Lessons in latte

A screenshot from the game.

Students in Daryl Smith’s human resources management class have just taken over as the HR director of a Kaldi’s Coffee shop, and they need baristas. If they wisely hire, train and manage their workers, they’ll see employee engagement scores soar. If they choose poorly, they will deal with the bitter aftertaste.

Welcome to the latest version of the Trulaske Kaldi’s Sim, a video game created by Mizzou’s Adroit Studios Gaming Lab in collaboration with Trulaske College of Business professors. 

“When they’re playing this game, the students see résumés, hear dialogue of actual interviews,” says Smith, an assistant professor of management. “They’ll make assessments of the candidates and rate them on certain aptitudes in terms of knowledge, skill and experience, and they’ll rate them on certain attitudes.”

The game emphasizes the direct connection between talent management and business outcomes. 

“If students make great decisions relative to hiring, training and managing talent, their store will achieve higher sales and profits,” Smith says.

The Trulaske Kaldi’s Sim highlights a connection with the school’s past. Kaldi’s Coffee is a national chain co-owned by Tricia Zimmer Ferguson, BS BA ’03, and her husband, Josh Ferguson, BS ’03.

The first version of the game, which focuses on retail sales, debuted in 2022 in marketing classes and continues to be used. Smith tested the HR version of the game in one of his classes in the fall of 2023, with more widespread use planned in the future.

“Students get a chance to make business decisions and see the outcomes of their decisions,” Smith says, “but they get to do it in a safe environment.” 

Originally published in Mizzou Magazine.