Case Study

Gamifying Training with a "Sandbox Challenge"

Imagine that you are well into an installation of a new software program for your company. Over the past several years, millions of dollars have been invested for its successful implementation. The new software will streamline your organization’s processes and enable your staff members to perform their tasks much more efficiently. However, they must receive formal training to learn how to successfully use all of the new features. Training is scheduled for six months from now, but staff members are already expressing concern about how and when they will be trained. This past August, this was the dilemma faced by the Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System (MOSERS).

Currently, MOSERS member services representatives are required to be able to quickly find the answers to member and retiree questions about their retirement dates, benefit amounts, beneficiaries, and Cost of Living (COLA) adjustments. The member services representatives are uneasy about whether or not they will be able to accurately perform their job duties once the new software is implemented because the screens will organize the member’s information in a new and unfamiliar way. 

In this situation, how can staff members be reassured that they will be able to complete these tasks, while working towards the software implementation “go live” date and the formal training events? One solution might have been to move up the scheduled training and train staff members early; however, numerous research studies have shown that within just one hour, if nothing is done with new information, most people will have forgotten about 50% of what they learned. After 24 hours, this will be 70%, and if a week passes without that information being used, up to 90% of it could be lost.

So, it was not feasible or wise to move up the training schedule. However, active learning in the workplace is one of the most effective ways to improve competence through learning retention, according to a 2022 study. Training delivered through hands-on activities, gamification[1], and group discussion can result in greater knowledge retention, as active learners retained 93.5% of previously learned information. So, the incorporation of active learning strategies creates a motivating learning environment. Using Vroom’s Expectancy theory, this can be explored within three constructs:

1.     Does the learner think they can achieve the outcome (confidence)?

2.     Does the learner think the outcome will lead to a desired result?

3.     Does the learner see valency (value) in the outcome (DuBrin, 2014)? 

At MOSERS, we have access to a software sandbox, which is a testing environment that isolates untested code changes and outright experimentation from the production environment. We had an idea to encourage users to use the sandbox in a structured way rather than to just allow them to sign up for sandbox time and just click around on the screens. Our solution was to run a themed sandbox challenge. Our employees have been excited and participating each week with very positive results.

The premise of our sandbox challenge is a Treasure Map. Eight treasure chests are located on the map and each chest contains questions for participants to answer. The questions are not hard to answer but do require that the participants do some searching in the new system. The questions conform to Vroom’s Expectancy Theory as the learner does think they can achieve the outcome (answering the questions), the learner does think the outcome will lead to a desired result (chance of winning the weekly contest), and the learner does see valency in the outcome (all participants are offered gold chocolate coins, the winner is awarded a small prize, and all participants are trying out the new software).

Using gamification as a construct for the contest, Week One took the participants on a trip to Demographic Dock. They were tasked with finding demographic information for five MOSERS members and retirees. Requested information included email addresses, projected retirement dates, and current mailing address. After participants found the answers to the questions, they submitted their entry forms and picked up a gold chocolate coin. At the end of each week, a winner was chosen from all the entry forms that contained correct answers. Tracking the time spent on finding the answers to five questions, participants reported spending between five and ten minutes to find the answers.

All questions focus on specific areas of the new software and so staff members are building confidence in their ability to navigate the new software to find the answers. The contest continues each week with participants visiting all the locations identified on the Treasure Map: Refund Reef, Estimate Estuary, Beneficiary Beach, Search Shoreline, Insurance Island, Payroll Passage, and Death Desert. All of these locations represent needed skills required by the member services team once the software is implemented.

Participants are enjoying the challenges, and many have provided positive feedback.

Nicki Russell, Chief Auditor, loved it! She said “The only thing I would tell you is to make it a bit more challenging. Some members will call in not knowing their ID and not wanting to give you their Social Security Number, so make us look for it.” She also said, “I’m going to do it every week and I’m having [my team] do this every week… it’s a requirement.” Employer Services Supervisor Shelley Lehmann schedules time with her entire employer services team to complete their questions together each week.

Jeremy Pond, MOSERS CFO: "This activity was fun. It makes us all get in there and take a look around."

To protect member information, the questions are written using only the sandbox’s randomly generated member IDs to identify members on the entry forms. These IDs change each time the sandbox environment is updated. Additionally, participants request temporary login names and passwords from an internal contest administrator who stores the completed forms. Only internal staff are allowed to take part in the contest.

Winning participants are given a token prize each week and have their photo taken with MOSERS Executive Director, Abby Spieler. They also receive the decorated treasure hunt shovel to display at their workstation for the week.

Participation levels for the contest remain steady week-to-week with participants expressing their desire to solve the next week’s questions. From the organization’s point of view, the investment in the sandbox challenge is minimal. The challenge questions took about a week to construct, the treasure map was created by an in-house graphic artist, the administration of the challenge requires only a few hours per week, and participants are spending about five to ten minutes weekly researching answers. 

If you are searching for a fun way to engage your staff members while implementing an organization wide software refresh, or if you are just learning new techniques, consider a sandbox challenge!

[1] Gamification is defined as the process of adding games or game like elements to something (such as a task) to encourage participation

Have questions? We can help.

Linea Solutions has been providing strategic guidance that has improved our clients for almost 25 years. We would be happy to meet with you virtually to discuss what type of assessment would be ideal for your organization. If you have questions about the best way to improve your organizational efficiency, contact us to see how we can help.

More Insights