UPS Trainees Game the System -- and It's a Good Thing

Ann All

I became taken with the idea of incorporating games into employee training after interviewing several companies that do so, including Assurant Employee Benefits and Hilton Garden Inn, back in August. One of my sources told me his employer thinks the games enhance its reputation as a technology-friendly company and help it attract younger workers. Others mentioned the hands-on nature of the games, which engages employees and seems to improve knowledge retention.

 

All of these benefits are enjoyed by United Parcel Service, which uses video games and physical simulations at a training center near Washington, D.C. Since it began as an experiment in 2007, just 10 percent of the 1,629 driver trainees who have completed the six-week training program have failed it, an improvement over the 30 percent failure rate in UPS's more traditional training programs, reports The Wall Street Journal.

 

The company is opening a second training center incorporating these methods in the Chicago area, and ultimately all UPS drivers will be trained this way. Among the exercises included in the program: a "slip and fall" machine which challenges trainees to carry a 10-pound package down a steep and slippery surface, and a video game that tests recruits' ability to unearth sales leads for UPS by recognizing competitors' packages.

 

The training appeals to recruits' sense of competition, another aspect mentioned by the folks I interviewed for my own story. At UPS, recruits with messy uniforms or misplaced keys lose points for their teams. One of the companies I interviewed for my story, Assurant Employee Benefits, encourages competition among employees by posting top scores on leader boards in cafeterias.

 

Though it doesn't come into play at UPS (a subliminal pun I discovered only upon reading my post before handing off to an editor), Beth Helmuth, training and development manager for Assurant Employee Benefits, a subsidiary of insurer Assurant Inc., told me the video games help the company engage its remote employees by offering a "more consistent experience" for all workers, unlike training efforts in which people attend sessions at different sites. "Everyone enjoys the same experience, whether they are at the corporate office or in the field," she said.


 

I also interviewed David Kervella, director of brand culture & internal communications for Hilton Garden Inn, which offers a game called Ultimate Team Play that trainees can play on Sony's PlayStation entertainment system. It challenges players to perform tasks such as answering the phone and checking in guests during a specified time frame. The speed and appropriateness of their responses affect a guest-satisfaction score that is displayed during play.

 

The company figured the game would appeal most to younger hires, but Kervella said older employees like it, too. And when he took the game with him on a business trip to India, employees there were eager to play. He told me the company planned to produce versions of the game in seven different languages for its global work force.



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