It can be a challenge to actively engage workers in mandated compliance trainings. As one company has discovered, gamification can make the dry or repetitious material they must master more palatable.

The Mosaic Company is a world leader in mining phosphate, a substance used in the manufacturing of plant fertilizer. The firm employs nearly 9,000 workers in six countries. OSHA and MSHA compliance regulations mandate that the company provide new US-based mining employees with 24 hours of instructor-led safety training when they start their jobs. Existing employees must receive eight hours of refresher training on required safety topics each year.

Mosaic was aware of the fact that employees were not particularly enthusiastic about participating in the mandated training. Disengagement was especially pronounced among existing workers, who often complained that the refresher training consisted of the exact same boring material, presented year after year.

It was evident that change was necessary. Mosaic partnered with Indiana-based Bottom-Line Performance (BLP) to completely revamp these training programs. Mosaic had four key goals for restructuring the training: meet the regulatory requirements, support a safety culture, engage workers in the material, and build business acumen.

The result is Phosphate Foundations, an innovative solution Mosaic is now using to onboard new hires and refresh the knowledge of existing staff. Phosphate Foundations was the only Gold winner in the Best Advance in Compliance Training category at the 2016 Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards.

Instructional design

According to BLP marketing director Steven Boller, a big challenge was that, by law, the training had to be completely facilitator-led and could not contain any electronic components. “We usually partner with clients to create some form of blended learning that features a mobile app, eLearning courses, or online game, but in this case, we couldn’t do any of that. We had to come up with some other activities,” he said.

Instead of creating a digital simulation game to teach participants how to properly position equipment in the field, Bottom-Line Performance designed an activity that used tabletop sandboxes and made cutouts of the mining equipment so learners could actively practice equipment positioning (Figure 1). The tactile component was a unique solution. “While that was a constraint for this project, [it] actually wound up leading to a lot of creativity,” Boller said.

Figure 1: Tabletop sandbox

In addition to the hands-on sand play, which was a big hit with participants, the curriculum engaged employees in the mandated safety material via gamification and game-based learning techniques.

“We turned the instructor-led portion into a gamified journey using a 48-inch-by-36-inch, beautifully illustrated map that represented a mine site,” Boller said (Figure 2). Traveling through seven different areas, each representing steps in Mosaic’s mine-to-market process, learners were taught how to identify hazards and stay safe on their sites.

Figure 2: Mosaic’s mine site map

“Rather than just chugging through an agenda, gamification made things a little more interesting for the learners,” Boller noted. Facilitators also used customized flash cards and puzzles to illustrate points and engage participants (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Laminated cards made learning more interesting

Big-picture goals

Perhaps most importantly for Mosaic, the restructured training provides new hires with valuable context about the company and its mission. It connects their jobs to big-picture goals—illustrating how Mosaic helps the world grow the food it needs, and the important role employees play in this scenario.

“New hires walk into training on day one wondering, ‘Who is Mosaic?’ At the end of day four, they know: ‘We are Mosaic,’” notes BLP on a project webpage.

The revamped training material for the annual refresher training has seasoned employees progressing through a similar learning map called “Risky Rock Mine,” where they are tasked with identifying and eliminating hazards in each section of the mine they visit. It also reminds employees of the company’s mission.

“Although there were games all throughout the curriculum, I think the reason that the project was so successful was because it took a step back from the gaming piece,” Boller said. “The company did a good job of looking at the regulations they needed to comply with and the procedures that had to be taught, and very intentionally connected them to a more high-level business acumen about what the company is and what they want people to know about their organization.

“Rather than telling someone, ‘You have to take this course on how not to fall off a platform,’ they showed how following the procedures is helping Mosaic achieve its mission, which is helping the world grow the food it needs.”

Impressive outcomes

Mosaic’s revamped training programs are already demonstrating results in the areas of improved job performance, compliance, and risk awareness. When surveyed immediately after the first training, 76 percent of learners said they expected the training to improve their job performance by at least 10 percent in the coming 12 months. When they were surveyed again six weeks later, this grew to 81 percent. Managers rated the statement “The employee has been able to successfully apply the knowledge/skills learned in the class on the job” a 4.42 out of 5.

By putting a new twist on what may be perceived as dry content, BLP made the required safety compliance training more interesting for participants. Overall, the new-hire training received a 4.41 out of 5 evaluation for increasing engagement, while the annual refresher training received an overall course evaluation score of 4.26 out of 5.

Comments from participants included:

  • “This is the bar for good training.”
  • “The trainers were great and made me glad to work for Mosaic.”
  • “This class wasn’t what I expected. I had to actually pay attention.”
  • “I couldn’t sleep through the annual refresher training this year.”

“Phosphate Foundations proves that compliance training does not have to be boring or dull,” concludes Linda Anhalt, EHS training manager at Mosaic.

Andy McGuire, Mosaic’s director of operations for learning and development, agrees. “Linda Anhalt came up with a new and innovative idea on how to deliver an engaging, interactive, and integrated performance-based course for safety compliance training, which has historically been viewed as highly necessary but needing much greater participant engagement,” he said.

Additional resource

Click here to view a webinar about the Mosaic/Bottom-Line Performance project.