It’s not often a company can claim that its workforce actually looked forward to training days.

But many are trying, using video game-based concepts to stir interest.

Chris Boudreaux, who handles training project management organization for AT&T in Lafayette, said the company used mLevel to train “a significant number” of retail employees on its point of sale system.

“We’re always looking at innovative ways to train people and keep them engaged,” he said. “It wasn’t a traditional approach of clicking through a seminar and it was received very well by learners.”

Boudreaux said although there were no metrics to support the efficiency of the training, he got “great feedback on it from people in the field.”

“It’s a way in industry to use scoring leaderboards and badges as techniques to drive behavior,” said Ashley Lalande Kiebach, who lives in Central near Baton Rouge and serves as a consultant for mLevel, an Atlanta-based firm that has done training programs for clients such as AT&T, JP Morgan Chase and Cricket.

Gamification has long been used to encourage consumers to buy — think Starbucks mobile app rewards. Now, it’s being applied to teaching people how to do their jobs.

The most effective systems use these gamification techniques, such as giving employees rewards that have no compensation in the real world, such as badges or points for completing steps in a process or reaching a sales goal, then merge it with micro-learning to drive engagement, Kiebach said.

The point is to train employees to be focused on the needs of the customer.

The goal is to get learners more emotionally engaged with the content and do away with long, boring training courses. If people are engaged with an activity more than once, that helps with retaining information. For example, Kiebach said compare how you learned multiplication tables while in elementary school, through regular repetition and engagement, versus how you crammed for a test in high school.

“It makes sense with these long, mundane, boring training courses,” she said. “By taking content and helping to consolidate it, people learn more and it makes an emotional connection with them.”

ExxonMobil said it’s planning on using virtual reality to train employees to work in its recently announced expansion of its polyolefins plant in Baton Rouge. Spokeswoman Stephanie Cargile said the company expects to work with local vendors and possibly Baton Rouge Community College. “So far, we have not done this type of training locally,” she said.

The training techniques overlap into education as well. At the LSU Agricultural Center, entomologist Kristen Healy battles mosquitoes and saves pollinators in real life but also is creating tools that will allow students to do the same in a simulation.

Healy teamed up with AgCenter information technology manager Andrew Garcia to develop an education module for building a pollinator garden in the education edition of the popular gaming platform "Minecraft."

The goal is for the students to navigate through the world while learning about pollinators such as native bees and butterflies, their habitat and how to protect them. Students will encounter characters such as Bob the Bee Guy, Dr. Beenice and even a Kristen and an Andrew.

“Part of my job is to find different ways of educating people, and I wanted to do more outreach on pollinators,” Healy said.

Healy developed lesson objectives, guiding ideas, student activities and performance expectations for the module. Garcia built the virtual world, which includes a museum, nonplayer characters that provide information and tools, and plots of land for the garden.

“The nonplayer characters are interactive and have text or provide plants or gardening supplies,” Garcia said. The Andrew character hands the student-players flowers.

Healy said she wants students to understand the importance of pollinators and the ways to attract them and to appreciate the value of pollinator gardens through the module at bit.ly/2P9Su3X.

Healy and Garcia each have children who play "Minecraft" and said it’s a great way to engage students in the lessons. Garcia said many students don’t have access to real gardens, but this provides a virtual field trip for a class.

Healy has already developed lesson plans for the next module: epidemiology and control of mosquito-borne diseases. Although the pollinator lesson is open to all ages, this one will be geared toward high school students with an objective of controlling the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

When Universal opened its new Aventura hotel in Orlando, Florida, in mid-August, it did so with a staff that had been trained using video game-based concepts, including a point system, levels and other incentives.

“The service experience is so critical” in the hotel industry, said Sam Caucci, CEO of New Jersey-based 1HUDDLE, which developed the platform used by Aventura. “Properties struggle … to deliver a consistently exceptional guest experience.”

The programs include a multiple-choice quiz disguised as a game to train team members about guest services, property facts and other information.

At Aventura, program leaders launched a new game every Sunday, creating new leaderboards each week that would motivate employees to learn their policies.

“I hate to say it, but no one likes compliance training,” said Lauren Constable, vice president of operations for Loews Hotels & Co. “Although wildly important, people tend to zone out when they learn they need to participate in their yearly (training).”

The platform changed that, however, and officials are now looking to expand the types of training that incorporate gamification.

“All of a sudden, people are playing the game multiple times a day to rack up points in attempt to see their name at the top of the leaderboard,” she said. “This has worked so well that we are also exploring some more sensitive topics such as diversity.”

That kind of approach can create a culture in which employees actively seek out information that can help them do their jobs better, some experts say.

1HUDDLE also has built game-based training platforms for bars, restaurants, auto parts stores and NFL teams.

The objectives have included figuring out everything from types of tequilas or letting salespeople learn talking points around the Super Bowl when speaking with customers.

The growth of tech use among younger people has created a path for companies like 1HUDDLE to build a following.

“As more millennials join the hospitality industry, it’s imperative that we use technology to help prepare them to work,” Caucci said. “This can encourage employees to do the right thing more often, create a better community and empower employees to take control of their own performance.”

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Advocate business writer Timothy Boone, The Associated Press and LSU AgCenter contributed to this report.