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Will Chadwick (Global) - How "Serious Games" are improving skills, knowledge and behaviour in European organisations

When discussing gaming in learning, I usually detect an aura of interest mingled with suspicion. After all, corporate learning is a serious business. Yet there is a huge difference between an employee reaching for their games console at home and the types of "serious games" that can facilitate learning and behaviour change in the office. In spite of the current economic climate, corporate cutbacks and constrained training budgets, we are seeing an inexorable growth in demand among European organisations for serious games as part of the corporate learning mix - because they deliver real results.

Today's business world is fast-moving and rapidly changing. To reflect this pace of business, organisations need the ability to accelerate on-boarding of new staff or upskill existing staff to deliver a competitive service and also become productive. In each case, the key to achieving a good return on investment in training is not just imparting knowledge but delivering practical skills and behaviour change that is converted into enhanced job skills, increased productivity, improved customer service or efficiencies in business operations. The more immersive world of gaming facilitates highly effective "learning by doing" that delivers results; moreover, the innovation that can be seen in high quality, serious games is attractive to employees who often see traditional e-learning training as uninspiring.

However, like all successful training, learning needs to be tailored to the organisational culture and need. For instance, a game designed to instruct Royal Mail employees in correct filling and lifting techniques for mail containers is very different to one designed to help improve the efficiency and accuracy of ICICI bank staff checking for errors on deposited cheques, or one designed to train employees of the Holland America Line in equipment inspection and maintenance procedures that are vital to the safety of its leisure cruise ships and their passengers. What is common to all three situations is that serious games test the player's ability to demonstrate a very specific set of business-critical skills, behaviours or knowledge. In addition, the gaming environment makes it easier to measure each employee's current level of ability (through their 'game score' or performance report) and whether their knowledge is improving over time (by comparing the scores of multiple game-playing sessions).

In this respect, gaming offers good value for money and an innovative and often more interesting method of delivering complex or repetitive information. The training is more than just a one-off; it is available on a constant basis and we know that individuals like to improve their scores while gaming, so they are more likely to undertake the training again and again. There is a desire to play, practice and perfect. This means employees are likely to end up spending a lot more time learning the subject than would be indicated by the simple length of one session of the game.

How do you ensure a successful outcome? Well, it's imperative that the business systems and animated skills relate to the real-life processes that need to be captured and integrated into the game system. As such, they are fully customised training interventions that are most cost-effective for large or complex organisations, where there is a need to train a large number of people or where training to eradicate inefficiencies will have a significant impact on costs or business results.

Experience has shown us that a skill-based serious game designed around actual skills and business rules can immediately help staff apply new knowledge in a confident way in their real-life work environment. Games, with their universal appeal and ability to involve learners, are being increasingly recognised as a means of effective learning; organisations that shy away from such techniques may lose their competitive advantage to more innovative competitors.

Will Chadwick is the Vice President of Tata Interactive Systems (TIS). TIS is a pioneer and global leader of customised learning solutions. TIS uniquely offers best practice and world class Centres of Excellence through e-learning, mobile learning, interactive portals, business simulations, serious games and 3D animations under one roof. Visit http://www.tatainteractive.com/ for further information.

By Will Chadwick, Vice President of Tata Interactive Systems (TIS)

 

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