Gamification and Learning

Oh boy, here comes that Gamification thing again…this time for learning.  If you are like me, you have been reading about Gamification for the last 4 years but see little of it in the enterprise.  For me, I always look to see if I can find examples and apply them to my work (learning) and my company.  And, without getting to in deep about Gamification (you can see some articles of Gamification in this little used community), I finally came across one that relates to our company.  But first, a little bit about gamification for those who are not that familiar:

Wikipedia defines it as the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.  If we dive a little deeper, the Gamification of Learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments.[1] The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning. 

Ok, now that is out of the way, let me share an example I came across on-line for an insurance company call center.  This is from Vicki Kunkel, CEO/Director of Digital Content & eLearning in her article What are the most effective uses of Gamification in Learning? (bolding is mine)

For example, last year I designed a gamification platform for an insurance call center where the business challenge was customer retention, the goal was one-call resolution, and the desired behavior changes were to have call center agents stop putting customers on hold, stop transferring calls, and strategically question and actively listen to customers. (Surveys showed hold times and transfers were the top hot buttons for customers.) Agents were split into teams, and team members earned points for each time they did not transfer a call or place a customer on hold. Double points were given if a customer complaint was resolved with one call.

The company used data to track the performance of each agent and a leaderboard was automatically updated daily. Teams received “super powers” attached to each level they achieved on the leaderboard. One super power was “Super Speed”, where they could go right to the front of any line (such as the cafeteria line). Another was “Force Field,” where winners could park in the executive-only, temperature-controlled underground garage. (This was a coveted power in both the cold winter months and the hot summer months!) The top super power was “Invisibility” – which was a day off with pay for the ultimate top performers.

For agents who found themselves on the bottom of the leaderboard, the platform would automatically populate short, two-minute “Power Boosters” (video eLearning modules), which gave tips on strategic questioning and listening skills to help agents better identify and solve customer issues on one call.

Three months after the gamification project was implemented, call hold times decreased by 17%; transfers were reduced by 52%, and customer retention increased 31% over pre-gamification levels.

As you can see, the results after three months were impressive…though I would be interested in how this sustained after, say 12 months or more.  I also thought it was an interesting point of having the “bottom agents” take short 2 minute video eLearning modules instead of the traditional classroom refresher.   Anyway, this was a quick blog to talk about Gamification and learning.  Hope to have more in the near future.


Rethinking and Redesigning Onboarding

This is my second blog from my experience at the Elliott Masie’s Learning 2014 conference in Orlando this year (you can see my previous blog Rebranding Learning here).  For this blog, I am going to talk about the Rethinking and Redesigning Onboarding session I attended. First of all, here is the synopsis:

Although organizations are busy investigating new learning technologies and methodologies, the world of onboarding interventions hasn’t changed much. Now, many companies are seeking new ways to structure new hire experiences and help current employees transition to new roles. This group of diverse learning professionals will share their organizations’ latest onboarding innovations. We’ll explore how they leverage a variety of technologies and holistic approaches to improve and scale the onboarding experience.

Although there were a number of speakers at this session, the representative from Accenture had the program that was the most mature and what I would like to talk about in this blog (they also recently won a 2014 Brandon Hall Gold Award for Best Onboarding Program).  At Accenture, they break the onboarding experience into 3 phases:

  1. Pre-Joiner (before you start)
  2. New Joiner (your first 12 months)
  3. Year one
  4. Pre-Joiner

Once you have signed your offer sheet, you still have a gap of leaving your previous job before you start at Accenture.  To help you start getting up to speed, Accenture has created a site called Countdown to Accenture where you can start learning more about Accenture before you begin.  Not only does it have information about the company history, it also starte the onboardning experience by listing information for new hires such as “getting Ready for Day One” and “Your First Weeks and Months”  Here is a screen shot:


Feel free to take a look at the site above as it is open to the public.

And for those of you who are mobile, well, they have their own mobile app called Accenture Sky Journey where you can learn more about what Accenture does:


They feel very strongly about having new employees coming into the organization with an awareness and comfort of the new employer.

  1. New Joiner

Your first 12 months are what they call 52 weeks of training; though actual in the classroom training is only 1-2 days total.  But, when new employees start, they are immediately assigned a buddy (the buddy can be on your team or someone who has volunteered to the buddy volunteer program – at the local office level).  All of the speakers spoke about the buddy program and the importance of having engagement from leadership.  In this situation, you have employees (buddies) who are dedicating their time that; although taking away from their day to day work, it really helps in securing more talent long term.

They also have a portal for new hire to track their progress and which houses information that they need (such as “who to contact”, “secutiry”, “IT”) so the information they need to navigate in the company is available to them.  It is also a place that both the hiring manager and employee can view together so if the new hire needs to take online courses or attend sessions, they can both track the progress.  This also allows the new hire to see their tasks for their first twelve months in a sefl-study mode.

  1. Year One

After an employee has finished year one, they are encourage to share their stories about their experiences.  A few different methods they use are:

  • Blogs – encourage employees to write a blog or post a guest blog on the onboarding blog page
  • Blog Interviews – for those who might not be comfortable blogging, they can be interviewed by a blogger
  • Interactive conversations – these are videotaped conversations with year one employees that discuss their experiences/stories


To ensure the program is effective and giving value to the organization, the onboarind program is measured.  There are a few ways they measure the program success:

  1. Retention rates – based on employees who go through the program vs those who did not in the past or currently (this is measure at the office, country and organization level)
  2. Engagement survey – Global survey pulls our data for new hires that have been with the organization 1 month, 3 months, 6, months, etc
  3. Site tracking – usage of their internal portal and pre-joiner sites/apps (how many hits, time on site, etc)

So, my last takeaway from the session was that, although it all sounds great, there is a large amount of work that is done to start and maintain a robust onboarding program.  Leadership engagement is extremely important as is buy-in from all levels in the organization (those who are are maintaining content, updating systems, allocating resources such as buddies and even managers allowing new employees to spend time in the program).  But, for those who have been measuring, they are seeing an increase in time employees are staying with the organization and feel that their onboarding programs are playing a part in this result.

What kind of banker are you?

Banking, it seems, like many things these days has multiple ways of doing what you need.  Off the top of my head, I see five types:

  1. Face to face
  2. Phone
  3. Internet site (for PC/Mac)
  4. Mobile
  5. SMS

Myself, I am a (3) and (4) mobile banker.  I do most of my bill payment, e-mail money transfers and check my balance on my phone.  For someone with two youngish kids and a rare 5 minutes to myself, this is helpful to be able to do it in the kitchen/bedroom/hockey arena/bus-stop/subway/etc (I will not comment on the bathroom).

If I want to do more research (like look at monthly statements, history, etc) I tend to use the internet site with my home computer as I like the bigger screen…and my bank mobile app does not yet have all of the same functionality.  And, I even hate to say it, but the odd time I even print out something.  Yikes!

So, what kind of banker are you?


Recently I was reading about learning trends for 2014 and I came across the following article: .  To save you some time, they mentioned that three trends they see shaping learning are:

  1. MOOCs
  2. Digital badges
  3. Competency-based learning

I thought today I would blog about MOOC’s as I recently completed a course on Gamification through the site Coursera.

First of all – what is a MOOC?.  Acorrding to Wikipedia, a Massive Open Online Course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs).  I am going to use the course I mentioned above I took through Coursera to explain my experience.

The Gamification course was 10 weeks in length where each week you had to watch a lecture (usually broken into 8-10 pieces) that was about 1-1.5 hours each week.  The grading was as follows:

  • 4 Homework Quizzes (multiple choice) — 35% of final grade
  • 3 Written Assignments (peer assessed) — 5%, 10%, and 20%, for a total of 35% of final grade
  • Final Exam (multiple choice, covering the entire course with emphasis on the second half) — 30% of final grade

During the 10 weeks, there were also discussion forums available for people to ask questions and participate (there were10,953 total discussion board posts), plus some Google + Hangouts with the Professor.  I found it to be a great experience…and slightly odd to be in something so “massive”.  Here are some statistics from the course.

  • 78,000 registered participants
  • 46% said it was their first MOOC
  • Student Demographics:
    • 169 countries represented (US = 24%)
    • 62% male
    • 77% working or otherwise not in school
    • 83% have a university degree; 43% have an advanced degre
  • 51,341(66% of registrants) accessed the course
  • 4,510 (5.8% of registrants) scored 70+ (which is higher than the average for MOOC’s on 4-5%)

Although at the end of the day 5.8% passed, this is a higher score than the average 3-5%.  But this course was free, available to anyone (though the course was only offered in English), and pretty informative.  And really, after 10 weeks, over 4,000 people completed all the lectures, assignments, tests and passed the course.  Pretty impressive looking at it that way.

BTW – in case you were wondering, I was one of the 4,510 that passed the course. 😉

Overall, it was a positive experience for me and I would take another one in the future.

So, anyone else here take a MOOC?  Or want to take one?

Who wants a NanoDegree?

I recently read an article on the site ReadWriteWeb about a partnership between AT&T and Udacity to offer what is called a Nanodegree.  What is a Nanodegree?  Well, as you can probably guess, it is “smaller (nano) than a regular degree.

A better description is the following:

Nanodegrees are designed to be completed in less than a year, at a cost of just $200 a month.

The nanodegrees will be:

  • Efficient – Designed for completion in less than 12 months.
  • Accessible – Anywhere there’s a broadband connection.
  • Affordable – At a cost of approximately $200 per month.

So, what are nanodegrees for and who takes them?  After reading up on the topic, it seems to be focused on people who already have a college degree and are “just looking to expand their skill set and potentially take on a new career path”.  Also, with the rising price of tuition, this could be an affordable choice for many looking to upgrade their skills.   And I know, this is more “tech industry” focused right now.  But, the article goes on to mention this little tidbit:

Udacity plans to take nanodegrees outside the tech industry: Thrun told me the company is talking with a lot of banks about finance nanodegrees

And this of course started me thinking about Nanodegree at Sun Life.  Maybe not waiting for Udacity but having some of our own.  What a great way to learn more about different areas of the company.  And I don’t mean job-shadow or attend a presentation, but delve deeper into the day to day work, understand how the business functions and practice some “real life” tasks.  You could have a more educated and aware workforce and it could assist with internal promotion for those who have completed nanodegrees and are looking in new areas of the business.

Anyway, it seems that the internet is really opening up not only new ways to learn, but new paths to follow.

Coffee, Starbucks and Lean

A few months ago I wrote a blog about buying a Starbucks Latte using Lean and improving the speed of getting a latte.  But with Lean, there is always room for improvement as we seek perfection.  Thus I was looking at my new streamlined Starbucks experience and began to think of ways to improve.  And I think I have one that impacts just the coffee drinkers….but improves the overall customer experience.

So, let’s setup the scenario.  If you recall from the Latte blog, you could open an app (the NoLine app) and order ahead to get your drink.  But let’s add another scenario/player in this process:  the coffee drinker.  One problem I have had in the past is that when I just want a cup of coffee, I need to wait for the barista to make serve all those annoying (zing) latte drinkers which, of course, is a waste of my time.  Or, even in using my NoLine app, my order might be impacted by how many fancy latte drink orders are before me (I am really giving it to the latte drinkers today eh?).  Or, by examining customers, I have not taken the time to look at the impulse drinkers.  You know, the ones that walk by a Starbucks and think, yes, I could go for a coffee before I go to my meeting.  But alas, I need to get in line as I did not order ahead.  Blah, that NoLine app does not help.

But maybe with a few tweaks, we can improve this process.
So, let’s base line the time it is going to take me when I want an impulse coffee:

  1. Waiting in line to get to the cash register (3:30)
    2. Telling someone what I want (0:10)
    3. Paying and waiting to get change and/or a receipt (0:10)
    4. Standing in line again waiting for my drink to be made (0:10) ** this task is less time than the latte so I have removed 25 seconds

The total is 4 minutes (4:00) though if the latte drinkers were ordering online maybe the line would be shorter…but let’s keep the original time. So, I still have my phone.  I still have my Starbucks app.  So, this is all I need with a small tweak to what currently exists I can cut down on the wasted time of waiting in line for a single cup of coffee.

Currently, within the Starbucks app there is a prepaid card with a barcode:


Here is my idea.  How about we automate the coffee carafes and build in bar code readers?  So, when I go into Starbucks, I no longer line-up.  Rather, I walk over to the self-serve coffee section.   I grab an empty Grande cup, place it under a coffee carafe, take out my Starbucks app/pre-paid card and, this here is the new technology, scan my card on the coffee carafe bar code reader (the reader is built right into the coffee carafe).  Boom, my drink gets poured immediately, Starbucks gets paid immediately, and the line-up for those buying food or paying (gasp) cash get shorter/faster.

And, let’s revisit my time to get a coffee now:

  1. Getting a cup and filling it up with coffee (0:15)

Total = 0.15 seconds vs the original 4:00.  Thus, I have saved myself 3:45 per visit.   And remember, if my break is only 15 minutes long, I have just saved myself almost 25% of my break time.
So, in theory, we have now removed both Latte(Cappuccino) and coffee drinkers from our Starbucks line-up and freed up staff to deal with customers who want face to face interaction or other items such as food or bags of coffee.
Anyway, as I mentioned before, I am still pretty new to learning Lean but that is my second idea.

Buying a Starbucks Latte using Lean

As many organizations start to journey through a Lean transformation, it started me thinking where I could apply this to what I do on a daily basis.  For today, I am going to use Starbucks and buying a Latte (buying a coffee will be in the next week or so).

So, let me setup the scenario.  Friday morning, I want a Latte.  So, I put my IM status on Away (haha) and I go over to my local Starbucks.  Here is the process.  I arrive in Startbucks and line up with all the other annoying people on their iPhones talking loudly to each other (note: I also have an iPhone).  Finally I get to the cash and tell the person my order (Latte, non-fat, blah, blah, blah).  I then scan my iPhone to pay or give them cash and they give me change…or if I want to be REALLY annoying, I use my Visa to pay (you know who you are).  Then, I wait with all those annoying people until my name is called and I get my drink.
I think there could be a better way…as there is too much of my time is wasted (muda).  To break it down further, there is too much waiting.

So, let’s walk through me wanting a Latte when I arrive at Starbucks.  Keep in mind, I already know what I want, I just need to tell someone to get it for me.  Unfortunately, it is an inefficient process to actually get my drink.  Here are the steps and I have averaged out the time below (minutes: seconds):

  1. Waiting in line to get to the cash register (3:30)
  2. Telling someone what I want (0:10)
  3. Paying and waiting to get change and/or a receipt (0:10)
  4. Standing in line again waiting for my drink to be made (0:35)

A total of almost 4 ½ minutes (4:25) to get my drinks – and, IMO, a lot of wasteful steps for me to get a drink (Note: since my break is only 15 minutes, this process takes up 30% of my time).  So, how can it be done better?  Well, I am going to turn to my good friend mobile technology to streamline this process and create a smartphone App.  It is an App that I call the NoLineOrder App.  Starbucks already has a mobile app, so, my NoLineOrder App will be incorporated within.

OK, so, here we go.  It’s Friday morning and I want a Latte.  I know I am going to my local Starbucks.  So, I open my Starbucks App and click on the NoLineOrder icon which gives me the following options

  1. Choose Location – (default your last one or favourites)
  2. Your order – (default your last one or favourites)
  3. Arrival Time – (enter the time you will arrive to pick-up your drink)
  4. Payment (using my Starbucks mobile card I can prepay)

Once I have filled in the above, I receive the following on my screen:

  1. An order number with bar code (automatically generated)


Thus, my drink will be made before I arrive.  So, if my pick-up time is set to 10:47 (synched with my phone), when I show up at Starbucks, I can approach the counter and have the staff scan my number/barcode on my phone to get my drink.

The new steps are as follows:

  1. Complete app for drink order – (0:35)
  2. Pick-up drink – (0:10)

Total = 0.45 seconds vs the original 4:27.  Thus, I have saved myself just under 4 minutes per visit.

I would think that this could change the layout/job functions in Starbucks; for example, a longer counter for drink pick-ups, shorter area for those “old schooler’s” who want to line up and pay with (gasp) cash or even worse, credit card.
And though this is not the focus of my blog, this has many opportunities for direct marketing, tracking behaviours, loyalty programs, rewards, etc.
Anyway, I am pretty new to learning Lean but that is my idea.