Developing an engaging workplace-training programme when your staff are spread out all over the country – or the world – can be a real challenge. Burak Samantir and Niyazi Arda Aygul from “İşbank”, Turkey’s largest bank, saw that technology presented a unique approach to addressing this issue. They developed the award-winning strategy game “İşVille”, which allows employees to learn about the range of İşbank’s retail banking products at their own pace and trains them in important banking services through practical exercises.
In their session “Gamification and Engagement at Work” at OEB MidSummit conference on June 8th, Burak Samantir and Niyazi Arda Aygul will demonstrate a live demo of the game and, with Atish Gonsalves, discuss the possibilities gamification and simulation learning present in education and training. We spoke with Burak Samantir and Niyazi Arda Aygul about the potential of gamification and the challenges they faced when implementing İşVille.
How did the idea of developing İşVille emerge?
Games have always excited us in our daily lives. As people who have been engaged in games for a long time, we have been eager to be able to apply this concept to our bank processes as well.
Internal audit reports and results of mystery-consumer research revealed that our employees needed support with retail banking products and services in a fast-changing environment in order to improve the customer-focused services we offer to our clients. Producing solutions to address this proved very difficult since we had to consider many variables such as cost-effectiveness, choice of medium for accessibility, etc.
We initially held long meetings and brainstorming sessions with the design team to discuss the creation of a wide variety of game scenarios, most of which were eliminated in the process of developing the basic design principles of İşVille. This alone took approximately four weeks.
When a game is created by management, it may come across as being “mandatory fun”. With this in mind, can you shed light on your views regarding the importance of involving employees in the game’s evolution?
The fun and engagement aspects of the game were our primary focus when designing it. We believe it is crucial to shape the game’s mechanics taking the target group’s views and needs into consideration.
In the game’s initial design stages, we benefited greatly from the input of the employees who work in our branches and headquarters – who, of course, are the game’s main target audience. Listening to their feedback, we made radical changes in the design principles we had initially planned.
Moreover, in response to interviews with the first period’s successful players, we made significant improvements in the game statistics by making important changes such as increasing the daily gaming time, making rival banks more aggressive, and increasing the number of questions. We also allowed for comments – with players’ feedback – on the game’s mobile-app pages.
The relevance of including the bank’s employees in the game’s design process was seen in the 6.5 million questions they answered and the positive comments they made about the game.
What was the most surprising challenge you had to overcome when developing İşVille?
When we first published the game, we planned that it would be actively playable for about 1.5 months. We also determined the levels of the game so that we could keep our players engaged during this time. At least this was our assumption.
Some of our players played the game very differently than the strategies we had used in the tests, and they reached the final level of the game in a very short time. This was a major surprise for us.
In order to overcome this, we quickly had to review the design principles, such as the highest game level and some other elements, thereby extending the duration of playing.
This taught us that the tests and prototypes made would not overlap with the real gamers’ behaviour and that we should always be ready for a surprise in the implementation of a gamification project.
How did İşbank’s employees respond to İşVille? Was there a change in their reaction from the initial implementation to the end of the project?
Since İşVille was our bank’s first gamification project, at first we had a lot of employees who logged into the game because they were curious about it. In the following days, the game’s learning function came to the forefront, and we observed that we were able to preserve the curiosity and interest shown at the beginning. Statistics also supported this. For example, the number of game logins and the number of problems solved increased quickly.
The risk of gamification may be that a focus on performance metrics leads to employees just pursuing performance metrics. Do you have tips on how this can be avoided?
More than one performance metric was used in İşVille, but each and every one was designed to serve the game’s learning objectives. As a result, players made progress in performance metrics while being required to develop strategies matching the game’s main objective.
For example, İşVille’s main goal was for employees to learn about our bank’s products, and we set the scores obtained in this realm as a direct performance metric. We also encouraged players to expand the area in which they operate with the points earned by solving the problems. Thus, we made it possible for players to experience all the game’s mechanics during the answering process.