Sporting Kansas City is a professional soccer club based in Kansas City. This championship team traditionally plays in front of sold-out crowds, with 14,000 season-ticket holders and a wait list in the thousands. The fan experience is a priority for Sporting Kansas City and for Children's Mercy Park where they play. Fans will tell you that the team has won numerous championships, but the Sporting KC experience is also a leader in the league.
Serving this crowd poses two different training challenges. The first is the training and rapid onboarding of a primarily seasonal staff. Sporting KC's Director of Fan Experience & Safety, Matt Evans, explains the second and larger hurdle, "One way Sporting gives back to the community is by offering area Non-Profit-Organizations (NPOs) the opportunity to raise funds while working at the stadium, primarily in concessions. When groups representing NPOs arrive, we find the members come from a variety of backgrounds and skill sets. Our previous training methods of PowerPoint presentations and live instructors presented two problems. First, there was a nod-off factor and much of the training wasn't consumed. Second, we discovered that the NPO organizations rarely sent the same staff each time. As the season progressed, the number of trained individuals dwindled and our fan experience began to suffer. Because we do serve sold-out crowds, our concessions operate at a hectic pace, which isn't the time for on-the-job training. We needed a way to provide a simulated experience to allow temporary and seasonal workers to hit the ground running."
Sporting KC leadership recognized a more efficient way to train their primarily younger workforce and temporary workers would be to use digital technology. Like the staffs at most professional arenas and stadiums, the full-time staff wears many hats, so efficiency was critical. They needed a platform that would allow them to create, deliver, and track the usage of this engaging training. Given the demographics and coordination challenges of the non-profit workforce, mobile was a must. Sporting KC chose to partner with CD2 Learning, a SaaS learning and development platform with a successful track record in working with specialty industries, associations, and providers of professional continuing education. As part of the implementation process, Sporting KC worked with the CD2 professional services team for instructional design support and used CD2’s authoring tools to create the online courses and simulations. They had solid content, but wanted to deliver it in a way that modern learners would enjoy and retain. Select content was used to create videos demonstrating proper procedures, especially critical in areas such as safety and fan experience. Some lessons were game-based, others simulated areas of focus such as the menu and POS system. Built-in assessments allowed administrators to spot areas of weakness and strengths. Gamification elements were included to create a sense of competition and recognition for achievements. Workers of all ages easily completed the training on their own schedule, from their choice of device and location. The challenge of new replacement employees was solved by ensuring everyone who worked had completed the training. Another advantage of the CD2 system was the ease of updating procedures and information, such as items or prices. This allows Sporting KC to be more efficient in managing their learning content assets. Changes can be quickly applied by uploading the files in one location, with updates cascading everywhere they are used. This is another area where ROI is quickly realized because information can be changed as frequently as needed without overwhelming already busy full-time staff. Evans points to an example of a critical timely topic that needed to be addressed for part-time employees. He was able to rapidly access and post courses.
Evans reports that the online and simulated learning resulted in increased confidence for both seasonal and one-time workers. This confidence and proven mastery of tasks meant less accidents, and less errors come game time. Based on the success of training for the NPO staff and part-time staff, plans are being made to roll out the program to the full-time staff.
Experienced staff who worked during prior seasons were excited by the new twist on content they had seen before, even commenting on items they had missed in the past. One six-year veteran reported "she has never felt as prepared for conflict resolution and to answer fans' questions and concerns." Sporting Kansas City has made a significant investment and commitment to Fan Engagement and satisfaction. Through use of the CD2 platform, they have delivered a continuity of standards as well as an increased knowledge base and communication across the organization. In addition, they have set a new standard for professional sports venues who are developing online learning. The level of engagement and professionalism achieved through the compelling content and simulations are groundbreaking within the industry. The confidence that comes from their successful training program is translated into pride on-the-job. In turn, the service level rises to provide the best possible fan experience. And that, according to Evans, is the number one goal, "to continually delight our fans."