Strategies and Tools to Drive Measurable Diversity Impact, Part 2

In Part 1, I discussed the need to use integrative diversity training methods to drive ROI-based performance outcomes. In this part (Part 2), I will highlight the use of simulations and gamification tools to build practical approaches to drive measurable strategic business results for the organization.

Simulations Drive Measurable Results and Performance

Progressive diversity and business leaders around the world are turning to customized business simulations to build the alignment, mindset and capabilities needed to accelerate strategy execution in their companies and realize business results. Business simulations long have been used upfront in the strategy formulation process. In the last several years, simulations increasingly have been recognized as an essential tool for successful strategy implementation. When incorporated in diversity training interventions, they are a powerful tool to drive behavior change and measurable results.

I believe that training can be defined as “helping people to learn effectively to know or perform to meet a specific set of objectives.” This means that a primary role of diversity training is to create and provide a learning and development environment with the very best diversity and inclusion-based learning opportunities to meet an organization’s specific objectives and targeted outcomes. Learning is something people choose to do when they are interested in what is happening around them. If the organization in which diverse people work is also one in which they can learn, then people will have the opportunity to develop and maintain the skills they need.

Challenging Business Situations Can Be Mitigated Through Strategic Diversity Simulations

When failure to effectively implement a corporate strategy or communicate across differences can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, how do you reduce risk and improve performance? Customized diversity business simulations offer an effective solution.

Custom-made diversity simulations are effective because they:

• Are highly realistic.

• Reflect real-world competition.

• Catalyze critical issue discussion and feedback to senior leaders.

• Drive innovative thinking.

• Can be custom designed for every level in the organization.

• Lead to concrete actions to drive strategy and results.

The best diversity simulations provide participants with access to decision tools, resources and collaboration opportunities that directly mirror real-world applications.

Diversity Simulations: Moving Corporate Mountains

Here are just a few of the situations for which corporations are turning to diversity simulations to help build strategic alignment and execution capability:

• Implementing a new strategy and key performance objectives.

• Accelerating strategy execution and innovation.

• Improving business acumen and decision-making.

• Transforming sales organizations into multicultural market and business results accelerators.

• Diversity leadership development programs focused on front-line execution.

• Implementing an inclusive culture change aligned to strategy.

• Integrating newly merged companies with diverse cultures.

• Modeling complex value chains for collaborative cost elimination.

Within minutes of being placed in a simulation, participants are grappling with issues and decisions that they must make now. A year gets compressed into a several hours. Competition among teams spurs engagement, invention and discovery. For example, in our Hubbard & Hubbard, Inc. diverse work team simulations, participants learn firsthand to calculate diversity ROI in dollars and cents related to the impact on factors such as an “inclusion” environment, workplace design and environment, morale, collaboration, creativity, innovation,  respect, and effects on business outcomes and results such as revenue, profitability, costs, productivity, customer service and satisfaction, brand image and more.

Sample Building Blocks for Effective Diversity and Business Simulations

The following critical elements are often essential for an effective diversity or business simulation:

1. Highly realistic with points of realism targeted to drive experiential learning.

2. Dynamically competitive with decisions and results impacted by peers’ decisions in an intense, yet fun, environment.

3. Illustrative, not prescriptive or deterministic, with a focus on new ways of thinking.

4. Catalyzes discussion of critical issues with learning coming from discussion within teams and among individuals.

5. Provides diversity or business-relevant feedback, a mechanism to relate the simulation experience directly back to the company’s diversity or business objectives and key strategic priorities.

6. Delivered with excellence: High levels of quality and inclusion of such design elements as group discussion, humor, coaching and competition that make the experience highly interactive, intriguing, emotional, fun and satisfying.

7. User driven: Progress through the simulation experience is controlled by participants and accommodates a variety of learning and work styles.

8. Designed for a specific target audience, level, and business need.

9. Outcome focused so changes in mindset lead to concrete actions.

10. Enables and builds community: Interpersonal networks are created and extended.

Better Results, Faster

Well-designed diversity or business simulations are proven to significantly accelerate the time to value of corporate initiatives. A new strategy can be delivered to a global workforce and execution capability can be developed quickly, consistently and cost-effectively.

“Now I See How My Role Affects the Bottom Line”

Diversity simulations help bring participants to this realization. Successful leaders understand that force-feeding views to employees — particularly high-level people who have been hired to think for themselves — is not the solution. Far more effective is to let valuable employees discover the advantages of new diversity approaches on their own terms. Through discovery, as opposed to being told what to do, they are more likely to take great ownership. This approach creates a motivational and inspirational atmosphere and a “can-do” culture that builds within the company’s core.

A customized diversity or business simulation of your enterprise, business unit or process, using real-world competitive dynamics, places leaders in a context where they step out of their normal day-to-day roles and gain exposure to the big picture impact of diversity and inclusion. Participants make decisions in a risk-free environment, allowing them to experience critical interdependent mixtures, complexities, best practices for execution and the levers they can use to optimize their company’s key performance indicators as well as calculate the diversity ROI impact of intervention outcomes.

Learn by Doing to Reduce Risk and Improve Performance

Some of the world’s most successful companies are using innovative tools such as diversity or business simulations to communicate and build commitment for the implementation of complex multi-year business strategies.

Through these cutting-edge tools, leaders are given the opportunity to practice implementation of their strategy in a risk-free environment. Participants head back to work with confidence in and ownership of the new diversity or business strategy. Equally significant, these programs provide a powerful platform for the company’s leadership to communicate their vision in a way that allows the entire organization to live and breathe the new strategy.

Gaming Is a Powerful Integrative Learning Tool

Another form of simulation is the use of gaming. Gamification, as it is called, is another powerful integrative learning tool that can help enhance diversity knowledge acquisition that drives improved business performance and ROI results.

Gaming has invaded the living rooms of the 21st century around the world. With its integration of art forms from character creations and computer animation, it is easy to see why this form of communication and training has moved beyond kids in the basement to adults of all ages.

Gamification – applying game-based strategies and methods to e-learning and blended-learning workshops for improved engagement and retention – is a new name for an old concept. For generations, games have been used to teach concepts, skills and knowledge. Think Scrabble and spelling, Mastermind and strategy, Clue and problem solving.

Corporations have been incorporating gaming as an informal part of the process today. Now we’re seeing games that teach sales techniques and medical procedures. So why not utilize them to teach diversity and inclusion competencies, skills and values.

Why It Works

Research has shown that gaming, in the right context, can be just as, if not more effective than traditional workshop and e-learning. Why? People like to play games because they are entertaining, fun and challenging. Games also are effective because they give players a chance to apply their new knowledge and learn from their mistakes in a safe environment, thereby improving problem solving, creativity, risk assessment and risk-taking competencies.

According to the Kaufman foundation, learning by doing through serious games can improve retention by more than 108 percent, making them an attractive blended-learning and e-learning option to include in a professional diversity trainer’s toolkit for training with measurable impact. In addition, with some careful planning it is easy to build in ways to the prove diversity return on investment of the game, as well as highlighting cost savings due to the reusability of the game over and over at a fraction of the initial cost.

Part of the learning strategy metrics would consist of establishing a baseline of the participant’s knowledge, then deploying the game and following up with a post-test to determine the knowledge transfer and retention after playing the game.

Although games work extremely well, it is important to remember why the game is being played. That is, some trainers get so engrossed in setting up and playing the “game” that they often forget what the game was supposed to teach. This is why having a clear measurement and analytical strategy tied to measurable strategic business outcomes is essential.

Using integrative diversity training strategies and tools can drive measurable diversity ROI performance impacts to your organizational bottom line. It requires that we fully understand and utilize the tools, technologies and sciences that help to create high performance, interactive learning environments that engage diverse learners at every level.

If diversity and inclusion is to play a strategic role in the producing an organization’s results, it must deploy state-of-the-practice and state-of-the-art tools that are utilized as a comprehensive development strategy that is tied to the organizational mission and vision. The impact of these strategies should be monitored, measured and utilized as part of the organization’s competitive arsenal to meet business and organizational challenges head-on!