New Delhi: For some new hires atICICI Bank Ltd, India’s largest private sector bank, play is an integral part of work. These hires, typically junior and middle-level managers hired for customer-facing functions, are made to play online games for several hours before they get down to the business of dealing with people.
“Gaming is an integral part of our induction programme,” says K. Ramkumar, group head, HR, ICICI Bank. More than 2,000 ICICI employees have been playing games, and winning prizes, as preparation for handling customers. The use of online games fits in nicely with the HR department’s focus on e-learning. “The gaming initiative reinforces our brand proposition of anytime, anywhere learning,” Ramkumar adds.
Ramkumar’s department uses four games—queue management, cheque clearing (operations), cheque payment across the counter, and savings accounts. As the names suggest, these games present situations with customers seeking services in these areas. The games, developed by the Tata group’s e-learning company, Tata Interactive Systems, require the staff to provide quick services and resolve issues efficiently.
For instance, the cheque clearing game involves all the steps involved—from the point a customer presents the cheque to the bank executive till the encashment of cheque. For every right move players make, they get a part of the key to the kingdom, while they lose a life for every wrong move.
It’s only after the new hires become adept at winning and achieve a certain proficiency that they are allowed to actually deal with customers. “The drill prepares employees to deal with customers efficiently from day one. All the effort is about creating a good experience for customers,” says Ramkumar.
Experts say gaming could become an important tool in human resource mangement. “Gaming as a skill enhancement and training tool has a huge potential in sectors and companies that are growing very fast,” says Quentin Staes-Polet, CEO, Kreeda Games India Pvt Ltd. “This is all the more true for sectors that have a significant population of young people in the workforce. The fun element in the games infuses interest in learning, which is an important thing for the young generation known for its changing interest levels,” adds Staes-Polet.
Games-based training also turns out to be much more cost effective than other training methods. The gaming engines used at ICICI cost up to Rs500,000. Games also provide the company with an opportunity to assess skills and performance of employees without actually allowing these people to interact with customers. “Games can be used to capture key real-time information about people, activities and outcomes and to provide more frequent guidance and link performance to recognition,” says Daniel Dias, director, IBM India Research Laboratory.
Meanwhile, ICICI Bank says there has been a tangible reduction in error rates and improvement in productivity among employees trained through games. “But we would like to be a little gaurded and gauge the results across functions, and over a period of time, before we call it a success,” says Ramkumar.
Ramkumar’s team is now busy working on a larger game—a branch simulator that will recreate all the functions of managing a branch, which deals with around 2,000 customers on an average day. ICICI Bank also plans to organize inter-branch and inter-region gaming competitions for its staff. “Today, the initiative is focused only on the entry- and -junior level staff. The future will see us graduating from games aimed at developing banking skills to management skills,” says Ramkumar.