Elearning! October-November

October-November 2013

Elearning! Magazine: Building Smarter Companies via Learning & Workplace Technologies.

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Case StudyCalifornia BOE y How Game-Based Strategies Can Make All the Difference THIS CALIFORNIA AGENCY INCREASES TAXPAYER/ CUSTOMER SATISFACTION WITH AN INNOVATIVE TRAINING APPROACH. BY KATHY HELDMAN Innovation is often associated with high-tech companies in California's Silicon Valley, but innovative learning strategies are also being implemented 125 miles east of the Valley in Sacramento, California's state capitol. Te California State Board of Equalization (BOE) administers California's sales and use tax and other special taxes and fees that fund a variety of state programs. To efectively administer these programs, its workforce is dispersed in several ofce locations through- out the state. Te agency's commitment to staf development is evidenced in its strategic goals, where "Invest in a skilled, motivated and diverse workforce" is one of four prominent areas of focus. "I am always looking for innovative training solutions that will give our staff the best possible interaction with the public, provide more options for solutions, and create an environment where both the taxpayer and the Board are satisfied with the outcome of that interaction," says Mark Walker, the training team lead for the BOE compliance and audit staff. PILOTING A GAME As it happened, Walker had been researching game-based learning for some time. His research uncovered some impressive results from learning games, so he began searching for a game-based training solution to teach the BOE's compliance staf how to improve their communication and negotiation skills with taxpayers. He found a solution that seemed like a good ft. "We piloted a learning game designed to teach negotiation skills in an online interactive format. We wanted to validate the concept prior to implementing a game based training solution throughout the agency," Walker explains. Te pilot was conducted over a fve-week period. 44 October / November 2013 Elearning! Walker says: "Game-based training is implemented diferently, as it is an online course played as a group or cohort. Each learner competes individually against the simulator, but results are aggregated in a cohort leaderboard, which introduces the concept of competition. Not only does this act as a motivator to do better individually, but it also generates positive communication between employees and between district ofces located throughout the state." As the initial phase of the training unfolded, Walker tracked progress closely. "Te vendor was very supportive before, during and afer the pilot," he notes. "Teir staf was made available and assisted with the kickof meeting for the initial cohort as well as the debriefng meeting. One of their learner engagement managers was assigned to our cohort and provided technical and supportive assistance to staf throughout the training. Regular contact was made with staf requiring support or encouragement, including both phone and email support." THEN CAME DEBRIEFING At the conclusion of the BOE's pilot class, Walker scheduled a debriefng meeting, which evolved into a key learning event in the program. "Te vendor helped create six mock case studies that simulate what our staf might encounter

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