Game To Train

“Just do it!” is the advice three companies give when it comes to utilizing games and simulations for training.

“Just do it!” is the advice three companies give when it comes to utilizing games and simulations for training. Farmers Insurance uses virtual reality to put claims adjusters in water-damaged homes. Hand & Stone implemented Jeopardy!-like mobile games to help employees improve knowledge retention and increase sales. And Royal Bank of Canada turned to gamified microlearning to help familiarize front-line employees with mobile banking. A win-win for all!


Farmers Insurance Builds Experiences

“Virtual reality (VR) is here. It’s not science fiction,” stresses Jessica DeCanio, head of Claims Training for Farmers Insurance’s University of Farmers. “And it’s at a price point where it makes sense.”

Farmers used VR for the first time one year ago to train claims adjusters to deal with water damage. “When you put on the VR headset, the first thing you see is background information about the loss. Then you enter a home,” she says. “Your job is to determine the location and extent of the water damage and what decisions you need to make.”

The VR homes have six different floor plans, 500 different damage combinations, and two levels of difficulty. “Every session is unique,” DeCanio notes. Participants can explore potential leak sites and also can phone for assistance.

“Right now, because of the amount of equipment needed, the training occurs in a classroom,” DeCanio continues. “We divide the class into groups of three. One person wears the headset and the other two watch on a screen. A facilitator guides each of the 15-minute VR sessions, pausing for questions.” In a job-shadowing situation, those questions would need to wait until trainees left the customer’s house.

Experiential Learning Quickly Attained

“Claims adjusters improve by collecting experiences,” DeCanio says. “The more times they meet a client and resolve a claim, the better they become. It’s hard to replicate that experience with traditional training, which used photos and discussions. Now, VR lets us put adjusters in a virtual claims experience without traveling to an actual customer’s home.” Consequently, the learning curve is shortened.

Since the pilot began, Farmers has rolled out VR claims training in three cities. “Hundreds of people went through the simulation when it was being built, and approximately 100 have completed the formal pilot. The overwhelming majority like the experience,” DeCanio says.

Participants are learning, she adds. “We have 18 decisions people need to make during the simulations. Learners go through four rounds of VR training, and we measure improvements in their decisions.” Scores have improved 26 percent between the first and final simulations, with an average accuracy of 95 percent at the end.

Lessons Learned

Farmers added a competitive element by delivering scores upon completing the simulations, encouraging learners to compete with their classmates and with themselves.

Developing the project, “our biggest lesson was to be very intentional about the scoring of anything that’s gamified to ensure we reward behaviors that are aligned to on-the-job goals,” DeCanio says. “Initially, we rewarded new claims adjusters for speed in completing the simulations, but we realized it was more important for new reps to make the right decisions and to have good customer interactions, so we took speed out of that equation.” Speed is factored in for experienced employees in advanced simulations.

For Learning and Development (L&D) organizations just considering VR, DeCanio advises, “realize that you have to start somewhere. Technology is advancing quickly and VR will only become more accessible. Therefore, open your imagination and find places where learners need hands-on experience to learn.”


Hand & Stone: Short, Mobile Training Yields High ROI

“Manuals and 20- to 30-minute Webinars aren’t instant enough and don’t hold Millennials’ attention,” says Jarred Fajerski, VP of Operations for Hand & Stone Franchise Corporation, a spa and facial massage chain. “The way we taught employees at our nearly 400 franchisee locations had to change.”

Fajerski already was familiar with 1Huddle’s gamification platform. When that platform became mobile, “I asked to be introduced to it again.”

“The games are structured like Jeopardy!” Fajerski says, with points awarded based on the difficulty of the question. More than 2 million questions are available, geared to enhance sales and customer service. “We have games for spa associates, managers, massage therapists…any job you can imagine.”

Popular Option

Hand & Stone presented the game as a training option to its franchisees, and, so far, about half of the spas have opted in, and roughly half their employees play. Although they can play at work, he says, “the cool part is, because it’s fun and competitive, they also play on their own time. Last year, employees played an average of 24 games. The top two players each logged 20 hours—400 games—of training.”

The corporation and its franchisees enhance the competitiveness with leaderboards that include players’ pictures, and with contests. “In third quarter 2017, we ran contests in our 10 regions and awarded $200 gift cards to the players with the most games played, the highest total number of points, and the highest player rating,” Fajerski says. The categories were designed to make people want to continue playing, he explains, regardless of their standing in the statistics. For example, “we added the player rating to encourage people who got the right answers but who didn’t play as many games as others, and added the highest total points or most games played to encourage players to keep trying.”

Because the 1Huddle platform generates weekly and monthly reports, local spa franchisees can dive into the data to identify learning areas in which employees need more help. Managers also can generate tailored reports, and set them to auto-generate.

Playing these training games directly correlates to improved sales, Fajerski says. Specifically, in 2017, employees who played the games increased their knowledge retention by 42 percent. When this training first was launched, employees responded correctly to only 60 percent of the questions. Now, two years later, the correct response rate has improved to 80 percent.

Worth the Investment

The return on investment is high. Because Hand & Stone has both a high volume and high growth rate, it’s able to offer the game to franchisees for only $20 per month. In 2017, that small investment helped individual spas generate an average $2,400 extra per month in sales.

Considering the launch in hindsight, Fajerski says, “I would have made playing the game a requirement for franchisees. In fact, we may put it into the franchise agreement later on.”

For companies considering this type of training, he recommends: “Just do it! This is the future of training—short bursts and quick, correct responses.”


Royal Bank of Canada: Digital Initiatives Gain from Gamified Microlearning

When the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) launched its digital products in 2015, it quickly realized it needed to prioritize “digital” if its new solutions were to succeed. At the time, 40 percent of RBC’s front-line employees neither understood nor used mobile banking, so they couldn’t effectively help their customers access these new offerings. This realization came only eight weeks before the bank launched its digital wallet initiative.

Rather than risk overwhelming employees with traditional learning approaches that were time-consuming, expensive, or non-engaging, RBC took a fast, fresh approach: gamified microlearning.

“We focused internally first, to help employees understand and use mobile banking features themselves, so they could become advocates to our customers,” says Bryan Herskovits, director of Digital Activation.

See, Do, Test

RBC partnered with Horizn, a MaRS Discovery District startup. “Horizn’s microlearning platform was used by large global technology companies, which gave us confidence,” Herskovits says.

The program developed by RBC and Horizn focuses on “seeing, doing, and testing,” he continues. First, users learn the value proposition behind a banking initiative (mobile wallets, for instance), often by watching a short video. Then they learn to complete the transaction in an emulator. Finally, employees are tested for retention. Each module presents content in a short, logical sequence for a specific transaction. Consequently, employees understand how the banking activity should unfold and can answer clients’ questions.

“The learning materials aren’t games, but we’ve gamified them so players earn points and badges,” Herskovits explains. Specifically, employees can earn points in the platform and can compete nationally to win individual and team prizes. Each learning module takes three to five minutes to complete and can be accessed on any Web-enabled device, even outside the bank’s firewall.

To track learning, reports can be generated from the national level all the way down to the branch manager level. This deep visibility helps managers increase focus on certain services and also coach individuals.

Fast Acceptance

Within six weeks, nearly 90 percent of users were earning badges. Employee use of mobile apps increased from a baseline of 60 percent to more than 80 percent, and within 30 days, half the employees were digitally fluent. RBC started the program with five courses. Now it has 80.

“We wanted employees to receive training rapidly,” Herskovits says. Therefore, the gamified learning materials are augmented with real people—digital navigators—to help employees learn the new options. “We thought we’d have about 1,200 digital navigators—roughly one per branch. We actually have approximately 7,000.”

Executive Support, Not Executive Direction

One of the key lessons is that with this fast-moving approach to digital activation, “you need executive support (but not executive direction) to cross silos and heighten interest,” Herskovits says. RBC’s materials were advanced by a cross-functional team from digital, product, retail banking, marketing, communications, learning, legal, compliance, operations, and information security.

Since the 2015 launch, Herskovits says more than 1 million courses have been taken, nearly a half million badges have been earned, and more than 10 million client demos have been done. RBC since has created a similar learning platform for its clients.

The digital activation initiative is successful. Since May 2015, RBC reports a 20 percent increase in mobile banking utilization. Perhaps just as beneficial, employees’ digital fluency (upward of 87 percent) is at an all-time high, and they actively advocate digital banking.


Training magazine is the industry standard for professional development and news for training, human resources and business management professionals in all industries.