Are you considering adding gamification in corporate training at your company?
If it feels about as overwhelming as trying to win at a glitchy version of Sims, don’t worry.
This post will give you a clear bird’s eye view of what gamification is, how to come up with gamification ideas for training, tools to use, and more.
Your business can potentially improve staff retention rates and staff performance, which will directly impact business growth and income as a result.
Gamification in employee training and development is a worthwhile investment that, when done right, is well worth the effort.
What is Gamification?
Gamification is all about adding game elements, principles, and rewards to non-gaming activities or learning material to transform it into a more interesting, engaging experience.
Companies using gamification for training apply it to various niches such as sales, recruitment, compliance, health and safety, language learning, software mastery, staff induction, and more.
Most Common Gamification Features
There are some common features used in gamification that help to keep participants motivated to progress. Think of them as the stars and power mushrooms in Mario brothers that make you get bigger. Yes, you have to be a certain age these days to remember that, (looking at you Gen Xers and Millennials) but you get the point, right?
These features include:
- Points — gaining points for completing tasks.
- Leaderboards — indicate who is at the top, usually based on their speed and accuracy in completing challenges. Leaderboards are often reset on a weekly or monthly basis to give everyone a chance to excel.
- Badges — these can be given as a reward for achieving a certain number of points or completing tasks faster than the given time frame.
- Levels — keep participants challenged to keep learning after they master the basics of their training.
- Narrative — storytelling is natural to all humans, so it makes sense to include stories in gamification to keep things interesting and improve memory of what’s been learned.
Game Mechanics used in Gamified Training
There are a number of game mechanics used in gamified training that make it work:
- Goals — in any game, there is always a goal to achieve, a task to master, an opponent to beat. Having a goal gives the learner something to focus on.
- Status — games motivate you to keep going by indicating your status, i.e., what level you’re on, how long it will take before you complete it, and your status compared to others doing the same challenge.
- Community — interacting with others in a game is also important and gamified training encourages teamwork, collaborative learning, and a sense of working towards something together.
- Education — having fun is one of the best ways to learn and remember what you’re learning. This is because gamifying education incorporates using more than one of your senses at a time, i.e., sight, hearing, and touch.
- Rewards — the brain loves to get a hit of dopamine for effort and gamified training incorporates this by giving rewards on completion of tasks, challenges, levels, etc. It trains the mind to keep learning to keep achieving and winning.
What Should Gamification in Corporate Training Accomplish?
In corporate training, gamification strategy is not just about making learning or mastering material more fun or interesting. It’s about incorporating psychology and the ways people learn, retain and apply information best, and using those methods to train more effectively for better results.
People want to be challenged and feel competent, capable, and confident in their work because it improves performance, results, and the overall company culture. Gamification is a practical, proven way to achieve this.
Remember, gamification is not a way to control employees or to micromanage their training. No one likes to be bossed around. Gamified eLearning must be structured in a way that makes learners feel like they have some control over the process and the outcome.
When learners are trained in a way that places trust in them to master knowledge and skills, it’s more motivating and inspiring. It’s a catalyst for momentum and you’ll get far better results by creating room for autonomy than by forcing the process.
Another important principle in gamification in game-based learning and development is that of value. If there is no clear value in the process and the effort required to complete it, your gamification efforts are doomed to fail.
Employees don’t want to feel like they are merely “doing time” to tick a box. Provide your employees with value — a real reason to engage and do the work — and you will get value from your employees in return.
Helping learners achieve competence is a major drive behind gamified training. The process can include the basics first — definition, instruction, and demonstration — then competence can be reinforced with tools like quizzes, rewards, leaderboards, etc.
Why does this work? Think about the first time you felt confident riding a bike as a child. Remember the thrill of the wind in your hair, the confidence of knowing exactly when and how hard to brake, the ease with which you controlled the ride. Competence at work is even more powerful when employees know they are doing something effectively and easily.
Why Use Gamification in Corporate Training?
There are so many benefits to using gamification in corporate training. The first reason is the most obvious — it works! Other reasons why this method is worth spending a chunk of your training budget on include:
- Improving knowledge retention and fixing knowledge gaps
- Keeping employees updated on new industry information, policies, and regulations
- Promoting teamwork, cooperation, and a positive company culture
- Encouraging more staff participation overall
- Improved communication in the company
- Creates opportunities for open conversations with staff around what works, what doesn’t, issues that need to be addressed, improved solutions, etc.
- A practical way to evaluate staff performance based on their progress
- Effective onboarding from the start
- Increasing and expanding staff’s skillset
- Encouraging knowledge sharing among staff, teams, and/or departments
Dangers to Avoid
What are the pitfalls of using gamification in the workplace? It’s easy to get so focused on the positive reasons and outcomes of gamification that you end up doing it wrong and getting the opposite result.
For example: if leaderboards are not reset from time to time, then learners can hog the top position. If results are prioritized above learners’ individual contexts in performing their duties, they could be unfairly penalized or miss out on rewards.
If there’s too much detail, learners will feel controlled, pushed, and forced to perform in ways that don’t align with how they perform best, ruining motivation to continue.
Avoid these pitfalls by being open to feedback from learners, and keeping the end goal in mind rather than the nitty-gritty bits.
Examples of Gamification in Corporate Training
For a clearer idea of how gamification works in corporate training in different focus areas, check out the following gamification examples:
- Employee Onboarding — this is often so boring a process that most employees don’t remember a single thing about it. Gamification makes it more interesting and entertaining, improving employees’ memory of your basic company rules!
- Employee Engagement — it’s often difficult to get employees to participate in meetings where they are invited to contribute ideas or feedback. Gamification is a non-threatening, less pressured way to open up more communication.
- Compliance Training — this is another area usually dryer than your forgotten Graham crackers. Gamification at the very least brings some cheese to the table when it comes to helping employees stay up to date.
- Skill Training — many businesses tend to focus on this in stages, and depending on the current trends or crises, there may be some knowledge gaps. Gamification addresses this and helps employees stay on top of relevant skills training on a more ongoing basis.
- Leadership Training — never wait until you need a leader before you train one! Use gamification to lay the foundations ahead of time so that your employees are set up to rise to the occasion when needed.
Use Psychology to Implement Gamification in Corporate Training
All humans have certain intrinsic and extrinsic motivational drives. These psychological factors can be used positively to motivate progress, professional development, and success. Gamification incorporates the following 4 psychological factors to do just that.
- Motivation — gamification motivates you to keep going to the next level, next task, to earn the next reward.
- Control — when you feel like you can control your progress, speed, and skill, it’s empowering and makes you feel like you can do even better.
- Path to Success — now that you’re on a roll, gamification further fires you up by showing you a clear visual and practical pathway to success with all the steps outlined. In short, gamification illustrates success as doable and accessible.
- Competition — the fun part is to see how you match up against others in the process, sharing tricks and tips, better methods of doing certain tasks, and working your way to the top knowing others are also going for it.
How to Introduce Gamification into Corporate Training
There are many ways to implement gamification into business and corporate training programs. The secret is to figure out which way is best for your business because what motivates employees in another company won’t necessarily work for those in yours.
Keep the following points in mind as you set your criteria and consider what gamification could look like in your setting.
Clear Goals in Gamification
Remember the purpose of gamification. Yes, making corporate learning fun is great, but it’s only a tool. It’s not the end goal. The end goal is to design a learning objective that will encourage corporate learners to participate, retain, and finally apply the training as needed on the job.
Don’t Pit Employees Against Each Other
Competition can be terrible, even abusive. Or it can be healthy. Gamification is about creating healthy competition where the atmosphere is positive, supportive, and encouraging. It’s not about elbowing and hogging all the gold stars to the top. Here’s how to make sure it’s done right:
- Be open to immediate, honest feedback on the gamification program — both positive and negative.
- The reward features need to be a form of positive reinforcement, rather than just holding out a carrot. Make the rewards genuine, meaningful, and useful.
- Watch the pace. Don’t be unrealistic in pressuring learners to complete levels at a super-fast pace. If they do, you may run the risk of discovering that they skipped over the essential fundamentals.
- Don’t over-control or over-regulate every part of the game. You’ll kill the fun and get the opposite outcome you wanted, namely loss of motivation and enthusiasm.
Be Realistic in Your Reward System
Be realistic, considerate, and genuine when you set up your reward system. Consider the things that make your team culture light up, and choose appropriate rewards, not childish ones. Monetary rewards, gift cards, or a nice snack box with a bottle of wine are all good ideas.
Make sure that it’s not too easy to get a reward either. You don’t want to be handing them out all the time! There has to be a sufficiently challenging amount of effort required to earn it because that’s part of the satisfaction.
Existing Training Programs
The best way to start applying the principles of gamified training is to integrate it into whatever training content you already have, but tweaking how you motivate, train, reward, engage and progress.
- With skills like problem-solving, you can create scenarios for learners to solve, or encourage them to find real-world examples to work with and compare them with what your competitors would do.
- You can use a point system that converts into actual meaningful rewards when employees complete a task or achieve a learning goal — rewards such as a bonus, a percentage of extra commission, a day off, or a gift card.
- Roleplay is another powerful method to let employees explore what they would do in a given situation. Let them go for it, play, and work through a scenario. It will provide both you and them with valuable insights into their potential, their strengths, and their weaknesses.
(Pro Tip: For inspiration, check out our ultimate guide to content creation!)
Increase Product Knowledge with Competition
Use some friendly competition to increase learner engagement on product or service knowledge by setting up a game of questions, tasks, or a quiz that will require them to prepare and inform themselves to the max on the given topic. Friendly competition will result in helpful knowledge sharing for everyone.
Develop a Learning Path
When introducing new products, software, tools, or methods of operation, set people up in pairs or small teams and give them a challenge to compete on. This will motivate everyone to start engaging with it and master the new information quickly while making sure no one is left out or left behind.
[Editor’s Note: Check out our awesome list of gamification techniques to implement in your corporate training!]
Bonus: The Future of Gamification (VR)
Virtual reality is a fantastic, more high-level (and more expensive) feature used in gamification to create more realistic scenarios for learners to engage with. It is useful in virtual training situations that are too expensive, unsafe, and/or impractical to replicate in real life, such as flying, combat training, firefighting, complex manufacturing and engineering, and more.
Some Real-World Examples of Gamification
Here are some examples of how other companies are successfully using corporate gamification:
- Foursquare — this company was one of the early adopters of gamification, getting people to verify online and physical locations and supplying that data for free. They were rewarded with points and unlocked achievements for using the platform to provide the location data the company wanted for free, boosting the company’s growth exponentially.
- Todoist — a popular virtual productivity gamification tool that stands out because it incorporates gamification training to help you get stuff done on time. The app gives you points for completing tasks and you can eventually cash them in for rewards.
- Duolingo — a favorite language-learning app that uses science-based and gamified methods to help you learn a second language in a fun way, rather than endless repetition.
- Salesforce — this company created a hunting game to get users to explore the rest of the platform and eventually become a “big game hunter” at the end. This approach boosted their compliance rates by an additional 40%.
- Cisco — they had a messy social media training program with way too many courses and fixed it by dividing it up into a learning path with three levels of certification. Each level required you to earn points and badges and to participate in team challenges. The simplified approach made it much easier for staff to engage and become well-trained.
Is Gamification the Right Approach for Your Business?
In most cases, the answer is yes, because every business is about people, and people will always need training in a world where things are constantly changing.
You might not use gamification as a key part of your training or incorporate it into an online training course, but there are many ways to apply the principles to in-person, on-the-job training, too.
Remember the end goal: training employees to retain knowledge, and enabling them to implement it well.
Create a path towards that goal that is clear, keeps communication flowing, provides value to your employees, and makes it fun to be part of a team, solving the challenge of growing the company together.
It’s a sure way to win at the game of business for yourself, and your clients.