Gamification is the process of taking elements from real-life or video games and leveraging them within the corporate environment. According to Gartner Inc.'s Brian Burke in a contribution to Forbes, "When designed correctly, gamification has proven to be very successful in engaging people and motivating them to change behaviors, develop skills or solve problems." The trend has roots in employee performance, corporate training and personal development, though it has also expanded into customer engagement and innovation. No matter the end goal, gamification can add clarity and inject fun into your corporate-learning initiatives.
We've gathered six successful ways to use gamification in training.
#1: Cater to what your employees already know to boost engagement
Many members of Generations X and Y have grown up playing video games, or at least are familiar with their general operation. Further, these people often gravitate toward experiences that incorporate game-like elements. Needless to say, they're the group that is most likely to be comfortable with the introduction of gamification to your company. But by taking the basic elements of gaming, you can demonstrate its merits to the rest of your employees as well.
Focus on the simplest parts of gaming first, so no one feels overwhelmed. Introduce the idea of simply getting through one learning module (or "level") at a time before moving to the next. Whether or not it's required within your learning site, this mindset can enable your employees to take one thing at a time. Once they've completed the first level, reward the process with a point system or digital badges that they can accumulate and display to their coworkers. The earlier they can see progress, the more eager they may be to participate further.
#2: Build healthy competition
Even if your employees are not "playing against" each other, they can still be working toward individual rewards and seeing who can earn the most accomplishments. Those badges we mentioned earlier come into play when it comes to building competition as well. Encourage your employees to post their victories and accomplishments on social media or add their badges to LinkedIn pages. Even better—find somewhere to show updated progress in your office or on a company-hosted site and let employees know that higher-ups have access. This way, they'll know that their personal development has the potential to catch their bosses' attention.
#3: Identify expertise
From a management perspective, using the elements of gamification can give you the chance to see who is flourishing in a certain subject. While some of these employees may be proving what you already knew from their resumes, others may be surprising even themselves with how much knowledge they've gained since joining your company. Either way, you can identify who has expertise in a certain subject and acknowledge them with a "reward." This can even take the form of establishing an employee as the go-to person on a specific subject and encouraging teammates to use him or her as a resource. It's a win-win-win for the employer, employee and colleagues.
#4: Build incentive to learn more skills
By rewarding employees for completing one skill, you're also motivating them to move on to the next one. Per TrainingIndustry.com, "Game-based learning reflects...the increased role of learners in controlling their own learning experiences. Learning organizations are becoming more astute about leveraging technologies and providing training at point of need. They are becoming more process oriented, with greater emphasis on results."
Basically, inserting elements of gamification in your virtual-learning initiatives puts an emphasis on achievements and acknowledges them accordingly. As Deloitte Digital's Frank Farrall put it—as quoted in an article in CIO magazine—"The reason people get training is that they want to progress and build skills...If you build skills and no one knows about it, that's less of a point."
#5: Show complex processes in bite-size pieces
Sometimes a learning initiative can be intimidating to your employees, especially when it has to do with a particularly complex process or involves esoteric software. The elements of gamification can help significantly with these endeavors, since it encourages learners to focus on one lesson or topic at a time, building skills by progression instead of all at once. By splitting a learning initiative up into levels—in the same way you need to beat stages within a world in Super Mario Bros., for example—you're making them easier to absorb and process.
#6: Reemphasize overall objective
It's no big stretch to say that deadlines are inherently not fun. But you can inject a bit of amusement by taking a game-like twist when it comes to due dates. Instead of saying "You must have training done by x date," flip it around to "Let's see how many points you can earn by x date." That way it's not about simply getting the task done, but rather doing it well. If the topic allows, you can make it a race to the finish. Even if you take this route, however, establish an overarching deadline so your employees know when you expect the new process to be implemented in their daily course of business.