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In the current economic climate, the number of delinquencies and write-offs remains stubbornly high. As if this wasn’t enough, quickly changing economic and regulatory conditions bring increasingly complex challenges for collections and risk managers to tackle. 21st century skills need 21st century solutions. But what are they?

Skill #1: Foundation Knowledge

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” – William James.

Research by the University of California found that the average American consumes a staggering 34 gigabytes of information per day. In the banking world, technology, systems, models, and methodology only continue to grow in sophistication – but without becoming overloaded, how can we keep professionals continuously engaged with what they need to know?

The popularity of smartphones and tablets offers a powerful opportunity to engage, educate and support our workforce. Mobile learning provides personalized ‘bite sized’ materials that suit modern lifestyles and learning patterns. As an on-demand information source, learning touch points are continuously provided, further reinforcing knowledge and enhancing practical skills. For example, one simple download of a mobile learning app can provide a busy professional with the opportunity to test their knowledge, or locate technical content when required. By having the materials at their fingertips, employees can sharpen their knowledge anywhere at any time.

As always, simply throwing technology at the problem may not be enough. Early mobile learning initiatives took the same dry training materials and simply changed the technology platform. While the information is more accessible, it remains just as boring as before. This is because, (in all honesty), most people are really not that fascinated with compliance, policies, or regulatory issues. Though, with this in mind, who knew we could all be so addicted with repeatedly pitching birds out of a slingshot? The huge popularity of games such as Angry Birds, has shown us that we can learn from the clever use of game mechanics to ensure learning is just as engaging.

Gamification is about taking the essential ingredients of a game and applying them to real-world, non-game situations. By introducing game mechanics such as rules, challenges and rewards for achievements, we can not only increase the fun factor, but most importantly learners are motivated by their desire to win. When designed well, gamified learning can take the edge off the seemingly never-ending learning curve and keep the busy professional actively engaged.

Skill #2: Anticipate Rather than React

“The only thing that is constant is change”– Heraclitus.

Never has this been truer than now. Not only do professionals have to contend with an ever-shifting economic landscape, we also have to manage alterations to our customer behavior and regulatory change. It’s a careful balancing act that can only be effectively managed through a degree of anticipation. But how can professionals learn to anticipate, rather than react to these shifts?

Serious games provide effective learning solutions for businesses, adding value to traditional training methods. For example, pilots have for decades been using flight simulators to hone their skills before they get into the cockpit. Simulations offer experiential education, providing professionals with the opportunity to test-drive their knowledge in a safe environment. Here they can learn the direct outcome of their actions, which wouldn’t be evident for months, if not years, in the ‘real world’.

Skill #3: Data Analysis: the Devil is in the Details

“In a retail business world seemingly inundated with information about consumers, businesses appear to have a disturbing lack of understanding about how those consumers will evolve over time”  – Dr. Joe Breeden.

With the advent of big data, we need hone our ability to sift through mountains of data for meaningful patterns. For example, we already analyze our portfolios by vintage and delinquency bucket, but as we merge with additional databases, how can we ensure the patterns pop out through the noise?

In a serious game, industry data can be collected, refined and used to form the foundation of a numerical simulation that re-creates market conditions that professionals face on a daily basis. For example, the ability to test out different collection actions or portfolio strategies and immediately analyze the impact on delinquency flow rates is a powerful lesson. These simulations have to be complex enough in terms of variables to provide a realistic context, yet simple enough so that the players can clearly identify the relationship between their actions and an outcome. Players have to interact with data, making decisions based on data patterns they identify. It not only trains them to more easily identify fundamental trends and correlations, but also highlights how critical it is for data to be visualized in the form of graphics.

An End to the Dark Age of Traditional Training

New technology provides us with the opportunity to reinvent how we train and learn. If we combine it with rigorous learning design, rich content and gamification – the impact on 21st century skills can be enormous. The good news? A training revolution is approaching and there really are Apps for it after all.