Several years ago, Gabe Rizzi came home from work to find
his school-age son sitting at the kitchen table, apparently playing a video
game. Rizzi, today the president and chief sales officer of Travel Leaders
Corporate, could see a leaderboard over his shoulder, evidence of a game. But
it wasn't the kind of game Rizzi had assumed it was.
"'I thought that we agreed that you do your homework
before you start gaming,'" Rizzi recalled telling his son. "And he
goes, 'I am doing my homework.' He goes, 'I'm No. 3 in the class, and I'm
almost at No. 1.'"
Rizzi's son was participating in a program that gave
students credits for completing extra history assignments and ranked them
against other members of their class, other classes in the school and even up
to the state level. The more homework they did, the higher the ranking they
were assigned. At the end of the month, high rankings were rewarded with prizes
Rizzi thought to himself, "My gosh, if they can get my
son to do homework through a gaming environment, can I get my salespeople to do
their prospecting in a similar way?"
It's called gamification: using elements typically found in
games, such as competition and point-scoring, and applying them to something
else. In the case of Rizzi's son, it was homework. Rizzi himself began using
gamification as a training and team-member recognition tool in 2012, and he
brought the practice to Travel Leaders Corporate when he joined the company in
Gamification has been making inroads in the agency community
in recent years as a training tool, both online and off. At Travel Leaders
Corporate, Rizzi created a leaderboard that tracks points that employees earn
when they do things like client outreach and prospecting.
"All of a sudden, I started seeing our prospecting
numbers going through the roof, and I started seeing our client touch points
going through the roof, and I started seeing customers not churn at the rates
they were because our team members were doing what they were supposed to do,"
he said. "When you told them to do it, they didn't. But when they got
rewarded to do it against their peers, they did."
A year ago, Ensemble Travel Group rolled out its University
of Ensemble learning platform. Kim Specht, national manager of training for the
U.S., said part of the platform encourages advisors to compete on a
leaderboard, earning "genius points" from activities such as
participating in a webinar. Top point-earners are rewarded monthly and
Specht has also created in-person gamification techniques
for Ensemble members. At its conference last year, it took the form of a
checklist with clues about hotel and in-destination partners. Advisors had to
match the clues with the right supplier and have them sign off on their
checklist. At the end of the conference, those with completed checklists were entered
into a drawing for prizes such as gift cards.
"I do think that the more interactive you can make
training for people, the more interested people are to do it," Specht
Virtuoso has begun awarding advisors badges when they
complete certain trainings within the Virtuoso Travel Academy. They compete
against each other on a leaderboard. Jennifer Campbell, Virtuoso's managing
director of professional development and agency services, said gamification is "an
"Although the travel industry is just beginning to
consider its potential, companies in other industries have had success with
gamification in terms of motivating participants, building communities and
ultimately enhancing the brand experience," Campbell said.
Steve Phillips, senior director of education and training at
Travelsavers, is developing that consortium's new training program, known as
Kore, which will roll out later this year.
For some time, Phillips and Travelsavers executives have
discussed integrating gamification into the program. While nothing is set in
stone, Kore will include elements of gamification.
"We want this to be a fun way to learn," he said. "But
we feel as a company that it's imperative that it be a serious learning
While the gamification elements will add a spark of fun,
Travelsavers will hold agents accountable for completing each module at a
proficient level. Along the way, milestones will be rewarded.
"We want to keep them engaged, and we also want to
reward the people who are really doing well," Phillips said.
Sam Caucci, CEO and founder of 1Huddle, has built his entire
company around gamification. 1Huddle, which creates short-burst mobile games
for training, has started working with players in hotels and other parts of the
1Huddle's games are meant to provide quick bursts of
training whenever employees have time. Trainees are pitted against one another
via a leaderboard, and many of 1Huddle's clients reward top performers with
gift cards or experiences.
"Brand is about people," Caucci said, "and we
need to learn how to lean into technology to empower people just as much as we
think about innovating when it comes to our product."
Gamification isn't for everyone. Specht said it appeals most
to those who are competitive by nature. Like any kind of training, she said,
one style won't appeal to everyone.
Rizzi, on the other hand, asserted that the reward and
recognition cycle that gamification offers holds universal appeal.
"While some team members are inherently more competitive
and are fueled by the stack-ranking components of gamification," he said, "I've
yet to meet an employee of any company who doesn't want to feel valued and
recognized for their contributions. That's at the heart of gamification."
The Travel Institute also includes elements of gamification
in its training, including interactive components and prizes in the form of
specialist designations or certifications. Director of training Guida Botelho
said it's one tool in the arsenal the institute employs.
"Gamification is one approach among many effective
learning methods today," Botelho said. "What's most important is
blending learning methods to get the best results for students."