WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Who says learning can’t be fun?

Inspired by the CBS show Survivor, the Robins Federal Credit Union training department encouraged some 300 staffers to outwit, outplay and outlast fellow “castaways” to become the sole Survivor of Product and Services Island.

“When we found out our strategic plan goals last August, we wanted to come up with a fun way to promote product knowledge,” said Robins Federal Training Manager Kim Elkins. “Our previous product knowledge class was what I like to call ‘death by PowerPoint’ where you need toothpicks to keep your eyes open. It was just horrible, so this was the perfect opportunity to start from scratch and create a class that would be as interactive as possible where we could present the information in a way that would be enjoyable and memorable so they retain it.”

Elkins said the team started brainstorming about different reality television shows and with Survivor everything seemed to just click into place.

“We’ve had the most fun with this product knowledge training. It has been a great experience, and the three of us all worked hard on it for about five to six months,” said Elkins.

From d?(C)cor, reward and immunity challenges to even tribal council, no detail was overlooked.

Upon entering Product and Services Island, employees were welcomed to a tropical tiki hut full of palm trees and other d?(C)cor befitting castaways on Product and Services Island. Classes ran the full day for frontline and branch staffers, while support staff classes ran about four hours.

Employees were divided into tribes consisting of no more than five people. As an icebreaker the teams then had to come up with their tribe name and flags. Tribes then competed in reward and immunity challenges based on the products and services that were discussed in lessons preceding the challenges.

“The challenges were designed to reinforce the lessons while having fun,” said Elkins.

For example, the savings and checking account section reward challenge directed tribes to fishing ponds (kiddie pools filled with shredded paper) where they had the find fish that matched the product description and then place the fish in order on their fishing line.

“So they had to listen and think about not only the specific products but also find their color-coded fish before the other teams,” said Elkins.

Members of tribes that did not win immunity selected an item called an office artifact, which could be anything from a paperclip to a stapler from the elimination box. The employee that chose the banished artifact became a member of the Tribal Council that monitored later tasks. Lessons and challenges continued until only the final three contestants remained. These three employees were quizzed by their Tribal Council peers on various topics of the Tribal Council’s choosing. Based on the answers given, the Tribal Council then voted for the sole survivor.

Sole survivors from each class were awarded a trophy and eternal bragging rights, according to Elkins.

“Our goal while creating this class was to provide training about our products and services in a way that it had never been presented before. We made it interactive and participatory so that employees could gain maximum retention of the material,” said Elkins. “The most important thing was that at the end of the day each participant left class with at least a bit of knowledge that they didn’t have when they entered the classroom that morning.”

So far, results show that the 19 classes have been a major success. Employees were given a written evaluation at the end of each class to assess their retention of the information learned in class. They were also given a survey to complete about the class that asked a range of questions about the class itself and the material covered. The feedback gathered will be used to further training efforts on the credit union’s intranet, where topics staffers had trouble with will be posted.

–mdigiovanni@cutimes.com