Accenture has grown to become the world’s largest comprehensive professional services firm, with 375,000 employees around the globe. Its learning and talent development function has responded to this global growth by executing an equally dramatic revolution in learning. Enter cutting edge technology to support human interaction.
Accenture now has six regional learning centers—in North America, Ireland, Spain, England, India, and Malaysia—dozens of high-tech connected classrooms, and mobile learning in the pocket of every Accenture employee. At every level, and in every location, the latest advances in telecommunications and electronics are embraced, but always to serve human interaction, not to strangle it.
Tech and touch are the yin and yang of the company’s learning and talent development strategy. “We bring technology in purposefully, and then we take it out. Because technology enhances for all of the reasons we know, but we want to have this connectedness,” explains Rahul Varma, the visionary chief learning officer at Accenture. “We are on a path to be the most uniquely human organization in the world.”
Enter Social Learning
Social media’s widespread use and range of tools present a host of opportunities to improve learning. Creating communities, as well as finding and sharing ideas, is much easier to achieve than ever before. If you use the tools well, you can make formal learning more effective and efficient, increasing learners’ motivation and adding longevity to the learning process.
At Accenture, there may be no corporate push, but employees do get a nudge to collaborate in all forms of social learning through a game. It’s called the Addo Agnitio Award—Latin for share knowledge—or A3 for short. Employees complete “missions” by earning A3 points when they connect, contribute, or champion within learning boards, The Stream, communities, or other social learning channels.
By completing missions, participants earn badges like “Rock Star” and “Guru.” Scores are reset each quarter to give newcomers a chance to shine. The badges are displayed on each employee’s Accenture Knowledge Exchange page, and a leaderboard shows profile photos of top scorers for the week, month, quarter, and all time.
Barfield, the social learning director at Accenture, conducted research showing that the introduction of gamification two years ago had a significant impact. Even though the system launched in the quietest quarter, December to February, average participation scores jumped by 34 percent. Comments in The Stream soared by 74 percent. In total, 207,000 employees were participating in some way, well over half of the total workforce.
Barfield notes that one risk of gamification is managers who use it as a “lazy management tool.” He tries to avoid a situation where employees, under pressure to reach Rock Star status, quickly ask: “How can I get the points and be done with this?”
“It’s supposed to be meaningful,” Barfield says. “The idea is to help people discover what’s possible. The gamification space is a double-edged sword. You have to make sure you’re motivating the right behaviors.”
Barfield is not alone in being cautious: A 2014 ATD Research poll found that one in 10 learning professionals views the “potential for negative reaction by employees, such as feeling manipulated or becoming overly competitive” as a very serious challenge to gamification use. And 7 percent actually believed that the possibility of employees cutting corners in learning to level up was a major concern.For more on how Accenture is using social learning, check out Accenture: Delivering High Touch Learning With High Tech Tools.