One of the more prominent employee engagement strategies that has emerged in recent years is the gamification of learning. Simply put, gamification aims to use game-like structures to achieve training and learning outcomes via fun, challenging learning formats. Gamification follows in the footsteps of increasing video game popularity, which is an industry that now grosses north of $150B yearly worldwide.
Additionally, gamification is the language of the new generation. Millennials, who grew up with complex, interactive video games, are establishing themselves across industries, and gamification is their go-to method of exploration and learning.
Gamified learning offers an effective combination of exploration, investigation, and storytelling to help engage learners. Employees who are used to training programs that are slow, boring, and bland will find gamified learning less laborious and painful and will come away feeling that their professional development is important to your organization.
At its best, gamification is the use of motivational elements and storylines that keep learners engaged and working toward a set goal. Unlike traditional click-through or instructor-led training, gamified training uses a story as a backbone that leads the learner through a variety of challenges and obstacles to stimulate their learning. Consider these four fundamental elements when thinking about a completely gamified experience:
- Clear objectives the learner is working toward. Make goals evident to the learner in the early stages of the training program to orient their focus and help them visualize their end goal.
- Challenges that the learner must overcome in order to reach their objectives. This is where the bulk of the learning takes place. Create scenarios in which learners are challenged to make novel decisions and learn the content they need to succeed.
- Rewards and incentives that motivate the learner to find solutions to problems and obstacles. Learners won’t be motivated to succeed unless they have some sort of reward waiting for them. This can be something as simple as a motivational message to something more complex, such as an anonymous company-wide leaderboard in which they are ranked.
- Rules, regulations, and boundaries that guide the learner along the correct path without telling them exactly what to do. It is important to provide some guidance for your learners, but giving them step-by-step instructions eliminates the entire purpose of gamified learning.
With all this in mind, here are few different types of gamified learning you can implement:
Much like video games, the options available for gamified learning experiences are almost endless. Puzzles can be great for helping employees better understand how they fit into your organization. Adventure games can replace out-of-date compliance training. Role-playing and simulation-style gamified learning is great for teaching sales strategies and selling practices. Action and strategy games can be a great way to build soft skills within your organization.
When considering how you can implement your first gamified learning experience, focus on creating experiences and scenarios your learners can relate to. While gamification can take many different forms, there are choices that you can make regarding exactly how you formulate your content that impact effectiveness. The best part about a gamified experience is that it can be used from new hire orientation to soft skills development, and is effective across all types of employee training. You can also pair gamified learning with other popular L&D techniques such as microlearning or mobile learning, further creating a strong focus on employee engagement.
On a more technical note, it is important to understand that gamified learning doesn’t always mean serious games. Game characteristics can be weaved into training that is not specifically a game, and this can still have a positive impact on learner engagement and retention. For example, a course may have objectives and challenges that make it feel “gamified,” but is not actually a game in and of itself. For more information on why gamification doesn’t always mean serious games, check out this article written by Dashe’s Senior Instructional Designer TJ Barber.
As you look forward to your next L&D project, remember that the program you implement must be engaging to be effective, whether that’s changing hearts and minds or teaching “how-to.” Given this, leveraging a gamified learning strategy is a great way to guarantee ROI and create a culture that supports, encourages, and accepts learning and development. Company-wide competency starts with each employee, and building a program that engages them is the best way you can show them how much you value their professional development.