What is gamification and how can we implement it effectively for talent development? We examine the evidence surrounding gamification techniques as a way to increase learner engagement and performance.
What is gamification?
Let’s start with some basic game context; gamification is not playing video games like Fortnite or Call of Duty, or taking quizzes on social media. Gamification of learning means applying gamified elements to courses or platforms, but it doesn’t have to mean blowing up difficult customers to unlock Revenue from the tower.
Applying gamified elements to a learning solution can tap into some human engagement senses such as, achievement, improvement and perhaps a bit of healthy competition. At a simple level, it may be applying points-scoring and leaderboards to help motivate employees. It can also mean using game mechanics, such as spaced repetition to enhance mastery, or time-bound activities to heighten attention and focus.
Why use gamification features?
But should serious learning providers and employers really be providing game design elements to corporate training? After all, making learning more ‘fun’ and ‘engaging’ does not necessarily lead to better performance on the job, so why do it?
According to HR Technologist.com, the answer lies, at least in part, in the need to modernise workplaces and take advantage of new technologies.
“...gamification makes corporate learning programs measurable, helping you better optimize your programs to meet future learning/skills requirements of the organization.”
The best employee gamification platforms don’t just record data like a traditional course on a learning environment. They draw on that data to prioritise and personalise learning and integrate with other systems, such as social sites and CRMs, for a more holistic solution.
Gamification impact on engagement
Technologies like Fitbits are hugely popular because they are specific to the individual and they’re goal-driven. As consumers, and learners, we want to challenge ourselves and we want personalised goals and experiences. Applying game-based learning experiences can also tap into our need for recognition and reward with: points, badges, mastery levels or even formal accreditations.
And learners are actively looking for gamified experiences. According to this year’s TalentLMS survey results:
“83% of those who receive gamified training feel motivated, while 61% of those who receive non-gamified training feel bored and unproductive.”
So gamification can lead to an increased level of engagement and enthusiasm, but can it really contribute to improved performance? The evidence would suggest so.
This article on The Startup, cites the example of the LiveOps customer contact solutions company in India. In a bid to counteract high turnover and low employee morale, they launched an app that awarded points for learning, KPI achievement and knowledge-sharing with colleagues.
“Within a week of launching the program, 80% of LiveOps agents opted in and three-quarters of them return on a bi-weekly basis. Participating agents outperformed peers by 23% in average call-handle time and boosted customer satisfaction by 9%.”
Effectiveness of gamification
Striking the right balance between effective and engaging is important. Clever tools, such as the Teach on Mars mobile app, allow you to do just that. It provides a large selection of gamified question templates to create fun and engaging quizzes that are pushed to learners via their mobile phones. Learners can challenge other learners across communities, teams and timezones and the practice recall element ensures that real world learning is embedded; not instantly forgotten.
The solution is designed to support and enhance the full learning cycle including before, during and after classroom training. It encourages and supports learners each step of the way with personalised learning challenges. An analytics Dashboard allows Managers and Trainers to gain meaningful insights into learning outcomes and progress.
Gamified learning ecosystems, such as learningCloud, offer another way of providing engaging, video-based learning experiences that can be combined with badges, leaderboards and learning communities to suit specific training needs.
Potential risks and how to manage them
Overuse of the same templates could lead to learner boredom. Good gamification strategies should have a wide range of game-types to allow for novelty and diversity. Push notifications - reminders to complete today’s training ‘moment’ - can be helpful, but have the potential to be annoying and stressful if overused. Giving learners and admin staff some control over notifications can mitigate against this.
Likewise, points-scoring and Leaderboards can be motivational for some staff but not for others. Analytics Dashboards give Managers visibility to see who is engaging and who might need some encouragement.
Perhaps the biggest potential failing, however, is organisations spending too much money for too little gain. Beware of ‘shiny’ gamified learning that is of little or no value to the learner or the organisation. Like any learning, gamified content must have clear and measurable learner and business outcomes.
Future of gamification
There is now plenty of evidence that gamification increases user engagement with learning content, which is half the battle for any training. If the learners don’t engage with the content, they certainly can’t learn from it.
Gamified content can be pushed to learners in short bursts at regular intervals to ensure optimum engagement and retention. That makes is a very useful addition to any online or blended training programme; we ignore it at our peril.
Adding a badge to badly written, unfocused or overly-long content will not solve any training problems. But gamified content has the potential to be very effective if it is data-driven and learner-centric and is aligned with performance and business objectives. It’s not enough to offer ‘pretty’ and ‘fun’ experiences without backing that up with substance. You also need gaming mechanics that optimise learning retention and actively support increased job performance.
Good gamification of the future will facilitate Personalisation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Analytics; the three biggest trends in the industry according to this year’s L&D Global Sentiment Survey. Used appropriately, gamified content can be the driver of holistic, engaging and effective learning experiences.
If you’re interested in exploring gamification solutions as part of your learning solution for a customer or employee, we’ve got the tools and expertise to help, get in touch: