peers by adding a personal message to the virtual box. Players win gift cards hidden in random boxes; the company awarded iPads to players who achieved high scores.
Figure 1: The Value Box game is a customized version of Pass the Parcel; it awards prizes to players.
When sending a surprise box, the player recognizes a peer by selecting a value best describing his/her contributions to the company. (Figure 2) When a player sends a free text message to give a personal touch to the recognition message, the sender is awarded extra points.
Figure 2: Write a recognition note to peer
Throughout the game, a "social wall" was visible to all participants. The wall showed current scores and recent activities throughout the company.
Why apply a social gaming solution?
A learning solution should match the need, the company, and its learning infrastructure. In this case, the social online gaming platform was a perfect match for the following reasons:
- Social media is taking a major role in our lives. As lifelong learners, we seek and deliver knowledge in social networks as part of our daily routines. We seek to harness this phenomenon to achieve current learning and business goals.
- Formal traditional training methods such as face-to-face and even eLearning are less effective for certain situations. For those cases, learning should take its natural form on the job through social interactions and self-paced learning.
- Today's workplace challenges are often too much for the individual to handle on his or her own. The notion that the group can face current challenges better via collaboration than any individual can alone has prompted social solutions, such as communities of practice or knowledge, wikis, and social peer-to-peer learning.
Learning by playing a game is an ancient method that has taken a modern form. Especially in self-guided or social-learning activities, the learner's motivation is crucial to program success. Games are fun and immersive by nature. In a world where knowledge comes in micro-nuggets and learners’ attention comes in short bursts, games deliver continuous high attention and engagement, thus creating a suitable platform for substantial learning.
This project successfully achieved the learning goals and the business goals. Worldwide, employees passed around 20,000 surprise boxes. Game reports indicated that more than 60% of employees sent and received at least two boxes during the game period. The reports also indicate the deep understanding most employees achieved by writing recognition notes to their peers, using the values.
Both training and HR management report high satisfaction levels from the project and the next venture is already in the planning stages. An employee satisfaction survey a month after the game indicated a high level of awareness of the new values.
Using the online social game proved a powerful tool for implementing change due to three achievements:
- Sustaining a cross-company change process experienced by employees as a fun game.
- Gaining insights as to employees' perception of the new values—achieved by the game’s management system accumulating and reporting all game data.
- Delivering an effective, informal learning program focusing on the new values—achieved by integrating the values in a peer-to-peer recognition process.
Following are several conclusions reached in this project that management will implement in similar ventures in the future:
- The game mechanism encourages learning. Participation levels and employee involvement exceeded expectations. Awarding points to create a contest was the main driver for user participation.
- Social engagement produced a new learning experience. The OD group recommends including such concepts in any online program.
- Limit competition levels. On the other hand, giving high-value rewards such as iPads created over-competitiveness among some participants, which interfered with the project plan. In future applications, the rewards will be more symbolic with an enhanced game mechanism.
- Define KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). It is important to define KPIs and success factors in early planning stages. Such understandings create a more efficient route throughout the project, especially when new concepts and tools are involved.
- Run a preliminary field test. Informal learning takes different forms, even when channeled into a formal process such as an online cross-company social game. The OD group recommends gaining an initial grasp of user reaction and experience before launching on a massive scale.
- Engage in a pre-game campaign. Though the game itself proved fun and engaging to all players, it was still a company initiative that relied on formal communication channels to create initial awareness. We recommend creating such awareness before the game begins to achieve higher participation rates.
Game-based social learning proved an effective solution for company learning and implementation needs. The dynamic platform and its advanced management system allowed participants and managers alike to receive high and immediate values during the project.