In this age of digital disruption, when companies are encouraging employees to be more agile, it’s no surprise that employees expect the same from learning and development (L&D) organizations. Modern learners tend to crave flexibility in where and how they learn and typically seek out experiences that actively engage them. But what does it take for an organization to embrace technology and design a learning experience for the modern learner? For Deloitte’s Human Capital practice, it was a zombie apocalypse.

Leadership’s Call to Action

Two years ago, a L&D analysis revealed that while spending to onboard new analysts to the Human Capital practice was high (relative to other career levels), feedback on the experience did not demonstrate an increase in the program’s value. The team continually heard that participants wanted an experience that allowed them to work at their own pace and focus on topic areas based on their own development needs. So, the L&D team set out to design a more cost-effective, engaging way to deliver three full days of in-classroom content.

Working with business stakeholders, the team weighed the benefits and drawbacks of several options and determined that a fully digital, gamified solution that – while more labor intensive from a design and development perspective – would yield the most impactful outcome in the long run.

Taking cues from pop culture, they determined the theme of the game – a zombie apocalypse – and situated the learner as the main protagonist whose role is to find a cure and save humanity by making informed choices to complete a series of challenges in a self-paced, digital experience. The purpose of the game, titled “The Chosen Analyst,” is to provide training around basic consulting skills – including PowerPoint, Excel, professionalism and more — that were previously developed via in-classroom modules. The newly gamified approach enables analysts to work at their own pace, rather than forcing them into a one-size-fits-all timeline. The virtual nature of the program also has the added benefit of significantly reducing time out-of-market for these professionals.

The Design Process

The design team brought together individuals from across the organization, including instructional designers, graphic designers, learning program managers and, importantly, existing analysts in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice. The existing analysts’ role was to provide perspective on the realities of how their roles worked within the context of a project. This insight allowed the team to sequence the activities in a way that made sense and was realistic to the analyst experience, despite it being framed around a zombie apocalypse.

In order for the game to be successful, the team based the design on two major objectives: developing a compelling storyline and ensuring the activities were seamlessly integrated into the story. To tackle the first objective, the design team held virtual “table reads” during which team members would walk through the entire story as one character to both identify any awkward phrasing or unnatural language and determine the appropriate tone for the character.

To meet the second objective, the team had to determine the right size for each activity, balancing microlearning principles and the need to provide learners with enough content to meet the learning objective. Final activities included drag and drops, multiple choice questions and activities outside of the game, such as data analysis. Learners were given a maximum of three attempts to complete each activity correctly, after which they were provided with the correct answer, along with an explanation and directions to additional resources. The design also included starts and stops in the story, which allowed the content to be modularized, ensuring learners did not have to complete the entire game in one sitting. At the end of each module, learners received a code that was used to unlock the next module.

After finalizing the story and activities, the game design was handed over to the development team. Each module went through the following design process:

  • Storyboard Design – high-level design of the module
  • Storyboard Review and Approval
  • Alpha Design – flash development of the module
  • Alpha Stakeholder Review and Approval
  • Gold Design – updates to the module based on the Alpha stakeholder review
  • Gold Stakeholder Review and Sign-Off

As each module was signed off, it was packaged with other modules and reviewed to ensure each module flowed naturally into the next.

While the game is meant to be a standalone experience, the team also curated a separate platform to house additional performance support. This included additional resources that directly supported an activity or topic in the game, or development content that complemented the game and helped learners find where to gain additional practice in any of the skill areas (e.g., resource guides, video tutorials and additional courseware).

Launch and Feedback

The game launched to the incoming class of Human Capital analysts in July 2018 and received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Learners were excited to experience a gamified learning approach and appreciated having access to additional resources. While the game was designed to be self-paced, some learners played the game as a team and then engaged in discussions and informal knowledge sharing; this form of social learning further increased the program’s impact.

The Human Capital leadership team was introduced to the game through a three-minute trailer. They were as thrilled with the game’s concept as they were with its business impact – decreased time-out-of-market for new analysts, innovative design and an annual reduction in analyst onboarding costs.

And all the analysts had to do was save the world…