How Amadeus are using gamification to improve interpersonal feedback between junior and senior staff and across cultures in a popular computer game.
Imagine the scene: your Director of Operations is about to do a live video stream to 500 staff about a restructuring and you know that he has inadvertently deleted the Swedish team off the new organogram. He is in a filthy mood and very stressed – particularly with you in the minutes leading to the webcast. So how do you find the right words to point out his error and prevent 70 staff from feeling unnecessarily alienated?
Giving feedback to someone senior – especially if they are from a different culture or a controlling management style – can be tough. So perhaps you choose to let him continue, knowing that you will have to do a special briefing for Sweden later to patch up the damage.
But what if your holding back might actually lead to putting lives in danger? What if instead of a Comms Manager you were a junior co-pilot sitting beside an experienced veteran with thousands of hours of experience under their belt, but who has failed to check the plane’s altitude as you are coming in to land? What do you do then? It is just that scenario that Amadeus, the travel technology company is rolling out in a training game called Amadeus Crew, which has been helping their staff learn how to give feedback in the most delicate of situations.
It’s an example of gamification that uses serious play to train staff on the softer issues of interpersonal skills. Sabine Hansen Peck is Chief Human Resources Officer at Amadeus IT Group and Amadeus Crew is her initiative.
“We are a knowledge company, and have always been leading edge in the adoption of new technology. I’m tasked with developing a workforce of almost 15,000 people in more than 100 countries worldwide all with their unique perspectives and experiences and intellectual capabilities. We want to create an environment where people can express themselves so we can release the potential of all that knowledge throughout the organisation.”
Last year Sabine was brainstorming with her team on a new learning and development programme. They needed an environment where opinions could be expressed freely and articulated so those more senior executives would listen and take notice.
“I have always believed that learning should be like child’s play. Children learn quite fearlessly, they don’t let hierarchy get in the way. Our knowledge of neuroscience shows how we want to learn through emotional experiences – particularly positive ones. Once the behaviours featured in the game have been practised over and over again, the players develop the confidence and security to apply these concepts in real life. I believe that learning as an adult should be more fun.”
“And there’s a final, vital benefit that gamification offers HR professionals: it allows us to train thousands of employees around the globe, at once.”
Start with the short haul
The game consists of a number of flights – four have been released so far. As in any computer game they rise in complexity and difficulty as you work your way from one level to the next. The game is delivered on any device or PC and Amadeus’s IT department were involved from the beginning to install and test it on Amadeus’s own servers so it works seamlessly.
“We started with a pilot game with Flight 1. There was no special communications campaign or advertising, we just let it spread virally. We were astonished and delighted when 6,000 colleagues started playing the game.
“The first flight is a short haul one. A young lady co-pilot has to give feedback to a First Officer who is considerably more senior. But she notices at take-off that some of the procedures have not been followed correctly. Although it is a perfectly safe flight several questions are raised about how do I give feedback to my senior boss from a different culture.”
Behind this serious fun is some serious research. The cultural differences are based on the work of the renowned culture guru Hofstede and the team worked with aviation experts, in particular an A380 pilot who ensured that the dialogue and situation were authentic.
The scenarios themselves are based on real life accidents such as the commander of the Asiana Airlines Co. jet that crashed approaching San Francisco in July 2013. He failed to respond to as many as four separate verbal warnings from a co-pilot that the jet was descending too quickly. The co-pilot was considerably younger and less experienced.
The fourth level of the game has just been released and it has a different format than the previous three flights. It is not only based on role-play: but according to Amadeus’s Chief Human Resources Officer, aims to be even more interactive:
“The player has to go through and choose different options in a role play on which he will be quizzed afterwards. The player has to answer questions based on the conversations he has seen during the role play of the different characters of each of the previous flights. The game is more dynamic and varied, as it includes role play, tutorial video, and quizzes.
“We changed the format to explain how to build a SAFE environment and make sure the player finally becomes an expert in feedback by identifying situations within the role play that are or are not appropriate. It is the last learning of our CREW programme and the last behaviour of the Clear & Calm Model: the Amadeus way of giving and receiving feedback.
“With the launch of the last CREW Flight, we are activating SAFE, whose objective is to encourage leaders to actively role model, invite and reward their teams for speaking up. With this last flight we are wrapping up the most important step of the CLEAR AND CALM Model, because we need to all create a safe environment for everyone to feel safe speaking up.”
“Measurement is very important,” explains Sabine: “We measure through the pull for the game as we can track who is using it. We have also looked at the effect on particular teams. When a bunch of French engineers went to Atlanta to help their customer, they all played the game. We found that those who use this intervention are much more successful, less stressed and understand each other, and the customer, better.
“I think it is a fantastic tool. But you need to get the game right otherwise adoption will not be high.”
This is why Amadeus linked up with Jan-Willem Huisman of IJsfontein Playful learning. They design and develop learning for children and professionals such as serious games as a training tool for medical staff, interactive exhibits and apps for museums.
How to get the best from gamification
Sabine has three key tips:
“First of all, listen. What is integral to making a success of gamification is understanding how the end user will interpret and interact with the game you have created. “Why am I using this game?” should therefore be one of the first questions you ask when developing your strategy.
“Second, make it easy and intuitive. When creating a game designed for employees, it’s important to consider how those employees are going to be playing – most likely on their mobile device, so is the experience easy to follow on a smartphone screen? They will also want to be able to easily understand the dialogue and content, so don’t make this too complex.
“Third, make it fun. For our organisation, this is only the beginning. I’m already preparing more gamification-based training to extend its benefits to other aspects of our company culture – and I’m really excited to explore how else we can use it.”