How to Write a Successful Training Role-Play

It’s 9AM, Monday morning.

You’ve got a coffee in hand. You’re ready to start writing your new training role-play.

You open up a word doc and settle in.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Sound familiar?

There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike, while the blinking cursor mocks your inability to put words to page.

And when you’re trying to create a role-play that doesn’t make your employees groan, starting can feel impossible.

But no matter what that pesky inner voice is saying, here’s the truth. You don’t need to be a writer, or even know that much about writing to create a great role-play.

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.
— Edgar Rice Burroughs (the guy who wrote Tarzan)

In other words, it doesn’t matter that you aren’t a trained writer. You just have to create a clear, interesting story that reinforces what you want your employees to learn.

If you’re thinking, “oh is that all?” don’t worry. Below are 3 pro tips to help you write an awesome role-play scenario your employees will love.

1. Write Like People Talk

The reason we use role-playing in training is to let employees practice application. But unless your scenario mimics a real interaction, it won’t be helpful. And any insights you get from tracking won’t be accurate.

Think about how people talk. Write colloquially. Avoid corporate jargon.

The best thing you can do is read your sentences out loud. Do you sound like a real person? Or do your sentences sound like a cross between Spock and that annoying guy in marketing who talks about “dimensionalizing your brand.”

Here are a few examples to show you what I mean.

Example 1

Customer: Yes, hello, I was hoping you could help me. I don’t really understand my phone bill.

Employee: Thank you for calling our 24 hour Customer Service Assistance Line. I understand that phone bills can be confusing. I would be happy to assist you with any and all problems. Just so you know you can also find help on our website and mobile app.

See the problem?

Absolutely no one speaks like that. And let’s be real. None of your employees are going to read that much text when playing your scenario.

People tend to speak in contractions and use short sentences in real life. Mimic this in your role-play.

Let’s take a look at a better response.

Example 2

Customer: Yes, hello, I was hoping you could help me. I don’t really understand my phone bill.

Employee: Of course, I’d be happy to help. What are you having trouble with?

See the difference?

2. Make Their Decisions Matter

One of the reasons scenarios are so effective is because they show employees how training relates to their day-to-day. But to get them to buy-in, you need to include what could go wrong if they don’t apply what they learn.

In the creative writing world we call this “the stakes.” The stakes just refers to what happens to the character if they don’t achieve their goal.

If Hercules doesn’t become a hero he can never return to Olympus to be with his family.

If Inigo and Fezzik don't find a way to save Westley, they'll never take down Humperdinck and the man with six fingers.

If Dobby doesn’t get a sock he’ll never be a free elf.

The question you have to ask is: what are the consequences if your employee makes the wrong decision?

If there are no consequences in your scenario, then there's no reason for your employees to pay attention or to apply training to their day-to-day activities.

You have to make their decisions in the role-play matter.

3. Include Feedback Loops

For every major decision the employee makes, you need to include a feedback loop. Feedback loops are the teachable moments in your training; they tell employees why they got something right or wrong.

Feedback loops are a great spot to highlight consequences in your training. If an employee gets an answer wrong, telling them why it was wrong and explaining the outcome helps provide context.

One way to do this is by adjusting the customer’s reaction.


Customer: I’m not sure about using mobile deposit. Is it secure?

Employee: Yes it’s very secure. No need to worry.

Customer: I’m still not comfortable with it. I think I’ll just stick with what I’ve been doing.

You can supplement the reactions with visual clues as well to ensure the reaction is clear. For example, in Lemonade, when an employee selects an incorrect answer the character on screen frowns and a red thumbs down appears, clearly indicating that the response was incorrect.

Example of feedback loop in a Lemonade role-play scenario.

Example of feedback loop in a Lemonade role-play scenario.


The Bottom Line

Crafting a realistic training role-play scenario doesn't have to mean hours of hair pulling and frustration. You’re helping your employees practice the application of key training concepts — not trying to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Write like a real person. Let employees make decisions and show the consequences. Include feedback loops to let employees know when they get something wrong.

The more realistic you can make your training role-play, the better experience it will be for your employees — and the more useful the analytics will be for you.