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McDonald's staff get the message - via Nintendo DS.

McDonald's staff get the message - via Nintendo DS

McDonald's expects to halve the time it takes to train its part-time restaurant employees in Japan by linking its 37,000 shops in the country to a computer-based game that teaches how to clean work-stations, cook food, take orders and serve customers.

In the March issue of Information Age, Perkins reveals that McDonald's Japan has teamed up with Nintendo on the $2.2 million development and installation of eSmart, a Nintendo DS-based game that is forecast to cut training time from 45 hours to roughly 24. Each McDonald's branch will have two DS hand-held devices for the training. Employees will be able to take the consoles home, to continue their training out of the workplace.

Part of the reason for the increased efficiency is that most young people in Japan are already familiar with the Nintendo DS. The game, moreover, will eliminate the need for human trainers in the introductory sessions, and can quickly be modified to reflect new skill requirements or changes in the way work is carried out.

Another advantage is that eSmart will allow Wi-Fi-connected trainers to monitor individual progress and provide immediate feedback.

Perkins describes how video games can now simulate many jobs for training or recruiting purposes - not simply the more repetitive ones. For example, the latest video games can simulate such soft skills as building rapport with the customer or handling conflict between employees, which may be needed by supervisors and sales staff.

The author concludes that, overall, video games are a boon for over-worked and under-staffed human-resource managers. 'They provide a highly effective way to identify the most promising candidates from a large pool of applicants,' he explains. 'In addition, training games provide hands-on practice for real-world situations, without spilling any milk or dropping any French fries.'

Like McDonald's, global accountancy firm Grant Thornton is keen to ensure that its public-facing employees have the skills to project a positive image of the firm. In Volume 48, Issue 2 of Training, published in March 2011, Weinstein details the public-relations and image training it offers to all its non-PR specialists.

The programme concentrates on: creating and instilling global values to maintain the company's image and brand; reviewing all training to ensure that it projects the right message about the brand to employees; training the company's executives to be disciplined about using precise and balanced statements in their updates to the workforce; emphasising PR training in programmes for new leaders and managers; guiding employees in the proper handling of sensitive information; and remembering that the PR messages are the same whether dealing with clients face to face, on the telephone or over the internet.

Says Weinstein: 'In the age of Facebook and Twitter, and blogs that rate everything from restaurants to dog-groomers, you need a strategy to ensure that all your employees leave customers with a positive feeling about your company.'