Training is not just child’s play – even if you use game theory

Jason Seebaruth attended a memorable session at last month’s CIPD L&D show. 

Gaming is not just for kids but can be used as a low cost means of training employees, according to Superdry’s troubleshooter, Jez Light.

Delivering a seminar at CIPD’s Learning & Development Show last month, Jez encouraged his peers to ‘unleash their inner child’ in their training programmes. Recounting his previous work as Superdry’s Learning & Development Manager, Jez says he was given just 10 days’ notice to transform the business.

It was a business that had begun life as Cult Clothing Co, a market stall in Cheltenham, co-founded by Julian Dunkerton in 1985. As sales and success increased, Julian opened shops in university towns and cities across the UK. In 2003, he teamed up with designer James Holder to create the Superdry brand.

Over the past fifteen years, the company has grown exponentially to become a leading British fashion label and member of the FTSE 250. Superdry has become synonymous for a range of clothing and products that fuse together vintage Americana, British tailoring and meaningless Japanese text.

From humble beginnings, Superdry today has over 500 branded stores in 40 countries.

Through the use of simple techniques and social media including YouTube and Instagram, Jez sought to make training more fun, interactive and memorable.

When Jez arrived though, Superdry was just over a decade old and in need of help, despite its successes. There had been little investment in the training of retail store staff and sales were suffering as a result. In order to drive the business forward, Jez felt that staff needed a better awareness of the brand and its products.

However, he was limited in what he could do. There was no money to buy a ready-made, off the shelf programme or enlist the help of outside consultants. The training also had to look and feel like an in house programme that embodied the Superdry ethos.

Searching for inspiration, Jez thought of simpler times and games he used to play when he was young. War came to mind and then the British Army’s Special Air Service (SAS).

Jez dared to win over the Superdry staff through ‘SAS’, Sales and Service. This centred around four key pillars; passion for the brand, product knowledge, personalised service and positive selling attitude.

Gamification has been officially defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as, ‘the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service.’

A workbook was devised for all Superdry staff to complete, not just the sales staff. Badges and ‘selling stripes’ mimicking the different army ranks were to be earned and worn with pride. Out went off-the-job training leaving store staff to undertake their training on the shop floor, often in front of the customer.

Through the use of simple techniques and social media including YouTube and Instagram, Jez sought to make training more fun, interactive and memorable.

In one game, ‘Match Me Up’, to increase product knowledge, staff were challenged to find two other products that could complement another item on sale. In another game, ‘Check The Tech’, staff were trained to understand more about new and different textiles, their uses and benefits.

Staff were also encouraged to play ‘Flash Facts’, a card game to refresh their knowledge. Following a successful pilot in Superdry’s New York stores, the plan was rolled out worldwide in 12 countries. 

The results were spectacular. Under Jez’s regime, SAS contributed to higher sales figures, including a larger basket size at the checkout and better customer satisfaction. Amongst Superdry’s staff, product knowledge improved as well as team retention and employee engagement.

His successes were not without problems though. Jez reminded his audience to keep in mind cultural differences as his sense of humour didn’t translate very well in other countries. He also offered a note of caution that gaming should only be used sparingly and is not appropriate for all types of training.

You can watch all TJ’s CIPD L&D show interviews here


About the author

Jason Seebaruth is a freelance journalist.



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