Businesses Get In The Groove
Hold on a minute: haven’t we been here before? Trend #1 was Brands as Neo Educators. Isn’t this the same thing?
Not quite. That trend was all about companies empowering their fans, customers, and communities. This one is focused on what happens inside an organization - i.e. the learning, training, and development of their employees.
It may not always be as sexy as positioning your brand as a neo educator, but businesses of shapes and sizes have enormous opportunities to utilize Edutainment 3.0 - and with real ROI.
With more people working from home and higher turnover, companies face a challenge when it comes to making the work environment more engaging and dynamic.
Business leaders are going to have to embrace Edutainment inside their organizations if they want loyal fans as employees.
To do this, they’re going to need to use new tools, media types, and approaches. As software continues to eat the world, more creative and open use of technology means that even the most buttoned-up of corporations will shift towards more colorful and engaging approaches to engaging and educating their people.
How can business leaders use Edutainment to keep their employees engaged? Here are three categories we suggest you look into with questions to keep in mind:
- Welcome: Think - How do you attract and onboard talent? This covers the likes of career fairs festivals, interview processes, and onboarding programs.
- Develop: Think - How do employees learn and develop? Is it in areas very specific to their role, or broader transferable capabilities? We’re talking about everything from internships, to lunch and learn sessions, to leadership development programs, and company-wide academies.
- Engage: Think - How do you ensure your people feel motivated and connected to the work, team, and organization? This could be immersive off-site gatherings or more dynamic ways to get real-time feedback and input from employees.
Trade Shows, Conferences, and Summits
There’s also a fourth area that overlaps this trend and Brands as Neo Educators.
We see enormous opportunities to bring Edutainment 3.0 into trade shows, conferences, and industry summits. Until the pandemic struck in 2020, many of these haven’t changed much in years... or even decades. But as events shifted online, many grafted their existing programming into a digital setting.
Guess what? The results weren’t exactly breathtaking.
As in-person events begin to return and people have a better grasp of creative tools and approaches, we’re excited about what’s possible here.
Scroll down for our suggestions on how to find the groove for your B2B events - whether IRL, URL or blended.
One other thing before we get into it: as with Play to Learn and a couple of the Emerging Trends we explore in the next Act, the line between edutainment and dystopia can be finer than we think... it’s very important for businesses to think intentionally about how they implement Edutainment 3.0.
Why this trend matters
Talent matters, and engaged employees are core to success for organizations of all shapes and sizes.
Edutainment 3.0 can make an impact across departments and experience levels, but there’s particular thing to note: younger team members are already learning through Edutainment 3.0 (even if they don’t realize it).
Speaking of realizations, older people (yes, that includes you if you’re over 35...) have to recognize this. If you don’t embrace this trend and get in the groove, someone else will.
In Action: Businesses Get In the Groove
Let’s start with one example we’re not big fans of: gamifying warehouse work.
Amazon uses this tactic to encourage its fulfillment center employees to improve their efficiency. Employees compete against others for digital rewards like virtual pets.
According to a report from The Information, this program called FC Games includes as many as six arcade-style mini-games that can be played only by completing warehouse tasks.
These games tend to be simple virtual representations of how fast the worker is completing a task. One example is MissionRacer: a car moves around a track while a picking employee sorts products into appropriate boxes.
Amazon is now expanding this method to warehouses in at least 20 states throughout the US.
Publicis Groupe is one of the world’s leading advertising companies, with over 80 brands in its portfolio.
Although their learning and development programs aren’t widely publicized (see what we did there?!), we’re big fans of how they bring a creative mindset and approach to their design and development.
In their LAB program for high-trajectory future leaders, Publicis’ program lead operates in a style similar to the showrunner for a TV series. They’re curating talent; crafting a narrative; setting the stage; and creating the right environment for the magic to happen.
Why this approach? They know that constructing the show - and using Edutainment 3.0 to do so - is the very best way to hold people’s attention.
There’s also no agenda for many of the sessions. Why? It creates that little bit of extra tension and anticipation and a reminder that... well, you just had to be there.
While McDonald’s training programs don’t focus much on Edutainment, they’re an excellent example of a business that’s got in the groove when it comes to enabling and empowering their people.
Education has been front of mind for a long time: the McDonald’s Hamburger University opened back in 1961. Fast forward to today, and there are a swathe of programs for leaders, entry level staff, young people exploring career ideas, and community outreach programs. McDonald’s also set the bar high with their goals: by 2025 they want to have offered training programs to over 2 million young people.
What’s next? Well, we’d love to see more on the work they’re doing around the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as more compelling storytelling around the programs and their impact.
TechED is a department within Airbnb that specializes in onboarding as well as ongoing education of employees in the engineering teams. It’s built to scale and delivers a variety of programs which reinforce mastery and quality throughout individuals’ careers.
One of the elements we like is how TechED has three key values at its core: share what you know; enable the success of technical priorities; and embrace the adventure.
Check out this detailed breakdown of how the team intentionally designed dynamic and engaging programs - from day one onboarding through to manager bootcamps and ongoing education.
Key Themes for Edutainment 3.0
Reduce the discovery barrier
There’s still a huge barrier when it comes to people discovering and learning about companies - especially those at the start of their careers. The solution? Offer what we call ‘pre-boarding’ opportunities: educate career explorers about you as a business and industry, and give them the chance to get hands-on with some of your day-to-day. This is also a great path towards you becoming a Neo Educator...
Embrace your inner jester
Our pal Arif Haq talks about the role of the Jester, even in a serious context. When leading a training or learning experience - even on the most technical or sensitive topics - it’s worth finding appropriate spaces for levity, tension, stories, and excitement.
Employee relaxation & thinking like an athlete
Stressed-out employees are less productive. Creating a space for them to unwind and recharge is essential. But making sure it’s not just a place to nap is a novel way to showcase Edutainment. At Wavetable, we think of this as approaching learning as an athlete would their training - a well-designed training regime, with plenty of rest and recovery time. In fact, much of the progress happens during these.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
Quirky is the new way to engage. Embrace new tools, media types, and approaches for deploying Edutainment. The hot tech modalities here are AR and VR. Play around, but don’t forget about putting humans first.
In Action: Ones to Watch
This platform for immersive working uses XR (extended reality) to help people learn faster, validate their skills, and find upward mobility in the workforce. Talespin’s business is anchored in the belief that sharing knowledge across language and cultural barriers will be accelerated through AI, VR, and AR.
Their technology aims to increase EQ and empathy; inform cultural sensitivity, and enhance capabilities to communicate, learn, and lead.
Measuring the impact of “soft skills” training has previously been notoriously tricky so we’re curious to see how they progress.
Oh, webinars. They’re so often terrible, aren’t they? Check your phone, eat your lunch, do something... anything else.
This startup based in Dubai is spicing up webinars and blended learning programs through micro, multi-player games like escape rooms.
They’re still in the early stages of growth and some of the UI feels a little old school, but we dig the direction, as well as the opportunity to plug in the experiences into communication platforms like WhatsApp.
We’ve given Zoom a pretty good workout over the past two years. It does the job for a meeting or small gathering, but when it comes to any kind of larger event - like a conference - other tools are worth a look.
We’re curious to see how virtual event tech companies adapt as we (hopefully) emerge from the pandemic. Two with a more vibrant approach are Remo and Nowhere. Just remember though - you can have all the tools you want, but the experience design still matters most.
While these events are more about entertainment than education, their approach of a creating fast-paced environment that uses games, narrative and teamwork (plus some sprinkles of entertainment industry magic) is worth checking out. Here are a couple of titles that piqued our interest:
International Monster Hunter: A 90-minute event where team members work together online to find a mythical creature using clues and sleuthing.
Virtual Murder Mystery: Think online Clue. Team members work together online cracking puzzles that reveal clues about a murder. This event combines traditional murder mystery elements with escape room tactics to help your team come together and work better together.
Guidelines for Greatness
Stories are incredibly powerful (in case you couldn’t guess based on the number of times we talk about it.) They are a fantastic tool to explain and share ideas. We’ve seen it first hand in many of our client projects. It’s not always just about learning a skill, it’s also about having better conversations and being able to express concepts and challenges to other people in easily understandable ways.
A new wave of consultancies and studios are offering companies pathways to better connect with new generations. Curious which ones are worth speaking to? We’re happy to point you in the right direction of a couple we like.
Make people feel smart
No one likes to feel stupid. Typically this happens through badly conceived assessments, mountains of content, too many acronyms, or unintuitive UX. However, people can also feel stupid if they sense they’re being patronized or underestimated. Meet people where they’re at, and design accordingly.
Topics like cyber security and money laundering tend to fall under “compliance”. These don’t feel like a good fit for Edutainment so most people don’t bother trying. But there’s so much potential to turn stiff topics into flexible ones. So take a chance and make compliance fun.
Make Edutainment just as important as wellness. Multiple scientific studies have proven that health and wellness efforts not only yield higher productivity and engagement in the workplace but will also help reduce turnover. L&D Edutainment programs have the same effect. (source)
Maintain your cred
Take your Edutainment endeavors too far off-topic or off-brand and you’ll risk losing credibility, attention, and perhaps even employees. Be mindful of coloring too far outside the lines.
Leaving it alone
Not taking advantage of or having an L&D role in your company. Don’t leave this to HR alone.
LMS and LXPs have moved on a lot in the last few years, but by their nature, they often add constraints and rigidity. Be mindful of how to best balance scalable learning with more freeform experiences. The same goes for creating conferences and events.
Spark Your Creativity
Ideas to jumpstart your imagination and help you include Edutainment 3.0 in your endeavors.
- What if your company’s next learning initiative was constructed as a TV show, movie, or video game? How would you put it together? What genre is it in? Which character actors are you hiring?
- We believe learning can be a very powerful business strategy - both inside and outside the organization. How could you create a business strategy built around Edutainment 3.0?
- What if every aspect of the corporation went multiplayer? Adobe CPO Scott Belsky thinks it could be a big thing.