Gamifying employee learning is the latest trend in corporate training. If you've never heard of it, 'gamification' is exactly what it sounds like: the application of gaming principles to non-gaming scenarios.
Gamification is intended as a way to tap into the same human drives which make 'games' enjoyable to incentivise learners and thus create a more efficient learning and teaching model.
A good example of gamification is the mobile app 'Plant Nanny', in which users input every glass of water they drink throughout the day in order to keep a thirsty plant alive. This app gamifies personal health by giving users a goal to aim for - keeping the plant alive - which lines up with their real goal of drinking a healthy amount of water every day.
What is employee gamification?
Employee gamification is the application of these methods in corporate or professional settings. It might sound a little juvenile or patronising, but gamification can be used to make otherwise dull tasks appeal to most of us in one form or another. The latest craze is applying gamification to learning and development (L&D).
We're all different, and what motivates some of us will massively miss the mark for others. That's why it's important to consider multiple different ways to gamify learning, in order to appeal to the drives and desires of every employee, rather than just a few.
Progress-based gamification will work for people who love meeting goals and reaching milestones. Progress gamification is all about awarding points and badges for completing tasks and working to schedule. Points give workers a rewarding sense of progress as well as providing an easily quantifiable goal to aim for.
When we're talking about applying this kind of gamification to employee training, it usually emerges in the form of progress bars and badges, particularly if you're running an eLearning course. Breaking up modules into smaller chunks and awarding badges and certificates for their completion is a very simple, easy way to gamify an educational course, which can prove to be surprisingly effective when it comes to motivating these progress-driven employees.
There's always one: the mild-mannered IT guy who's nice as pie in the staff room but an absolute demon in a five-a-side. For whatever reason, some of us just love to win. By adding a healthy competitive element to employee learning, these employees will really be in their element.
The simplest way to add a little competition to any training course or module is to pin up a leaderboard and adjust it, say, weekly. Whether you're measuring how well your employees complete a task or simply how far through the course they've progressed, it doesn't really matter; just make sure you're measuring the thing you want to incentivise your employees to do.
Social gamification capitalises on the same thing which makes online multiplayer video games and social games on platforms like Facebook so popular. Social media can be used to great effect in this kind of gamification. By creating a forum or network for your learning employees to discuss topics and learn together, you're essentially gamifying 'revision' by encouraging your staff to go over topics again, together, in a socially uplifting and enjoyable way.
Social games can also be used in the training room. Games which get participants talking to one another, not only makes learning fun but they also double as a great team-building exercise which gets co-workers to chat with people they might not usually give more than a quick 'hello'.
The big question
It certainly sounds like a great way to make learning more fun for employees, but from the perspective of a CEO trying to cut training costs while increasing outcomes, does it really work? The short answer seems to be yes.
Gamification is being utilised by an ever-growing list of companies, from the smallest start-ups to the biggest corporations, to increase productivity in staff training and raise morale in the workplace. Multinationals like Deloitte are taking the lead and touting the benefits of gamification to Forbes magazine. Deloitte have already seen a 50 percent reduction in the time it takes for employees to complete their training, as well as enjoying higher retention rates than before gamifying their training programme.
Gamification is a burgeoning market, and if we can measure success in terms of an industry's value, gamification is doing very well indeed. In fact, Forbes has estimated that gamification will be a $5.5 dollar industry by 2018, which demonstrates just how quickly it's growing.
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