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Can Gamification Help You Level Up Corporate Technical Training?

Let’s face it: corporate technical training can be pretty dull sometimes. Some of that has to do with the content, but a lot more has to do with how it’s created. Take a task, record the steps, and throw that into a video, and you’ll have 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 and useful too. Some of our favorite methods are making content relevant (yes that’s a strategy that seems to be overlooked by many 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 also be applied to training. In fact, it’s been applied to training for more than a decade. I remember going to one of the first gamification conferences 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 even companies are 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.

While gamification won’t help bad training, it will help motivate employees when it fits into the content.

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’s possible, but you need to remember that gamification can be expensive, and the benefits can be limited. This post is 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 employees’ real work and life.

It’s possible that gamifying your corporate technical training can tap into your employees’ intrinsic motivation, 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 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 not the answer for most training, but sometimes it makes 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 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.

Gamification is the process of integrating game mechanics and elements into non-game contexts.

However, under a lot more conditions, the learning experience can be hindered. Why? Because it doesn’t always make sense, gets in the way, and is an unnecessary distraction. You’re more likely to do harm when you throw in badges and certificates within a regular course to “gamify” it.

If you turn a quiz into a game show, you will likely 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 proper contexts.

Gamified elements can motivate employees, especially when they mean something. For instance, Home Depot has 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 two months), and when I worked there, they gamified certain things. If I learned how to cook an apple pie, took a test, and passed, I got a 15-cent raise (woohoo!). That’s a method of gamification because there were rewards for accomplishing things.

There are benefits to gamifying corporate technical training, so let’s look at some of them.

The Benefits of Gamifying Corporate Technical Training

There are several benefits when gamification is done well, and it can benefit corporate technical training. This one hinges entirely upon doing it with strategy and purpose and knowing that it’s beneficial and that employees will respond.

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 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 happens there.

Games are entertaining and can keep employees interested in an otherwise dull topic.

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 your employees’ attention, 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 in training.

There are several options for gamifying training if you are going to gamify.

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 different disks on it to play. I don’t remember the name, but you were given a scenario and had to decide whether to go north, south, east, or west.

Based on your decision, the game would give you another scenario of what happened, and then you would have to make another decision. Wrong choice, and you’re dead. Even choose your own adventure books (remember those?) is a gamification method.

Simply putting employees in control of their learning can motivate them.

When employees are given a realistic scenario and have to decide, that’s gamification. Branching scenarios are a method of the game I described and 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 control how they learn, that can be pretty engaging. It’s also a form of gamification that can be highly 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. However, this one must be used carefully because it could quickly become tedious and meaningless to employees.

It’s nice to know how far you’ve come in a course, but 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 progress.

You could motivate employees to complete each level if done well and with purpose. 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 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. First, let me start with the poor implementation to 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 constant bombardment of certificates. Not every course needs a certificate; if that certificate isn’t recognized as a significant accomplishment, it will likely 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. At McDonald’s, a financial incentive for learning was given. Home Depot’s badges are recognized company-wide, and team members strive for them.

What do they get? Money. That’s a big motivator for most because while there’s lots of talk about what motivates employees, cash 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 evidenced by the success of the Home Depot badge system.

If employees get real rewards or recognition, then this type of gamification can be beneficial. It could harm training if employees don’t get anything or simply don’t care.

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 to get it done, but that can simply waste time. If their job depends 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 training type but 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 directly applies to employees’ jobs, making it inherently engaging.

I mean, come on, if you want to do your job well, 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 should be reserved for limited circumstances when the added time and expense makes sense. It can be worth it when it makes sense 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 benefit your corporate technical training programs, following best practices for successful implementation is essential. That means not using it 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 and align your performance objectives 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 navigating 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 critical 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, you can 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, and it sounds so beneficial and cool.

Unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games, though.

While gamification offers many benefits, knowing potential challenges or pitfalls during implementation is essential. The most significant challenge is ensuring the game elements remain relevant throughout training. If gamification isn’t relevant to the training and gets in the way of something that employees will inherently care about, it will do more harm than good.

If training is boring, then gamification isn’t likely to fix that. Boring training comes from being irrelevant and poorly made; gamification doesn’t fix that.

You can overcome all the challenges and pitfalls if 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 be gamified.

Wrap Up

Gamification has the potential to enhance or hinder corporate technical training. It could make training more effective and engaging but 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 your employees’ intrinsic motivation, 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 in, and we’ve also used gamified elements when they 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.

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