Let’s face it, corporate technical training can be pretty boring sometimes. Some of that has to do with the content but a lot more of that has to do with how it’s created. Take a task, record the steps, and throw that into a video and you’ve got a sleeper.
But if you’re tired of the same old corporate technical training that leaves your employees bored and disengaged, maybe there are better options. There are lots of things that can be done to make training more interesting. Some of our favorite methods are making content relevant (yes that’s a strategy that seems to be overlooked by a lot of training professionals) or using realistic scenarios that employees connect with.
Then there’s the possibility of gamification. Gamification has been around for as long as there have been games but it can be applied to training as well. In fact, it’s been applied to training for more than a decade. I remember going to one of the first gamification conferences back in 2012 and while not explicitly for training, I was exploring how to apply it to training.
Since then it’s become quite the buzzword and there are even companies founded upon almost exclusively gamifying training. Introducing game elements into something that’s not a game is essentially gamification. That could mean your corporate technical training.
I’ll get into a more in-depth description of gamification in just a blink. But right now, first, imagine employees eagerly taking security training with the excitement and eagerness of playing a game.
It is possible but you just need to keep in mind that gamification can be expensive and the benefit can be limited. That’s why this post is all about whether it will help performance outcomes vs non-gamified but well-designed training.
It doesn’t always take gamification to make training interesting or engaging. Sometimes it just takes well-made training that connects the content to the employee’s real work and real life.
It’s possible that gamifying your corporate technical training can tap into the intrinsic motivation of your employees, making them more willing to devote their time and effort to training. But it could also annoy them, get in their way, or make training trivialized and employees feel like they’re being treated like kids or teenagers.
We’ll take a look at real objective uses of gamification and why it may not always be the right answer. But sometimes it is!
So, we’ll look at some strategies you can employ to gamify corporate technical training and we’ll also look at why you may want to avoid it. It’s simply not the answer for most training but sometimes it does make sense.
Understanding Gamification: What It Is and How It Works
Gamification is a term that has gained popularity over the past decade or so, but what exactly does it mean?
Gamification is the process of integrating game mechanics and elements into non-game contexts, like training, to motivate and engage. By incorporating elements such as point systems, leaderboards, rewards, and challenges, gamification creates a sense of competition, achievement, and fun that can enhance the learning experience under certain conditions.
Notice the keyword I used there? Under certain conditions.
Under a lot more conditions it can hinder the learning experience, though. Why? Because it doesn’t always make sense, gets in the way, and is an unnecessary distraction. When you throw in badges and certificates within a regular course to “gamify” it then you’re more likely going to do harm.
If you turn a quiz into a game show then you’re also likely just going to waste time and possibly do more harm by annoying some employees. But that’s not always the case. Gamification can work wonders when applied in the right contexts.
The gamified elements can motivate employees especially when those elements mean something. For instance, at Home Depot they have a badge system where employees can earn badges by learning new things. These badges can lead to raises and are recognized across the organization.
I’m a former McDonald’s employee (for a whole 2 months) and when I worked there they gamified certain things. If I learned how to cook an apple pie and took a test and passed then I got a 15-cent raise. That’s a method of gamification too because there were rewards for accomplishing things.
There are benefits of gamifying corporate technical training so let’s take a look at some of those.
The Benefits of Gamifying Corporate Technical Training
There are several benefits when gamification is done well and can benefit corporate technical training. This one hinges entirely upon doing it with strategy, purpose, and knowing that it’s beneficial and employees will respond to it.
With effective gamification, you can significantly increase employee engagement. All ages love games and want to have fun. Look at Candy Crush, it’s a fun and mindless game that everyone can enjoy. That’s why I say it has to be effective and with purpose, though. While Candy Crush is fun, it’s also a waste of time so… No learning happening there.
Most corporate technical training is pretty dry and boring. I’ve heard some narration that makes it hard to stay awake. And sometimes even a lively narrator can’t make training fun. That’s a great way to get employees to tune out.
By introducing game elements into training, you can make it more enjoyable and engaging, capture the attention of your employees, and keep them engaged throughout the learning journey. Of course, even gamification won’t engage if the content isn’t highly relevant to employees. That’s why we always say relevance is king when it comes to training.
If you are going to go the route of gamification there are several options for gamifying training.
Ways To Gamify Corporate Technical Training
Any game-like element is technically gamification. It could even be something as simple as a progress bar for completing your profile on LinkedIn. When you take a course on Coursera and get a certification to put on your LinkedIn profile, that’s the gamification of training.
Here are some general game elements that can be used to gamify corporate technical training.
There used to be a game in the Apple 2e days that I played with a friend. It was on a floppy disk and you had to keep putting in different disks to play. I don’t remember the name but you were given a scenario and you had to decide whether to go north, south, east, or west.
Based on the decision you made the game would give you another scenario of what happened and then you had to make another decision. Wrong choice and you’re dead. Even choosing your own adventure books (remember those?) is a method of gamification.
When employees are given a realistic scenario and have to make a decision, that’s gamification. Branching scenarios are a method of the game I described as well as a choose your own adventure book. You can even use decision-making strategies in software simulations that make them more realistic and help employees understand how their decisions affect outcomes.
When employees are put in control of how they learn, that can be pretty engaging. It’s also a form of gamification that can be extremely effective when done well.
These scenarios can present real-life challenges that employees may encounter in their roles, allowing them to practice problem-solving skills while receiving immediate feedback on their performance.
Levels and Advancement Opportunities
Another way you can gamify corporate technical training is by using levels and giving employees advancement opportunities. This one must be used carefully, though, because it could quickly become tedious and meaningless to employees.
Just like it’s nice to know how far you’ve come in a course, you can also do this by making it a little more game-like. By dividing the training program into different levels or stages, you provide employees with a sense of progression and achievement as they move forward.
If done well and with purpose you could motivate employees to complete each level. It could also encourage continuous learning if there’s an end goal in the progression or if it leads to some real tangible benefit. That could be something as simple as gaining access to the application they’re learning about.
Or a raise perhaps?
That brings us to the next one.
Rewards and Recognition: Incentivizing Learning and Achievement
This one can be implemented extremely poorly or it can be amazing. Let me start with the poor implementation first so we can get that out of the way.
My wife recently started a new job at an insurance company. While she was eternally grateful to go through a good training program, she was less than thrilled about the incessant bombardment of certificates. Not every course needs a certificate and if that certificate isn’t recognized as any big accomplishment then it likely will do more damage than good.
But rewards and recognition can be hugely incentivized. My examples above about Home Depot and McDonald’s are great examples of this. At McDonald’s financial incentive for learning was given. At Home Depot the badges are recognized company-wide and team members strive for them.
What do they get? Money. That’s a pretty big motivator for most because while there’s lots of talk about what motivates employees, money is still a pretty big one even beyond the point where some say it doesn’t have an impact. Of course, money won’t make up for a horrible work environment but it’s still pretty important for most employees as is evidenced from the Home Depot badge system success.
If employees get real rewards or recognition then this type of gamification can be beneficial. If employees don’t get anything or simply don’t care then it could harm training.
Incorporating Challenges to Foster Growth and Skill Development
This one could go back to decision-making but with a twist, make it part of their requirements for training. If employees are learning about a new CRM process, doing things right can be essential.
A challenge could be a great way to get employees to do the right thing. If they don’t, they might need to take a bit more training. By introducing challenges that require employees to apply their knowledge and skills in unique ways, you encourage them to think critically and develop problem-solving abilities.
Sometimes people take training just to get it done but that can simply be a waste of time. If their job is dependent on them using an application right then there’s no reason they shouldn’t be challenged to do things right in their training before it becomes an issue in the workplace.
Does Corporate Technical Training Benefit From Gamification?
Yes and no.
It can benefit just like any other type of training but it can also be a distraction. Not only that but it’s not always necessary to gamify training to make it engaging. Sometimes relevance is more engaging. That’s because relevance means the training is directly applicable to employees’ jobs which makes it inherently engaging.
I mean come on, if you want to do your job and do it well then wouldn’t training that shows you exactly how to do that be pretty engaging? Yes and with no gamification needed.
Gamification can be expensive, challenging to get right, and overall should be reserved for limited circumstances when the added time and expense makes sense. When it does make sense, then it definitely can be worth it and should be pursued.
It can be a great benefit to corporate technical training when applied thoughtfully.
Best Practices for Successful Gamification Implementation
While gamification can bring benefits to your corporate technical training programs, it’s essential to follow best practices for successful implementation. That means not using it at all when it doesn’t have a direct benefit that outweighs the cost and time added to get it right.
These best practices will help you implement it well when it makes sense.
- Clearly define your performance objectives and align them with the game mechanics you plan to incorporate.
- Ensure that the game elements enhance the learning experience rather than distract from it.
- Provide clear instructions and guidelines for employees on how to navigate the gamified training.
- Show clear benefits employees will get from using the gamified elements of training.
- Ensure they understand how points are earned, how levels are unlocked, and what rewards they can expect.
- Clear communication is key to ensuring that employees fully understand the purpose of gamification and how it relates to their learning goals.
- Gamification always comes down to what’s on everyone’s mind: What’s In It For Me (WIIFM).
If you stick to some of these general rules then you’ll be able to decide if gamification is even the right solution. If it is they’ll help you apply them meaningfully so that they don’t distract from your training and instead engage employees in your corporate technical training.
Overcoming Challenges and Pitfalls of Gamification in Training Programs
Yes, I’ve covered some of the challenges and pitfalls of gamification already. I guess you could say that’s my pessimistic side speaking. I do that because I know how much of a draw gamification can be because it sounds so beneficial and cool.
Unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games, though.
While gamification offers many benefits, it’s important to be aware of potential challenges or pitfalls that may arise during implementation. The single largest challenge is ensuring that the game elements remain relevant throughout training. If gamification isn’t relevant to the training and if it gets in the way of something that employees will inherently care about then it’s going to do more harm than good.
You can overcome all the challenges and pitfalls as long as you approach gamification naturally and carefully. That means you don’t choose a topic and try to shoehorn gamified elements into it.
When the content makes sense to be gamified that should speak to you. Don’t start with gamification, only go there if it makes sense and it’s a no-brainer that the content should absolutely be gamified.
Gamification has the potential to enhance or hinder corporate technical training. It could make training more effective and engaging and it could also distract employees from what they should be learning and doing.
When it makes sense and the content speaks to being gamified, by incorporating game mechanics and elements, you can tap into the intrinsic motivation of your employees, making them active participants in their learning journey.
From interactive scenarios to rewards and challenges, gamification offers a wide range of strategies to enhance the training experience as long as it’s used with purpose. Simply throwing a few gaming elements into a course isn’t the right strategy but the right strategy can make training magical.
If you’re looking to level up your corporate technical training, consider embracing gamification but only with purpose. We always keep an open mind when developing training but gamification (like most things) isn’t something you go into a project determined to implement.
We’d love to work with you on your next corporate technical training project. That’s what we specialize and we’ve also used gamified elements when it has made sense. Schedule a free consultation and we’d be happy to discuss your next project and see if we can help you make it a bigger success.