Minecraft is being used by the UK government to help recruit IT talent and it’s more than just a gimmick.
Games are a credible way to tackle major business problems and their value goes far beyond novelty and entertainment.
This post explores why elearning games can help organisations meet some of the biggest challenges they face.
The Minecraft factor
Finding the right staff is a major problem for many large organisations. Globally, 38% of employers reported difficulty in filling jobs in 2015, according to research by ManpowerGroup. In response to this challenge, the UK government is turning to the popular computer game Minecraft to find and recruit talent to work in the cyber security industry. It’s part of the Cyber Security Challenge UK, which aims to find potential employees through the use of games. In this particular example, the use of Minecraft helps to attract attention and inspire younger people who may not have ever considered a career in IT security, but there is more going on.
To be good at Minecraft you need certain skills including strategic thinking, team working, problem solving and creativity, just the type of skills that modern organisations want in the workforce. It is this side of the game, not its popularity that makes it such a good instrument for recruitment. Similar skills and abilities can be developed with elearning games in the workplace. These tend to be on a much more modest scale than Minecraft but can be just as effective in meeting specific challenges.
Leading thinker on elearning games, Professor Karl M. Kapp, has highlighted the three most compelling elements of games as being mastery, story and feedback. Kapp says: “People play games to demonstrate mastery, overcome competition, to escape from stress, to control their environment and to be entertained.” He argues these make for a more successful and engaging learning solution.
3 top business problems addressed by elearning games
The next section of this post takes three common business challenges and explores the role elearning games can play in addressing them. They are:
- Introducing new a technology or system successfully
- Getting managers to give effective feedback
- Complying with new regulations or legislation
These are generic issues but relevant to a wide range of organisations, both public and private.
Introducing new a technology or system successfully
Whether it is a new way of working or the latest piece of software, the hope of any business is that the change will lead to improvements in productivity, sales, customer service or another critical aspect of enterprise. However, introducing something new is fraught with difficulty and can be a challenging time for the workforce. A survey by MIT Sloan Management Review about the adoption of new technology revealed that most employees found the process complex and slow with managers failing to adequately communicate the benefits to the business.
Training can play a big part in helping employees to feel more comfortable and confident but also make it quicker and easier to get the new tech or system up-and-running. ‘Traditional’ online learning or a face-to-face workshop may well be in the training mix but an elearning game offers something special. It can be a test bed where employees can practice in a safe environment. This works best when the elearning game is a simulation of the new system or technology. A game allows people to see if they are doing it right, and if not, enables them to replay until they master the task.
Getting managers to give effective feedback
We expect our leaders to be able to handle difficult conversations at work but it doesn't come naturally to all of them. Research by the Chartered Management Institute found that 31% of those surveyed in the UK found it hardest to challenge a colleague’s inappropriate behaviour while 30% struggled to give feedback on poor performance. Inevitably, if managers repeatedly dodge tricky conversations this behaviour will have a negative impact on an organisation. The cost to business of ineffective management is significant and a UK government study put the figure at a massive £19 billion per year.
An elearning game can offer managers a platform to practice and learn from their mistakes. By navigating their way through a realistic story, where they have to make decisions about what to say and do next, they gain experience which can help improve their skills in the real world. Crucially, feedback in a game is visible and constant so they know instantly when they get things right or wrong.
Complying with new regulations or legislation
The need for businesses to be compliant has never been greater as regulators get tougher, penalties rises and the level of regulatory change increases. The financial impact alone is significant; fines by the UK Financial Services Authority rose by more than £400 million between 2008 and 2013. But there are wider consequences of non-compliance including the impact on share price, liquidity, increased management and staffing costs, reputation and customer trust. Andrew Neblett, Managing Director, Enterprise Risk Management at Thomson Reuters, sums it up: “Regulators are under intense pressure and are coming up with more creative ways to enforce and promote compliance. The new challenges that firms face go way beyond just a fine, and companies and individuals need to be aware of the wider implications that non-compliance can have throughout an entire organisation starting from the bottom-up.”
Compliance training has a mixed history in terms of its effectiveness and questions are constantly being asked about whether it can deliver what businesses need to safeguard themselves in such a tough climate. The latest report on compliance from the independent research organisation Towards Maturity sheds light on the scale of the problem facing businesses. Eight in ten compliance professionals looking to mitigate risk, improve business process and shift behaviour through learning initiatives are failing to achieve their goals. The report also highlights a move in thinking away from ‘traditional’ elearning to more innovative approaches.
Elearning games are among the new techniques being used to help organisations avoid non-compliance and boost the effectiveness of compliance training. As already outlined, elearning games allow people to learn, explore and practice in ways not normally available in traditional courses, whether online or face-to-face. In particular, elearning games in compliance have a number of advantages, allowing learning through exploration, practice, decision-making and engagement.
Finally, games don’t have to be on the grand scale of Minecraft to make an impact. Advances in technology along with clever and creative design means that affordable elearning games are now available, allowing more organisations to tap into their unique properties to help tackle the biggest challenges they face.