We all love games. But did you know that games also have a serious side? Games – or more precisely, gamified elements – can help employees perform better and at a higher level. They tend to focus better, absorb more information at a faster rate, and hold on longer to what they learn. It’s no wonder, then, that one of the most exciting areas in human resources and learning development right now is the application of games, or gamification, to employee training.
But first, what is gamification exactly? Let’s start with the bird’s eye view and then move into the street level definition.
Gamification is a business strategy to increase motivation and engagement. Incorporate training and learning and development communities, gamification is used as a tool to (1) help create and execute more engaging and memorable employee training, and (2) to motivate and expedite successful training completion by employees.
Gamification in Business
Now for the street-level view. According to research firm Gartner, “Gamification is the use of game mechanics to drive engagement in non-game business scenarios and to change behaviors in a target audience to achieve business outcomes.”
Game mechanics are the points, rules, and rewards that will determine the outcome of the game. Game dynamics, on the other hand, are the techniques, strategies, and activities of the users.
Gamification has actually been around for a couple of decades; it was first applied to education. It was not well known in business circles until roughly ten years ago when the role of gamification in fostering motivation, deepening engagement, and improving knowledge retention put it on the corporate map. Gamification in learning has evolved rapidly and is coming of age right now.
Features and Elements
What are the main features and elements that define gamification?
We are seeing gamification features being applied to bite-sized chunks of learning. One benefit of integrating gamification into microlearning is that it can help motivate employees to complete modules, reach new levels, and quickly progress through their training journey. The satisfaction comes from moving to the next learning level after accumulating enough points. Progress is rewarded with gifts, badges, and certifications.
Learners can be assigned badges upon completion of L&D courses and content. When employees are awarded badges, they take pride in their accomplishments and share their badges on social media. The rewards system that is inherent in gamified learning provides a strong incentive for employees to maintain their momentum and complete their learning path.
Look for opportunities, especially through social media, to display and promote employee badges. This reinforces the desired behavior while leveraging the power of social and peer-to-peer networks.
A leaderboard is like a scoreboard but much more. It is the pulse and command center of the gamified learning experience. It provides users with not only data indicating their personal progress but also that of their fellow competitors. The “How am I doing compared with my coworkers?” question keeps employees coming back to the interface to check their rankings.
As a result, employee motivation to complete their training is intensified because now it comes from three directions. It comes from within them (intrinsic or internal motivation); from the top – that is, from a supervisor or training manager; and now, because of the gamifying elements and especially the leaderboard, their motivation to complete their training is reinforced horizontally – from their coworkers, peers, and social networks.
Collaborative Problem Solving
Gamification can be used to encourage communication, collaboration, and social learning within your organization. An example is discussion boards and forums. While the trainer-centered model is still useful in many situations, a decentralized, employee-centered learning model encourages employees to work with each other and gives them more responsibility and ownership of their own training while freeing up trainers to provide guidance, support, and assessment.
Training that may lack these core elements would not technically be classified as gamification training. Games used by HR recruiters to test new talent, for example, probably don’t fit the criteria; they are related but not quite the same.
Gamification Examples in HR and Recruitment
Gamified training is especially prevalent among L&D teams and human resources managers because it adds value at so many points in the employee training journey. Gamified training offers multiple advantages to human resources teams: It is an engaging recruitment tool that is used to attract potential candidates and increase interest in job opportunities.
The power of gamification can simplify and supercharge how onboarding and other training is conducted in a wide variety of industries and sectors, including healthcare and hospitality, finance and fashion, and restaurants and entertainment. In the hospitality industry, there are some great gamification examples. Consider Loews, known for its brand of upscale hotels and resorts. The company has put games and gamification at the very center of their human resources department and integrated them into their employee training. Company representatives attest to the game-changing benefits of gamification, including increasing their employee retention rate by more than 40 percent.
In an effort to reach millennials, Marriott International recruiters incorporate games and gamification elements into their recruitment strategy. “My Marriott Hotel” directs prospective employees to create a new restaurant; they must take certain actions like purchasing equipment and ingredients on a limited budget, recruiting and onboarding new employees, and ensuring that the restaurant’s guests are satisfied with the service. When the customers are happy and the restaurant makes money, players receive points, and when a customer is not pleased with the service, they lose points. By the time the game has been completed, the prospective employee gains a sense for the ins and outs of managing a hotel. Meanwhile, Marriott has the results of the game and can use the data to help evaluate the candidate’s fit for the role. Read more about Marriott International’s and other companies’ foray into gamification here.
Gamification is also changing how healthcare systems, hospitals, and clinics train their employees. The goal is to improve patient care and ultimately patient outcomes. Blue Shield of California provides a wellness program via social media that incentivizes participants with badges and points. San Francisco-based Mango Health uses games to motivate patients to take responsibility for their own health. The Massachusetts Digital Games Institute is developing games that enhance treatment compliance and wellness education.
Gamification in Learning Management Systems (LMS)
First, what is an LMS? Companies seeking to streamline and supercharge their training capabilities are turning to technology. A learning management system, or LMS, is an online, digitized training portal for creating and administering training solutions for employees, partners, or customers. With COVID-19 and the transition to flextime and remote work policies, an LMS enables companies to onboard new employees and implement L&D programs that can be accessed by employees anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
What does any of this have to do with gamification? Well, it turns out that an LMS comes equipped with all sorts of great features, including the ability to introduce friendly competition and rewards into the training curriculum. A gamified LMS can deliver an immersive learning environment and memorable training experience that engages and entertains your employees as it educates them. Learning paths, microlearning, and social learning techniques are seamlessly integrated with badges, scores, and leaderboards to provide an interactive, gamified learning experience.
Most LMS on the market come equipped with social media elements. For example, users can add friends, follow experts, and benefit from a customized news feed, enabling employees to learn in a more informal and social environment. This helps facilitate interactive and collaborative learning or sharing opportunities between employees and their peers. With an LMS, virtual social learning elements can be combined with gamification features; in fact, this is one of the new frontiers in employee training. By integrating learning, social media, and gamification features into one cohesive, seamless, and engaging social learning experience, LMS providers have created the ideal L&D tool for video game-loving millennials, members of Generation Z, and employees with limited attention spans (or who are just plain busy).
The benefits of having LMS gamification delivered through a simple online training portal are significant. By investing in a gamified LMS, companies of all sizes can generate these important outcomes:
- Enhance customer service
- Catalyze creativity, productivity, and growth
- Save time and resources
- Supercharge your onboarding process
- Improve product knowledge
- Increase employee engagement and reduce turnover
- Enhance training compliance
Why Gamification Works
So we’ve answered what is gamification – but why does it work? Sure, games are fun, but that alone does not explain why they are so popular and effective in corporate settings. Is there a deeper explanation at work? It turns out, yes.
Researchers discovered that games have the effect of stimulating our brains. In a study published in Nature, researchers concluded that goal-based gamification contributed to an improvement in performance and better memory in the study’s participants. Completing a task can result in the release of dopamine, an invisible reward for employees. Dr. Bernadette Keefe, an expert on the gamification of healthcare, says one of the reasons why games are so popular is because of what she calls “player agency.” This happens when we feel we are in the driver’s seat and are empowered to make our own decisions and choices. Human resources and L&D teams are realizing this essential truth and are responding with employee-centered, peer-based training opportunities like gamification.
Benefits of Gamification
Enhanced Engagement and Learning
Gamification-enhanced training brings several important benefits to companies of all different sizes. Many of the benefits are byproducts of one main and overriding benefit – namely, the ability to deeply engage and immerse their employees in learning activities and sustain their interest throughout every stage of their training journey. Why is it important to have employees engaged in their training?
Conventional training may succeed in imparting information but if the recipient is not engaged by the training it may miss the mark or be less effective.
Enhanced Memory and Comprehension
When employees are engaged by well-designed gamified training modules, they are more relaxed and focused, resulting in higher comprehension of the subject matter and improved knowledge retention. In other words, they are learning more and holding on to it for longer.
Improved Attitude Toward and Perception of Training
When employees are engaged and absorbed, it doesn’t feel like work. They are autonomous, independent, and more relaxed, which improves their attitude and mindset.
Faster Completion Rates
Through gamification, L&D teams are able to expedite the learning process and achieve higher completion rates. Introducing friendly competition into a game-like environment makes the entire training more engaging and memorable. As a result, gamification can accelerate employees’ rate of training completion.
While gamification is employed by HR and L&D teams for recruitment and employee training, it is also used companywide as an employee productivity tool. With a gamified leaderboard, employees can share their goals and objectives with their coworkers, making them more accountable to themselves and each other (like announcing a new diet to a best friend). It also serves as a visual way to monitor their progress against strategic benchmarks. Actions that advance the achievement of a goal or strategy can be rewarded and reinforced with praise, points, badges, and other feedback opportunities.
When gamification is used not just for training but as an ongoing productivity tool at all levels of a company, it can begin to shape a new culture of engagement for the entire organization – leading to higher productivity and, over time, higher profit margins.
Gamification in Learning: Best Practices
Over the past ten years, through research, experimentation, and learning, we have a good consensus on what works most effectively. Here are some suggested best practices as you begin to execute your own gamified training:
Know the Employee’s Journey
What does success look like? In order to effectively gamify your training, you need a clear understanding of an employee’s goals and objectives. There needs to be consensus on the specific behaviors that are being targeted, whether you seek to increase or decrease their frequency, and why.
If trainers don’t know their employees’ unique goals and objectives, they can’t customize games and story elements. Gamified training designed by a one-size-fits-all approach tends to be considerably less engaging and less effective.
Tie to Business Objectives
Employees often have training needs that they may feel very strongly about, but do not support or advance the organization’s business objectives. Ensure that all training, especially gamified learning, is aligned with corporate objectives and revenue goals.
Integrate gamified learning with social media and discussion groups to leverage the power of peer-to-peer networks, social learning, and collaborative problem-solving.
Less is More
Employees tend to absorb and retain more information when it is presented in smaller chunks. This approach to learning, which we call microlearning, is especially important in a gamified learning environment because it helps employees gain learning momentum and proceed quickly from one module to the next.
Games are a reflection of life. They bring out our competitive spirit but they also bring out our altruism and desire to belong to a team. We human beings may be programmed for competition, but we are also programmed for social interaction and collaboration.
And that is why gamification works so well. It connects with the deepest and most fundamental needs of not just employees, but people – the need for fun and games as well as the need to be challenged, to be engaged, and to be part of a larger community.
Companies invest in gamified learning for different reasons. They care about their employees and want them to be engaged at work and to enjoy the benefits of technology. Others want to supercharge sales and customer service. But at the end of the day, the overriding reason companies are turning to gamification, especially gamified training, is to increase employee productivity – and, in turn, their bottom line.
Book a demo today to learn how the World Manager LMS makes it easy to incorporate gamification into your training mix.