Re-thinking career development: training soft skills with serious games
Communication and leadership skills are more important than ever, not only in times of virtual teamwork. But how do you train these so-called transversal skills? How can learning progress be identified and recommendations be made for further skill development?
European research partners in the DEVELOP project have been specifically working on these questions and they are now presenting innovative solutions. A résumé and an outlook.
To create a learning environment in which soft skills can be measured and improved, and in which at the same time recommendations for individual career development are provided: this was the aim of the EU-funded research project DEVELOP. Coordinated by the Trinity College, Dublin, eight European research institutions and companies worked on this project for three years, with funding ending in October 2019.
The imc AG mainly supported the development of the Social Learning Tool, which enables employees to train soft skills such as leadership or communication in their daily work by means of small practical tasks and to reflect on their experiences in a community of practice. This tool can also be used as interactive course content in the imc Learning Suite, imc’s Learning Management System.
Individual Career Planning
The DEVELOP project has developed a Personalised Learning Environment (PLE) that benefits strategic human resources development and that supports both employees and managers in medium-sized and large companies. As an online career coach, the system offers users tailor-made guidance to actively plan and develop their career. Special attention is paid to the promotion of soft and transversal skills.
Promotion of soft skills
Traditionally, soft and transversal skills, such as communication skills or leadership qualities, are evaluated through Assessment Centers lasting several days. However, this is time-consuming and cost-intensive and therefore not always possible.
Uta Schwertel, imc's project manager, adds: "In today's world, it is not only a question of pure specialist knowledge, but employees and managers must be able to transfer their knowledge and apply it in a flexible way.”
Therefore, the research partners at DEVELOP broke new ground and developed digital soft skills assessment tools and integrated them into their learning environment, the PLE.
In addition to tools such as personality tests or 360° feedback, game-based methods for the assessment and training of soft skills such as leadership were successfully developed.
In the games, you immerse yourself in authentic situations of everyday work and interact with virtual team members. The Social Learning Tool also incorporates communities of practice, in which selected soft skills such as "Agile Leadership" or "Negotiation" can be consolidated and reflected upon with others through targeted practical exercises in everyday working life.
Serious Games instead of Assessment Center
In practice, the scenario is as follows: At the beginning of the digital soft skills assessment, you start with a self-evaluation and get feedback from colleagues and superiors, which is also reflected in the system. Then you can complete various serious games, which, for example, assess your communication skills or, by means of a simulation, your abilities as a manager.
From all these assessments, the system determines the employee's current competency profile and provides corresponding automated recommendations and options for possible career paths and career goals. The employee can choose the desired path and receives suitable training recommendations to close competency gaps. As soon as a training is completed, the plan is updated, and the corresponding progress is visible in the system.
Practical training for direct application
Uta Schwertel explains what were the biggest challenges during the project: "Especially with leadership skills, it is always very difficult to integrate the skills learned during a one-time training course into everyday working life. That's why we decided to use a tool that works like a social network and aims to support informal learning and on-the-job training when dealing with issues".
So, if an employee wants to prepare for a leadership role, he is referred to imc’s Social Learning Tool. The tool works similarly to a social network and aims to support the employee in topics such as self-reflection, networking and knowledge transfer.
Once logged in, the employees must first self-assess their leadership skills and set personal goals. Based on this, the tool recommends specific tasks. For example, participants are asked to share their own experiences, comment on other people's contributions, add their own tasks they are currently working on and expand their network.
Successful spin-offs after project completion
After the successful completion of the project at the end of 2019, the foundation "DEVELOP your career" was established. It is chaired by the former project coordinator Greg Carey from the Learnovate Centre, Trinity College Dublin. The aim of the foundation is to follow up the project and to conduct further practical and scientific research on career and competence development, learning interventions and methods, and work-related social and human capital.
imc is also co-operating with the DEVELOP Foundation and continues its work on DEVELOP, particularly on the Social Learning Tool. Learning activities created in the Social Learning Tool can be integrated into a course offered via the imc Learning Suite - as can be the leadership simulation game.
In addition, the former DEVELOP member, Joost Modderman, continued DEVELOP's work in his company SkillFull B.V. In cooperation with the foundation, SkillFull is one of the distributors of DEVELOP's Personal Learning Environment and provides, among other things, individual HR instruments such as the simulation games.
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If you would like to learn more about DEVELOP or are interested in a free demo, please contact the project coordinator email@example.com.
More information about the Social Learning Tool, you find in this PDF.
If you would like to learn more about the Leadership Game and Game based assessments, please check this whitepaper.
I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.
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