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The quality of employee performance can make or break any business. Originally designed to train actors, many theater games may be modified for the business world to benefit employee performance assessment and management. Improvisational drama exercises provide supervisors with an entertaining way to assess their employees’ abilities to understand and complete job requirements satisfactorily. Role-playing activities and skits also offer training opportunities, help build morale and strengthen teamwork skills.
In service industries, businesses depend upon their employees to handle customer relations in a positive, professional manner. Role-playing on-the-job scenarios help to train and to assess an employee’s ability to cope with both typical and difficult clients. Ask personnel to write down a variety of their experiences on individual slips of paper and collect them all in a container. Have employees take turns acting out the suggested scenarios while a fellow co-worker attempts to address the situation. Encourage the employee playing the customer to act over-the-top to entertain their co-workers and challenge their scene partner. After each scene, engage the entire group to evaluate the performance and suggest alternative strategies for handling the situation.
Not My Job
When an “it’s not my job” attitude slips into the workplace, employees and departments become less effective. Skits help employees understand and appreciate the responsibilities shouldered by their co-workers, along with identifying any work that’s falling through the cracks. Separate departments into small groups and present them with problems typically handled by other positions or departments. Task them with developing skits to perform for their co-workers depicting how to solve the problems. Once all have performed, reorganize employees into multiple department groups and have them work together to uncover any tasks not depicted in the skits. All groups should then develop inter-department strategies to provide coverage and accountability for the overlooked areas. As an alternative, consider asking groups to write skits based on what they think other departments do, then enjoy guessing which task and department each group is depicting.
For jobs that require problem solving on the fly, role-playing games can be utilized simply to keep employees sharp. Engage personnel in an improvisational game that requires them to utilize workplace scenarios and terminology while limiting them to converse using questions only. Ask two or three associates to begin the game, and have others ready to tap in when a player makes a misstep. For example, in a scene depicting several co-workers working on project with a hard deadline, “Do you have the client file?” and “Don’t you have the client file?” is an appropriate dialogue exchange, while “Hand me that folder,” would get a player eliminated. A variation of this game involves speaking progressively through the alphabet, with each player beginning their sentence with the next appropriate letter to avoid elimination.
Finish the Story
In larger corporations, departments occasionally become stagnant as they complete the same tasks using the same strategies every day. Inter-department role-playing offers the opportunity to get fresh eyes and find new solutions to problems. Ask each department to develop a selection of situations typically handled by their division and the required outcome, without providing any processes or solutions. As the rest of the company observes, require a department to role-play through a scenario from each division to develop a viable solution. This not only helps develop new business strategies, it allows employees and supervisors to learn from the relationship and management styles of other divisions. When each department has finished role-playing encourage departments to mingle and discuss how the suggested scenarios were actually resolved.
- Improvisation for the Theater; Viola Spolin
- University of Michigan Press: Drills, Dialogues and Role Plays
- Society for Human Resource Management: Ten Scenarios to Practice Handling Needed Conversations
- The Washington Post: Improving Employee Performance Reviews
- Theater Games for the Classroom; Viola Spolin
- Teaching Literature: Using Drama to Foster Interpretation
- Mind Tools: Role Playing
- University of New South Wales Australia: Assessing with Role Play and Simulation
- Business Balls: Role Playing Games and Activities
- Office of Personnel Management: Performance Management
- North Central College: Authentic Assessment Toolbox