Global executives are suffering from a crisis of confidence. According to a survey by Harvard Business Publishing, only 32% of the 800+ respondents believe that their organizations
have the right leadership talent and skills to achieve theirorganizations’ strategic goals. Just 31% are confident their leaders have the right leadership skills.

Other statistics:

>> 43% of talent development professionals say that the most significant goal for leadership development is to drive business transformation. 

>> 40% see getting participants to commit time away from their job to participate as the most difficult challenge to initiating a new leadership development initiative.

>> There is now a strong focus (80%) on middle managers needing to develop change management capabilities. Respondents also see leadership mindset (77%), communication
skills (76%), talent management (76%), and broad general management capability (64%) as development priorities for middle managers.

—More info:

Published in Trends

Three research studies at a national university found that classes using game-based learning had significantly higher means than those classes that did not use the game.

There were no significant differences between male or female scores, regardless of game play, while both genders scored significantly higher with game play than without.
There were no significant differences between ethnic groups, while all ethnic groups scored significantly higher with game play. Lastly, students age 40 year and under
scored significantly higher with game play, those students 41 and older did not.

—Source:Dr.Richard Blunt,

Letter Grade Distribution

Published in Trends

Scientific research shows that organizations using video games to train employees end up with smarter, more motivated workers who learn more and forget less. 

Dr. Traci Sitzmann discovered that trainees using video games had an 11 percent higher factual knowledge level, a 14% higher skill-based knowledge level, and a 9% higher retention
rate than trainees in comparison groups.

She spent more than one year examining 65 studies and data from 6,476 trainees.

Learner Perform Better

Published in Trends

Some interesting statistics from the video gaming industry:

>> 58% of Americans play video games

>> Consumers spent $20.77 billion on video games, hardware and accessories in 2012

>> Purchases of digital content, including games, add-on content, mobile apps, subscriptions and social networking games, accounted for 40% of game sales in 2012

>> The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 35 years

>> 45% of all game players are women

>> 51% of U.S. households own a dedicated game console 

>> 36% of gamers play games on their smartphone

>> 25% of gamers play games on their wireless device

—Source: Entertainment Software Association

Published in Trends

Serious Games Remove Boredom, Gloom And Monotony From Serious Learning.

By Jay M. Winchester

Battling Villians1  Battling Villians2

Carnival Cruise Lines, theworld’s largest cruise line (based on the number ofpassengers carried), has the annual capacity to help an estimated 4.5 million travelers enjoy cruising the high seas looking for romance, adventure and fun. After all, the cruise line has been doing exactly that since 1972. However, providing effective training for 80,000 travel agents who are not Carnival employees is challenging. 

One of the world’s bestknown names in travel as well as proud member of World’s Leading Cruise Lines, Carnival had been running classroom and online-based travel agent training for years. Its results were good, just not good enough. There was an important ingredient missing. Lee Clark, manager of Worldwide Sales Training and Development for Carnival, was certain that if he could indentify it, then the effectiveness of Carnival’s travel agent training and volume of travel booked would increase dramatically.

“When we began the redesign of our learning delivery system, we reflected on what our past system did not do,” Clark says. “One of the major shortcomings was that it did not drive engagement, meaning that it was a ‘one-anddone’- type program. Once the travel agent completed the program, he or she had no reason to re-engage with either the training or with us. Ongoing engagement became a key objective in what we wanted to build.”

 With increased agent engagement as the order of the day, Clark set out to revamp and enhance Carnival’s agent training program. While looking over various training techniques, platforms and strategies, he hit upon what for Carnival and its industry would be a first: game-based learning. Clark became an enthusiastic proponent of the strategy, believing it would produce the desired results. 

Others within the corporate leadership were less convinced. Clark soon found himself in the role of evangelist.“It took some persuading to go the gaming route, since it had never been done before in [our] industry,” he says. However, once the key decision-makers understood that Carnival’s travel agents mirrored precisely the demographics of online gamers, and that a game could be easily updated so that the learning was  always current, it became an easy decision.

There was another key factor in turning resistance into agreement. “Once I was able to show the decision makers that we would be working with a well-established vendor whose staff demonstrated they understood
us, then it became a nobrainer,” Clark recalls. 

Enter Sealund, a well-known Tampa Bay-based developer of innovative training solutions, including serious games. 

Battling Villians3 Battling Villians4

Since 1985, Sealund has been pioneering e-learning among major corporations, government and military organizations worldwide. With its innovative training solutions including serious games, simulations and e-learning, the company creates virtual environments built on instructionally-sound methodologies and leading-edge technologies that meet client-specific training requirements and objectives.

 “Sealund’s methodologies and processes were critical to Carnival, as it could offer us comprehensive customization strategies enabling the integration of our content into a training game with multiple levels that were engaging to the travel agents, yet allowed us to track users through this SCORM-conformant learning game,” says Clark. “Additionally, Sealund designed a dynamic XML-based database that would allow our in-house developers to keep the game current with new information on cruise ships, ports, excursions and products. In so doing, Carnival travel agents were inspired to continue to replay the games.

” With an innovative and experienced partner in place, Carnival undertook the task of revamping its training —centering on Sealund’s custom game strategy for its travel agents. The cruise line’s desire was to encourage and incentivize its travel agents to learn more about ships, ports, destinations and excursions in order to ncrease the booking of ships for a variety of audiences, with a focus on the “Cruise Rookie.” The multi-tiered learning game featured animated avatars, colorful settings, challenging game play and meaningful player incentives in the form of reward points. Carnival’s branding was incorporated into the backgrounds and avatars. The most recognizable is the “Cruiseader,” a superhero who helps agents battle the villains of fun, which include boredom, gloom and monotony. As players answer questions correctly, the Cruiseader’s strength increases, enabling the hero to vanquish these villains. The game also features “games-within-the-game” opportunities, where agents play Home Run Derby, slots and other games that add to their reward points with correct answers. The end-product was impressive — but the real test would come once the game was deployed to the 80,00 travel agent community.

The results have been nothing less than remarkable, according to Clark. “The response to the game has been far greater than we anticipated,” he says. “We have about a 42 percent adoption rate of all registered agents, almost double what we had anticipated. We had set an individual’s total point goal for the year at 100,000 points. That was exceeded within the first four months, and our current leader has more than 20 million points. We could not be more happy.”

 Still, one question remained unanswered: Did the game make agent training more engaging? “The game was a perfect way to drive engagement,” Clark says. “Through its use of animation, avatars and competition, we were able to engage agents in a way that was fun, like our cruise line. There is hard evidence that those who are engaged with the game are more engaged with the learning. And the more learning activities an agent completes, the more productive that agent is, the more cruises are booked. It is working exactly as we had

As for his own learning through this game development experience, Clark simply  says this: “What I have learned is that selecting the right vendor is crucial to your project’s success. Since game development was new to Carnival and to me, it was important to have a vendor partner we could trust, someone who demonstrated the ability to create innovative training solutions for multiple industries. Sealund was great in brainstorming concepts because it had taken the time to truly understand our business and the end-user of the game. Even though the game was launched about a year ago, we are still in contact with Sealund on a monthly basis. Its people still want to know how well the game is received. That is what I mean by a business partner.

“It was clear from the beginning that Sealund not only got gaming, they got us, too.” 

—Winchester wrote this articleon behalf of Game On! Learning


Published in Ideas

Learning Impact Research: Can Serious Games Measure Up?

BY Kathy Heldman and John R. Mattox II

In today’s “big data,” metrics-driven business world, talent development professionals are challenged with demonstrating a tangible return on investment from their learning solutions. Traditional measures like participant feedback surveys and course completion rates are not enough anymore. Instead, C-Suite executives are keenly interested in how programs improve specific business outcomes like increasing sales, improving workforce performance, or maximizing employee engagement.


Jim Sokolowski is the chief learning officer and director of Global Learning and Leadership Development for Savvis, an outsourcing provider of managed computing and network infrastructure for I.T. applications. He joined Savvis in 2010 to build a learning organization from the ground up, and during the past three years has done just that with an approach to learning that is strategic and laser-focused on impacting results. In the three-year transformation process, the Savvis learning team has been awarded the Training Magazine Top 125 Award in 2012 and 2013 and also the B.E.S.T. award from the American Society for Training and Development in 2012 and 2013.

“We have come a long way in our rapid from-the-ground-up build and transformation,” says Sokolowski. “I am very proud of what the team has accomplished, and I am honored to be part of this award-winning team. The question we continue to ask ourselves, ‘Now what?’ To keep our seat at the table requires that we maintain relevance by staying connected to the most critical strategic imperatives. We must also continue to improve the services we provide and the solutions we deliver.

” Interdependence is a key element of the Savvis way. At the beginning of each year, Sokolowski and his team meet with business-unit leaders to better understand their strategies, goals and talent development needs, with the ultimate outcome of being able to link all learning solutions and efforts to the most critical organizational strategic imperatives. In addition to the annual connection point, Sokolowski’s team also uses a strategic consulting process along with monthly enterprise learning dashboards and quarterly program level dashboards to regularly review learning solution progress and share the results with business-unit leaders. These strategies reinforce a continuous connection with the business, while also providing a mechanism to continuously improve the learning solutions the team is providing.


In order to ensure profitable revenue growth, the Savvis sales organization is a key internal customer. Two key areas of focus for this internal customer are improving sales communication and negotiation skills with prospects and clients to accelerate bookings and improve customer satisfaction.

Savvis sales representatives engage in a complex selling cycle that often results in a highly customized solution, so it is imperative that contract terms and conditions are negotiated clearly and favorably early in the sales cycle.

Effective sales communication is essential throughout the process in order to accurately identify the needs and interests of clients and to gain their trust. These key competencies — part of the Savvis sales success profile — are linked to the sales employee lifecycle.

According to Sokolowski, “The importance of linking the organization’s talent development initiatives with its priority of growing revenue at or above market rates made it clear that a heightened focus on improving sales communication and negotiation skills is a critical success factor for Savvis.”


Finding a transformational learning program that provides measureable results was essential. Sokolowski has always been intrigued by gamification, in part because he has observed the positive impact that computer games have on their players in terms of learning, engagement and having fun.

Acknowledging that this was a bit of a hypothesis, Sokolowski adds. “I thought this methodology could translate to impact work performance, particularly with the sales organization which is often an early adopter of technology.” The L&D team was excited by gamification, because it was an avenue to learning that fit the sales team’s results driven, competitive culture.

Savvis ultimately selected Merchants, an online sales communication and negotiation game-based program designed and developed by Madrid-based Gamelearn S.L., and licensed by Savvis from Game On! Learning, the U.S. distributor of the program.

The decision to implement Merchants was based on the following factors:

>> Skills application - The skills application focus of the training would help ensure that sales representatives mastered the key competencies. In serious learning games like Merchants, learners spend more than 90 percent of their time practicing and applying new skills.

>> Engagement and innovation – Savvis wanted something that was highly interactive. In fact, the organization has conditioned its workforce to expect engaging learning.

>> Cost – Savvis wanted to deploy a solution that would be cost effective and not break the bank.

>> Scalability – If the solution demonstrated positive impact, Savvis would want to quickly scale the approach to other areas of skill development.

“We have been fortunate to be able to foster and operate in an environment where we can innovate with learning while taking risks in trying new things,” says Sokolowski. “This is an environment we have created, and we accomplished this through the ongoing showcase of the value and impact of learning, while maintaining laser focus on flawless execution to deliver on commitments to the business.”


Savvis began the implementation with an initial cohort to fine tune the approach before rolling it out to a broader audience. The cohort consisted of about 30 sales representatives in two U.S. cities. Each works on the phone to prospect and develop sales opportunities that will result in sales.

The cohort was constructed to create a diverse demographic of tenure and experience. The manager of the sales team also participated in the training, as did Sokolowski. The players are extremely competitive in their selling activities, and the learning game has brought that same competitiveness to the training.

Prizes were awarded to the players with the greatest accumulated wealth and highest trust scores in the game. Players who accumulate more than $1 million in wealth were admitted to a “Millionaires Club.”

Measurement of learning transference and performance improvement is essential. The Savvis team identified the following success drivers for the training:

>> Increased confidence in selling skills

>> Shortened sales cycles

>> Improved win/loss ratios

>> Increased revenue per transaction

>> More favorable agreement terms between buyer and seller

>> Improved sales behaviors in the specific skill areas of (a) Identifying prospect or client needs and interests; (b) Structuring the sales conversation to build trust; (c) Reaching mutually beneficial agreements in each conversation; and (d) Managing each conversation to develop a long-term relationship.


The initial implementation of Mer-chants began this past July, and so did the measurement research. Savvis and KnowledgeAdvisors designed an evaluation approach to determine whether knowledge and skills were acquired from the program and if they were being applied on the job to improve individual sales performance and improve revenue. In addition to the game-based learning cohort, Savvis launched a parallel cohort of salespeople completing negotiations training using traditional e-learning courses. A third cohort will complete a
classroom-based negotiation program during the fall of this year.

Explains John R. Mattox, director of Research for KnowledgeAdvisors: “It is impossible to implement a randomized experimental design to evaluate the impact of game-learning, but this comparison group design is the next-best approach.”

As this story went to press, the pre-assessments had been deployed, the train-ing completed, and post-training measurement had begun. The early returns are quite encouraging, with 80 percent of those starting the 8- to 10-hour program finishing it during the six weeks allotted. According to Sokolowski, “Getting 80 percent completion on a comprehensive
sales learning intervention is no small accomplishment, since training time takes away from their time selling. This high completion percentage indicates a high perceived value to the sales force, since this became a priority for the team.” The response to the training has also been quite enthusiastic, including comments from learners such as:

>>    “Once I got through the first level, I found myself wanting to play more and more. It is addictive and very fun talking smack with my peers.”

>>     “It is impossible to simply click through this game without stopping and making critical decisions based upon real negotiation techniques. Merchants presents the user with challenging scenarios and demands creative thinking for successful outcomes. But the best part is, it’s fun. This is learning gamification done right.”

Enthusiastic feedback, while important, is not enough. Sokolowski’s plan is to benchmark game-based learning against both traditional e-learning and classroom training that maps to the same competencies and learning outcomes.

The approach employs multiple assessments, evaluations and business data. Pre- and post-course knowledge and skill assessments are being used to quantify the knowledge and skills gained. All assessments and evaluations are deployed using Metrics That Matter, a proprietary learning analytics system from KnowledgeAdvisors. Savvis has used Metrics That Matter for the past two years to automate its standard training evaluation process.

Upon completion of the training, learners receive a web-based evaluation that asks if they have learned new skills and to what extent they expect to apply them. Learners
are asked to estimate their expected performance improvement and estimate how much of the improvement is due to training alone. KnowledgeAdvisors’ research has shown these predictive measures provide reliable “leading” indicators of the success of the program.

Follow-up evaluations will be sent to learners and their managers 60 days after completing the program. Questions in these evaluations will focus on how much performance has improved and how much of the improvement was due to training. These measures will be correlated with the predicted performance improvement measures and
will be compared to industry benchmarks maintained by KnowledgeAdvisors. Learners will also rate whether performance has improved for specific sales behaviors (e.g., number of client contacts, reaching mutually beneficial agreements, etc.).

Ninety days after the program, KnowledgeAdvisors and Savvis will conduct interviews with selected learners. Following the process outlined in Brinkerhoff ’s Success Case Method, half of the interviews will be with learners who provided the highest ratings on the evaluations and half will be with learners who provided the lowest ratings. The interviews will
focus on the strengths of each program and which aspects provide the most useful knowledge and skills. The interviews will also allow learners the opportunity to provide detailed examples of how they have used their knowledge and skills to improve their performance.

Figure 1 shows the evaluation approach with key performance measures across each group.

Untitled-3 copy

According to KnowledgeAdvisors’ Matox: “To demonstrate the impact of game-based learning programs on the business, it is essential to gather business data such as the number of sales, sales margins and other indicators of success.” The final data sources will therefore come from Savvis’ sales CRM system, which will provide results about sales cycles, win/loss ratios, revenue per transaction, and customer satisfaction. Information will be gathered for each learner for the 12 months prior to the program and six months after to control for seasonal fluctuations.


The road to success often requires innovation. The Savvis L&D group has embraced innovation — gamification of learning —with the intent of transferring knowledge and skills more efficiently and effectively to its sales force. This bold move was matched with an equally bold approach to evaluation. Only measurement can truly show how effective learning gamification is for Savvis compared to traditional forms of training delivery. Stay tuned. Savvis, Game On! Learning and KnowledgeAdvisors will report their evaluation results in 2014 with another case study.

—Kathy Heldman co-authored this article for Game On! Learning. John R. Mattox II co-authored it for KnowledgeAdvisors. To receive a copy of the completed research findings, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Published in Top Stories

The digital marketing and design agency Total Product Marketing (TPM) has released its first “101 Trust Leaders in Cloud and Hosting for 2014.”

The list encompasses many well-known trust leaders from the Cloud and Hosting sector in a variety of segments, including independent software vendors (ISVs), service providers, research analysts, media, government, and venture capitalists.

A sampling from the 101 Trust Leaders include individuals from software giant (Marc Benioff, CEO), service providers (Werner Vogels, CTO), IBM SoftLayer (Lance Crosby, CEO) and Rackspace (Lanham Napier, President and CEO), managed hosting provider INetU (Chris Kivlehan, VP Account Management) and service provider Telx (Joe Weinman, VP Cloud Services and Strategy).

“In a few short years, cloud computing has gone from a misunderstood and overlooked sector to the forefront of I.T. and computing,” says Philbert Shih, managing director of the hosting and cloud research firm Structure Research. “Today there is unprecedented activity in the sector as I.T. infrastructure shifts to a cloud-based delivery model. Organizations from the small business to the large enterprise are looking for ways to take advantage of the cloud and providers are positioning to tackle an opportunity that still has its best days ahead.”

Total Product Marketing’s list will allow organizations to have the right information at their disposal to make decisive business, technology, operational and marketing decisions.

— For the complete list of names, visit

Published in Latest News

Many companies avoid using the term “high potentials” for individuals selected for career development and advancement opportunities, according to a survey of more than 450 organizations by AMA Enterprise, a division of American Management Association.

“Just one-quarter of companies now employ the term, but as many as 42% won’t use ‘high potentials,’ and certainly not in communications with employees,” says Sandi Edwards, senior vice president of AMA Enterprise, which provides organizations with assessment, measurement and tailored learning solutions. “What’s more, another 18% say they’re sensitive to the overtones, but haven’t found a better term.”

“If only certain individuals are identified as ‘high potentials,’ where does that leave the rest of the employees?” asks Edwards. “Unfortunately, the term itself suggests most employees may not have much potential, and this isn’t a healthy message for either them or the organization in general.”

Another dimension to the issue, believes Edwards, is the appearance of exclusivity. “Of course, people who aren’t selected may feel excluded or passed over. There’s understandable resentment and the perception that the program itself is not fair.”

The survey asked respondents about employees’ attitude toward selection for their high potential program. Only 14% regard their program as fair and even-handed.

According to Edwards, the wide perception of unfairness has no easy or quick solution. “No matter how open or equitable a career development program may be, there will always be those who think it’s elitist. That goes with the territory. Nevertheless, it’s the job of those who administer these initiatives to do all they can to communicate widely and clearly about opportunities, for selection criteria to be clear and applied uniformly, and for there to be ample development alternatives. This balancing act may be one of the most daunting challenges faced by HR and development professionals today.”

The survey was conducted July 15 to August 3, and respondents consisted of 453 senior-level business, human resources, management professionals and employee contacts drawn from the AMA database of contacts.

Published in Latest News

Leadership is a hot topic of career conversations and organizational management that fuels a multi-billion-dollar self-help industry. From highly effective habits to leadership models and personal accounts of extraordinary life circumstances — the topic touches everyone in some facet of their career, ranging from receptionists to managers, and directors to C-suite executives.

From an enterprise learning standpoint, the topic is particularly important as you are faced with the responsibility of organizational development and learning strategies that are critical to employee performance and the success of the organization. In fact, data shows that investment in the development of employees can improve productivity by 81 percent, revenue generation by 48 percent, and marketing share by 30 percent. Nevertheless, whether you’re interested in developing your own leadership skill sets or those of your team and/or your organization, it doesn’t require extraordinary tales of war, winning sports championships, or miraculously landing a plane safely on the Hudson. We all have opportunities to lead and grow in our daily lives regardless of our title or role and regardless of what phase of the professional life cycle we are in.

Great leadership begins with a conscious choice and sustained efforts to improve over selves, our awareness and our capabilities to grow fulfillment and success at both the personal and professional levels. No matter what advice you’ve read or heard, it’s important to set standards that align with personal lifestyle, career goals, and organizational mission and culture.

To help, I offer three empowering concepts I’ve found to be successful across many organizational cultures.

1) Rise above and establish your key internal drivers.

Successful leaders are self-aware and able to rise above conflict, inefficiencies and other circumstances that may push internal buttons or misalign with internal drivers. So it’s important to exercise self-awareness, focus, compassion and patience. It’s also important to know your self-worth and believe in the value that you bring to the table.

If you don’t rise above it all, you’re creating unnecessary obstacles that limit your success and advancement. Remember that you’re in charge of creating your destiny. So learn to trust your inner compass.

2) Fine-tune external drivers and use them to inspire others.

How do you inspire others? Great leaders make a genuine effort to understand what is important to those with whom they interact every day. What motivates them, and how do others perceive them?

The best approach is to develop a can-do and collaborative environment by setting the leadership example, and by listening and providing opportunities for others to be creative and to shine. No matter how large or small your sphere of influence may be, promoting a culture of leadership development, enthusiasm, innovation, accountability and transparency are essential foundational elements to building a framework for team and organizational success.

As you go about your everyday projects and tasks, it’s important to create leadership development programs and opportunities for mentoring and coaching, as well as clearly identify leadership talent for all levels of the organization.

Ultimately, consider that many organizations have found success by aligning individual leadership strengths and skills with broader organizational needs and strategies.

Dave Karpen talks about simple, but key, principles that make successful leaders: the ability to listen and engage in collaboration as a team player; to demonstrate respect and offer recognition to others; and to act with humility and integrity. Karpen explains that although these concepts above are simple, people do tend to forget them.

3) Become your best by focusing on lifelong learning and inspiring others.

Another way of sparking your authentic leadership style is to help establish a culture and mindset poised for lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is essential for keeping pace with industry and leadership trends and to supporting organizational competitiveness and sustainability.

Effective and dynamic leaders are up-to-date on the most current information. They develop fresh ideas and harness best practices. As a leader, you’re not only responsible for self-development, but for engaging and inspiring others, helping them to develop and achieve their highest potential.

Dr. David G. Javitch accurately points out that you must be seen as the expert in your field, highly credentialed and capable of leading to success in order to be respected and followed. Ask yourself this question: What will it take for you to become this person?

Becoming a leader is a personal journey. It takes effort, persistence, dedication, practice and patience. There is a learning curve, but the experiential process helps you evolve over time and hone insights and skills that enable you to make a meaningful contribution to your organizational culture and its bottom line.

—Tatiana Sehring, who wrote this article, is director of Corporate & Strategic Relationships for American Public University.

Published in Ideas

By Jeff Gray and Ben Ortlip

In 1990, Peter Senge introduced us to the concept of the learning organization.

Published in Top Stories
Page 7 of 10


You are now being logged in using your Facebook credentials