Pong for corporate training?May 15, 2012: 5:00 AM ET
True Office aims to turn compliance testing into a videogame-like experience. Will firms pay for their employees to play?
By Alex Konrad, reporter
FORTUNE -- Adam Sodowick wants to make corporate compliance training, er, sexy -- or at least make it more exciting than it is today. That may sound like an uphill battle, but the True Office CEO thinks he has a way to engage employees and make HR folks breathe easier.
Sodowick got his start in the corporate training business a decade ago peddling video lessons, so he knows that these tired techniques still are commonplace. But now that tablets offer a more interactive medium for testing, Sodowick's new company has developed a compliance app that runs as a fast-paced game (usually a painless 20 minutes). The employee is immersed in a sleek interactive story and then takes a 10-minute quiz to confirm his understanding of the material.
True Office is riding the popular "gamification" trend, which brings videogame storytelling and interactivity to mundane tasks such as job applications and, yes, training. Many of the games encourage performance with rewards and points. True Office's only prize for employees is a less miserable compliance experience.
But the real payoff comes in the advanced analytics its program provides employers. Companies using True Office's game will know exactly when and for how long their staff read the policies built into it, helping protect them against liability suits.
The company is finishing trials and plans to launch this month, but early users say they can already see trends (if employees consistently fail to flag a policy violation, for example) that suggest areas requiring additional training. Harvard's test of the program, for example, revealed that users recognize flagrant infractions but need more training on subtle ones. "The feedback from people was that they thought it was fun," says Gary Cormier, a director of HR consulting for Harvard, "but the analytics are most important to me."
Sodowick is realistic about his product: Employees will never love training, but he thinks they'll grumble less about True Office. HR executives are another matter. "We're going against PowerPoint and three-ring binders here," he notes. The data and tools True Office provides are sure to set a few hearts in compliance racing.
This story is from the May 21, 2012 issue of Fortune.