The power of gamification in the workplace

More than 100 years ago, during a visit to one of the many factories he owned, Charles M. Schwab took a piece of chalk and proceeded to draw a large number “6” on the floor for all the employees to see. (Why did he do this? I’ll get to that shortly.) Schwab made his money as a pioneer in the steel-making industry, employed hundreds of thousands of workers and built an empire that rivals the biggest corporations of today. During his time as a leader, he had many similar challenges that today’s modern manager or business owner might face, such as motivating employees to reach their full potential in the workplace. On the particular occasion I mentioned above, Schwab had noticed that this factory had the capacity to produce more steel—but that the employees were not motivated enough to do so. He knew he needed to take a new tactic.

The process of making steel is done in “heats.” During this time in history, there was almost an unlimited demand for steel in the marketplace, so a factory’s ability to complete as many heats as possible was paramount. Schwab inquired to one of the day-shift employees about how many heats their crew had completed that day; the employee responded confidently, “Six heats, sir.” 

Charles M. Schwab. (Photo: Wikipedia)

That’s when Schwab got the chalk out.

When the night shift came into work later that day, they quickly inquired about the number’s origin; someone informed them that the big boss had come in that day and asked how many heats had been done, then chalked the response down on the floor. The next day, when the day shift returned to work, the “6” had been erased and replaced with a “7.” The night crew saw the number as a challenge and found the motivation within themselves to produce an extra heat that night. This back-and-forth between the shifts went on for weeks.

Schwab was using a technique called gamification to challenge his employees to achieve more.

Gamification is defined as “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something so as to encourage participation.” In an interview between InformationWeek reporter Debra Donston-Miller and Caroline Avey, director of innovative learning solutions at ACS Learning Services, Avey said:

The idea of game mechanics is taking elements of games and putting them into a normal business process. Game mechanics integrated into applications can be quite sophisticated or very simple. Users sometimes don’t realize they are participating in a game …. Think of a learning module where you have to complete one level before moving on to the next level—that’s a very simple game mechanic called leveling.

Look around you in the break room or in the doctor’s waiting room, or anywhere for that matter, and you might see grown men and women playing games on their phone. What if you could draw employees in with the same enthusiasm and the same commitment they have to “Candy Crush”?

At the U.K.’s Department for Work and Pensions, an online game called “Idea Street” was created and introduced to employees. In the game, employees receive points for innovative ideas, level up as they gain more points and have their names prominently displayed on a leaderboard throughout the company’s communication channels. The game has brought forth 1,400 ideas, 63 of which were implemented. The truth is that employees had fun while directly contributing to a business cause. Perhaps none of these ideas would have been unearthed without this mechanism.

Can gamification also increase employee morale and engagement?
A recent Gallup Poll reported that 71 percent of American workers are not engaged. In case you read that too fast, let me repeat it in another way: Seven out of every 10 people going to work every day in America are not engaged in their jobs. And although there are many factors contributing to the current state, it’s clear that actions must be taken to reinvigorate the workforce. And I think that gamifying certain business activities is one strategy that can spark some much-needed electricity throughout an organization.

Let me be clear: I’m not talking about installing an Xbox or foosball table in the employee lounge. What I am saying is that there is an opportunity to add a new element to your existing company practices and programs. The fun and competitive nature that gamification brings out in people can breathe new life into training and development programs, create fun and exciting mechanisms to track department metrics, and make company bonus programs more visible and interactive, as just some examples. Ultimately, these types of activities will strengthen the good relationship you have with your engaged workforce while at the same time rekindle the competitive spirit of some of your lesser-engaged workers. It might be time to get the chalk out.

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Originally published by Brad Bingham, Brad is an aspiring human resources thought leader who is passionate about organizational behavior, professional development and the art of leadership.


7 Trends to Watch to Stay Ahead of the Digital Era Curve

This is the time of year when you start seeing a mad dash of articles looking back on the trends of 2014 and what to expect in 2015. While this is par for the course, something much more significant occurred in 2014 — this was the year it became clear that digital disruption is here to stay. According to a recent Zinnov study, almost 50 percent of the companies on the Forbes 2000 list will drop from the list because of disruption and the impact of the digital era. The study notes that enterprises will need to spend $70 billion in 2015 to compete with emerging digital organizations.

As we look back, 2014 will be the year wearable technology became fashionable, “things” of all types got connected to the Internet, advanced analytics made everything “smart,” 3-D printing turned the time to manufacture on its side, immersive technologies moved beyond gaming and payments finally became consumer friendly. These technologies will continue to mature in 2015, but it’s clear many of these have reached a tipping point and are now affecting how enterprises compete and survive in this new digital era.

Here’s a summary of what we experienced in 2014 and what we might expect in 2015:

Watches Got Smart

2014 may be remembered as the year watches became the vanguard of wearable computing. While Samsung, Sony, Pebble, Metawatch and others had Smart Watches on the market, it’s Apple’s announcement of the Apple Watch that is likely to grab all the attention and drive more widespread adoption. Expect 2015 to be the year when we see more significant adoption.

Printers Became 3-D

We’re still in the early stages of discovery for 3-D printing. Companies like Normal were first on the scene to offer consumers the ability to take a picture of their ear and get custom fit earphones within 48 hours. 2015 will see many more companies emerging to commercialize 3-D printing. Gartner predicts this will be a $13 billion industry by 2018.

More ‘Things’ Connected to the Internet

2014 will mark the year everyday devices — from fitness bracelets, home controls, TVs, cars, transportation, industrial controls, etc. — got connected to the Internet. Connecting things to the Internet is becoming the electrification of the modern age. According to Business Insider, these connected “things” will most likely surpass traditional PC and tablets by 2017. Beginning in 2015, expect the shift to move from devices to smart management. Expect to see the emergence of Smart Homes, Smart Cars, Smart Cities, Smart Offices and Smart Factories.

Virtual Reality Became a Reality

The further advancement of immersive technologies like Oculus Rift gives this technology the potential to be truly disruptive. Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus only further validated the opportunity. The open developer tools and interfaces makes it possible for companies to start creating extensions that are more than just gaming applications. While 2015 won’t make these immersive technologies part of everyday life, expect an emergence of applications such as virtual tours, interactive learning and training, eye tracking applications, etc. If you still don’t believe it, just try it: a 90 year old grandmother did just that.

Payments Went Digital

Digital payments and wallets are struggling to mature and gain widespread adoption in US markets. According to Forrester, only 11 percent of people in the US have used mobile wallets. For mobile wallets to succeed they need to integrate all of a consumer’s needs such as payment, shopping, loyalty, travel, entertainment and financial needs in one convenient app. It has to be more than just providing the ability to tap and pay.

In 2015, expect to see a tsunami of new apps coming out that integrate these capabilities. And while battles raged between NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) approaches, users clamored for a simple solution. Apple did just that this past Fall with the introduction of ApplePay. You can expect adoption of payment technologies to pick up in 2015, which will drive more maturity and market consolidation of payment and wallet providers. Players to watch are Stripe, Dwolla, Level Up, Square — and don’t expect Google, PayPal and Amazon to sit quietly.

Currency Goes Digital

Digital currencies like Bitcoin became front and center in 2014. From Bitcoin ATMs to retailers accepting bitcoin payments to bitcoin exchanges, it felt like we should start trading in our currency! Judging by the amount of investing going into Bitcoin and the types of companies that are emerging it could be a clear sign that crypto-currency may be the way of the future.

While high profile bitcoin exchanges like Mt. Gox ran into trading issues due to poor management and inexperience, it’s important to note that at its peak, it was processing 70 percent of the world’s bitcoin transactions and processing $500 million in bitcoin transactions each month. That’s a pretty impressive “experiment.” Much like mobile payments, the underlying value of digital currency will be determined by how useful it is for consumers, merchants and financial institutions adopt it. 2015 may be the year we determine if this is really the birth of a global currency or the end of an interesting experiment.


Originally posted by Frank Palermo – CMS WIRE

Spending on Corporate Training Soars: Employee Capabilities Now A Priority

The economic recovery is clearly here: spending on corporate training is soaring.

We just completed our 2014 Corporate Learning Factbook and the research is striking: US spending on corporate training grew by 15% last year (the highest growth rate in seven years) to over $70 Billion in the US and over $130 Billion worldwide. (Download executive summary here.)

This tremendous increase follows two years of accelerated spending in this area (10% in 2011 and 12% in 2012), illustrating how companies see tremendous skills gaps as we recover from the recession.

Corporate training is always a very good indicator of economic activity: when companies slow down they often cut training spending, and then as business grows they ramp back up to train new hires, sales people, and leaders. This is among the most discretionary of all corporate spending areas, so it is an excellent bellweather for business confidence.

Spending on Corporate Training

Why the rapid growth? All our research tells us that organizations today suffer from a “skills supply chain” challenge. Not only do more than 70% of organizations cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges, but many companies also tell us that it takes 3-5 years to take a seasoned professional and make them fully productive.

And the skills challenge is huge. Recent research shows, for example, that the Oil and Gas industry needs 60,000 petrochemical engineers by 2016 yet only 1300 graduate from US schools each year. This means that oil companies have to train, retrain, and jointly educate a lot of energy engineers to grow.

A few key facts about L&D spending:

Spending on leadership development remains very high. As in prior years the research shows that the #1 areas of spending is management and leadership (35%). All our research on corporate talent shows that global leadership gaps continue to be the most pressing issues on the minds of business and HR leaders. As Millennials take on more responsibility, companies need to build leadership skills at all levels and in all geographies around the world. (Read more at: Millennials Will Soon Rule the World.)
High-performing companies spend more. Companies which fall into our “high-impact” categories spend significantly more on training than average. So companies who invest in a total L&D strategy spend more per employee than those who are inconsistent. This shows that L&D spending pays off.
Technology is revolutionizing this market. The research shows an explosive growth in technology tools to train people today. Self-authored video, online communication channels, virtual learning, and MOOCs (Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, edX, …) are all growing rapidly as training tools. People still need formal classroom education, but this is now less than half the total “hours” people consume in training around the world. And among the highly advanced companies, as much as 18% of all training is now delivered through mobile devices.

We see significant growth in new virtual learning environments: companies like GE, Motorola, Philips , and others are extending their training budget to reach 2-3 times the audience through the use of easy to use training portals and virtual learning experiences. While most big companies still have a lot of work rationalizing their training spend, the adoption of technology in training has accelerated.

The Learning Management Systems market is also growing rapidly. We estimate that the market for learning management systems is now over $2 billion and continues to be one of the fastest segments of HR software. Every major HR technology vendor is investing in its LMS offerings.

MOOCs are also likely to radically impact corporate training, as branded universities put more and more courses online. (read The MOOC Marketplace Takes Off for more information.)

This is exciting news. While skills gaps (we call it the “supply chain of skills”) continue to challenge companies, an increased investment in training is good for everyone: employees, businesses, and job seekers. This level of increase shows that businesses are aggressively expanding and companies need skilled workers to grow.

Despite a tightening labor market for skills, this data predicts a good year ahead.

For more information about corporate training:

Originally posted by Josh Bersin; FORBES ON-LINE…

Listening Makes Technology (and Stuff) Work

2014-04-November-Listen.jpg  Meg Bear, group vice president of Oracle Social Cloud, uses an interesting term when she discusses the role of listening in the customer relationship: humility. That doesn’t come up often when discussing enterprise software, but Bear stands behind it as being a catalyst for a customer-centric business.

“Customers are trying to tell you what they want — they’re giving you breadcrumbs. With humility and listening, you’ll be on to the right thing,” said Bear during a presentation at last month’s Pivotcon.

Humility wasn’t the only quality Bear mentioned. Respect also made an appearance. As did authenticity. What Bear is looking at is a change in mindset, that requires businesses to open up to hearing what may not be the message they want to promote, to listening to the themes and topics that arise in their customer’s (and would be customers) conversations in social forums, and then being open and ready to make changes based on this listening.

It Comes Down to Preparation

Of course it takes more than using these “soft” skills to make a social strategy work. For Phil Colley, social media strategist at General Motors, it comes down to three factors: structure, organization and tools.

Having the structure in place means that Colley and his colleagues are prepared in times of crisis. GM has been no stranger to crisis. When it issued a recall almost nine months ago due to faulty ignition switches, GM’s social channels played a large part in handling customer concerns, questions and complaints. The existence of a three pronged process meant the difference between ramping up and acting versus scrambling to put new processes in place. The process listed clear priorities: informing customers, connecting customers to the right division and keeping GM dealers up to date through digital toolkits.

Colley gives credit to social’s support and integration throughout the company: “everybody touches social.” The company witnessed early on the power of social to connect with its audience, with the publication of its FastLane blog in 2005. With the success of the blog, every brand created its own social channel, its own blog. Social grew organically throughout the company, but it also grew out of control. A governance plan was set in place to aid in alignment.

Alignment was also needed in the technology realm. Before General Motors became an Oracle Social Cloud client, it had “125 different tools, none of them talking to each other, none of them talking to the CRM,” said Colley. The move to the Social Cloud allowed Colley “to focus on what he needed to be focusing on” and opened up an internal social channel for employees to discuss solutions for customers.

Differentiate Yourself

Colley’s assessment of the automobile landscape would probably be unheard of 15 years ago. “The vehicles from every auto maker are very good across the industry.” And yet this sentiment comes up more and more often, no matter what the industry. Businesses are no longer competing on the basis of their products — the differentiating factor comes down to the relationships with the customer.

Bear shares an example of how social listening — combined with the openness to use that input to provoke change — can deliver for customers and companies. A community manager at children’s toy maker LeapFrog started noticing customer comments on a discontinued line of alphabet refrigerator magnets. People missed them, discussed past experiences buying them for a niece or nephew and in general asked “why did you ditch this product?” The community manager brought these conversations from the social channels to product. The company reissued the toy.

For those still struggling for the hard return on social efforts, Bear made it clear that social should not be seen as a standalone item, “Social is an enablement tool for your broader customer goals. They’re tied to KPIs, they’re tied to broader strategic goals.” What businesses need to do when trying to assess the ROI question is ask, “What is our investment in the customer experience and how is that impacting the bigger strategic picture?”

About That Technology and Stuff

Last week Rikk Wilde, regional zone manager for General Motors in the Kansas City area, was tapped to present San Francisco Giants pitched Madison Bumgarner, MVP of the World Series, with a new Chevy truck. When it came time to hand over the keys to the truck, Wilde froze. Index cards in hand, Wilde ad libbed to describe the truck’s capabilities as “technology and stuff.”

PR gaffe? It looked at first like it might be.

But after a few hours, the tide turned. GM noticed the hashtag #technologyandstuff and #chevyguy taking off on social channels as people came out in support of Wilde. We’ve all been nervous before a presentation, but not many of us have those nerves caught before a televised audience estimated at 23.5 million people. The company ran with it, overdubbing commercials with “technology and stuff,” and adding it to the homepage.

Sometimes humility means being able to have a little fun, even at your own expense.

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Originally published b

Houston Astros hacked, trade conversations posted online

The Houston Astros have been hacked.

The incident affects more than just the Texas baseball squad because information pilfered in the breach – and posted publicly online – relates to private conversations the team had with several other major league ball clubs.

Officials with the Astros were alerted last month that an unauthorized party, or parties, obtained information stored on its servers and in its applications, according to a statement emailed to on Tuesday.

Team officials quickly alerted MLB security and, since then, an investigation aided by the FBI is ongoing, according to the statement, which adds that the Astros organization plans to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated,” the statement said.

Some of the ball clubs the Houston Astros were corresponding with include the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins, according to two postings on anonymous data sharing website Anonbin, which reveal talks dating back to June 2013.

Jeff Luhnow, general manager of the Houston Astros, held sessions with reporters on Monday and said that the organization is working to upgrade its security to prevent a similar incident from occurring, according to a transcript posted by the Houston Chronicle.

Luhnow, who thought that security was sufficient prior to the breach, said he does not believe the Astros were targeted specifically, but added that he is not exactly sure of the motives behind the attack, according to the transcript.

“It’s a reflection of the age we living in,” Luhnow was reported as saying. “People are always trying to steal information, get information, whether it’s legally or illegally, and in this case it was illegally obtained and it’s unfortunate.”

Mike Lloyd, CTO of RedSeal Networks, said he could not agree more with Luhnow. Lloyd told in a Tuesday email correspondence that this kind of illegal activity is further encouraged by how relatively easy it is to execute.

“Attackers are finding [that] complex defenses are badly deployed, badly coordinated, and easy to walk through,” Lloyd said. “All the attacker needs is persistence, and the search for a forgotten, unlocked “side door” into the business can be largely automated.”

To recover from this incident, the Astros should not only shore up the security of their infrastructure, but also improve the logging and tracking of users who access sensitive data, Jean Taggert, security researcher with Malwarebytes, told in a Tuesday email correspondence.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Taggert said. “Baseball is a highly competitive game, and the kind of insight you could garner from these private sabermetrics would not only help in trade negotiations, it would allow you to frustrate the future trade prospects of the Astros.”

For more info on Security Event Management Solutions (SIEM):

First reported in SC Magazine by Adam Greenberg

How Augmented Reality Works

Video games have been entertaining us for nearly 30 years, ever since Pong was introduced to arcades in the early 1970s.Computer graphics have become much more sophisticated since then, and game graphics are pushing the barriers of photorealism. Now, researchers and engineers are pulling graphics out of yourtelevision screen or computer display and integrating them into real-world environments. This new technology, called augmented reality, blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell.

On the spectrum between virtual reality, which creates immersive, computer-generated environments, and the real world, augmented reality is closer to the real world. Augmented reality adds graphics, sounds, haptic feedback and smell to the natural world as it exists. Both video games and cell phones are driving the development of augmented reality. Everyone from tourists, to soldiers, to someone looking for the closest subway stop can now benefit from the ability to place computer-generated graphics in their field of vision.

Augmented reality is changing the way we view the world — or at least the way its users see the world. Picture yourself walking or driving down the street. With augmented-reality displays, which will eventually look much like a normal pair of glasses, informative graphics will appear in your field of view, and audio will coincide with whatever you see. These enhancements will be refreshed continually to reflect the movements of your head. Similar devices and applications already exist, particularly on smartphones like the iPhone.

In this article, we’ll take a look at where augmented reality is now and where it may be headed soon.


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Originallt posted in Howstuffworks by KevinBonsor

Sustaining Training’s Impact

Time plays a key role in business. It has a meaningful impact on how corporate training programs are developed, whether it’s the speed of delivery, the length of the program, the time the learner interacts with the materials, the time the behavior is demonstrated by the employee after the training, or the introduction of tools and technologies that can get information to learners quickly.

Looking across three research studies, I have collected a group of factors demonstrating the impact of time or speed on training programs. Time is a major constraint in the delivery of training – creating tension between desire for shorter training and longer impact.

In the Training Industry and ON24 research study, “Using Virtual Environments for Leadership Development,” 68 percent of respondents cited that sustaining the impact of training is a key challenge. What’s interesting to note is that the drive to shorten the duration of the programs crosses with the notion of effectively sustaining the impact of the program. In this study, we looked at the length of leadership development programs, and found that more than half of leadership development programs last one week or less (see Figure 1).

Chart 11

Interestingly, the companies that felt their program was effective actually had longer programs, ultimately sustaining the impact of training by extending the entire program (see Figure 2).


In a related piece of research, “Strategies for Sustaining the Impact of Sales Training,” we found that continuous training leads to sustained impact. Effective organizations utilize more pre-training strategies for sustaining training and post-training reinforcement, logically extending the program, but making it more impactful.

One of the key problems that these longer more effective programs introduce to the learning management team is the potential for cost increases. Logically, longer programs cost more to support and deliver. So the learning leader is challenged to find new ways to make these programs happen, and we see it in true blended solutions, including face-to-face training, e-learning, adoption of tools such as virtual training platforms, or digital e-readers to make the materials and reinforcement available when the employee needs it, or more importantly, has time to consume it or participate.

Cost and Sustainability

While our research has shown that long-term, continuous training programs are more effective at sustaining the impact of training, cost is still a critical factor in terms of delivery. Using cost-effective resources to leverage information can help offset the cost of long-term training initiatives, such as digital e-readers, virtual training and e-learning.

From the same research on the use of virtual platforms in leadership development, 51 percent of organizations use a virtual delivery platform in support of their company’ program, often cited as one of the soft skills that benefits most from face-to-face, experiential learning .

In another, soon-to-be-published study on the use of e-readers in the support of corporate training programs, we found that roughly 59 percent of respondents currently use digital e-reader platforms to deliver corporate training content (see Figure 3).


Access was the number one benefit of using digital content delivery platforms as part of corporate training programs allowing the learner to access the content at any location, at any time with quicker reach to the entire group of participants. These digital content delivery platforms also provide the benefit of improved consistency and reduce the cost of revisions to the training materials.  Being able to quickly and inexpensively update reference materials or inserting a session on a topic that appears to need more reinforcement allows for improved agility in the program makeup, and potentially continuous realignment to the company goals.

Additionally, effective companies are 50 percent more likely to include self-study online and e-learning training as an element of their leadership development program, according to the ON24 research report. We are beginning to see an increase in the use of blended learning approaches in key focus areas like leadership development emerge in the training marketplace. There is also increasing pressure from the learner pool to provide program elements in the modality they chose. This provides a clear picture for the future direction of corporate learning surrounding key change initiative like leadership development.


The most effective companies are those that utilize long-term or continuous training programs to sustain the impact of training. Regardless of budget, companies are looking for cost-effective ways to deliver the training, including the introduction of digital e-readers, virtual training and self-study into the learning program. A blended learning approach helps the program sustain the impact of the training while keeping the cost in check as the programs begin to span longer periods of time.

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Originally posted by: Ken Taylor, Ken is Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Training Industry, Inc., and editor in chief for Training Industry Magazine.