Although it’s a word not yet found in our dictionaries (or in our spellcheck program!), “gamification” isn’t just a word we made up for kicks, it’s something with real importance in an ever-increasing number of fields. From our schools to big businesses, gamification plays a crucial role, especially when it comes to training programs. Let’s take a closer look at what gamification is, why we use it and why it works.
What Is Gamification?
Gamification is the application of game principles and game-design elements in non-game contexts. It is the process of taking something that already exists, such as a website or online community, and integrating game elements into it that will motivate engagement, participation and loyalty among your audience. For example, the language software program Rosetta Stone offers online courses that don’t just rely on lessons and repetition, they have a variety of games to help customers learn a new language more effectively.
The games that see the most success are the ones designed to engage the payers and by using these kinds of data-driven techniques and applying them to non-game experiences, you’re able to add a wider range of value to your business or product.
Why Does Gamification Work?
When it comes to training programs, gamification is the process of embedding games in the training. Doing so leads to better results for a variety of reasons, the first and most simple of which is that it’s just more fun. As almost anyone can tell you, when you find fun and excitement in your work, you automatically start enjoying it more. This not only leads to a happier you, it increases your productivity which leads to a happier employer, which in turn leads to better results all around. As Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do”.
Research has provided us with several theories as to why gamification is a more effective way of learning than other methods. One idea as to why it is so successful is that gamification allows employees to work through the training program at their own speed and at times when they’re able to really focus on the task at hand. Rather than cramming five minutes in here and there between other work assignments, employees can take it on when they know they can devote time and energy to it.
In fact, done well, a training program is engaging enough that employees could do it at home instead of playing their usual Call of Duty games; although they’re doing something related to work, they’re doing it in a playful way that relaxes even as it’s informative and teaches new skills.
Games have been shown to relax us because as we get excited or get rewarded for reaching some new level or objective, the brain releases dopamine which is a heavy hitter when it comes to feelings of pleasure.
Gamification is more successful than other traditional training methods because it is more fun and interesting. Conventional methods are not as effective because there is a lack of interaction and, well, frankly? They’re so boring!
Why You Should Care About Gamification
Anyone who was in the workforce back in the early 2000s (and earlier) probably had some experience with training programs. Enterprises rely on these programs to keep their employees updated about company policies and procedures, new processes and more. The idea is that these programs will help employees develop modern skills so that they can perform their duties better.
But, not only was it labor intensive to arrange several day long training sessions, it was expensive too. As a result, many businesses switched to using training videos. Ugh. Raise your hand if you’ve played the how-long-can-I-stay-awake game during one of those! While these videos were cheaper and easier to arrange, they were also deeply boring for most people and bored people rarely put forth their best effort. To top it off, these videos lacked personal interaction with an instructor who could keep things fresh while also answering questions.
Now, in the era of gamification, training programs have a new tool in their arsenal and one that we’d all be remiss to ignore. The goals of gamification include achieving higher levels of employee engagement, stimulating collaboration and innovation, and even changing behaviors.
Gamification has proven very effective in virtual training programs for the reasons outlined above. Perhaps you’re still not convinced? Well, imagine a company that wants to develop a virtual training program for new employees. How might doing so really benefit the company other than making them seem slightly hipper than the competition? Take a look at our benefits and see how they apply:
- Cost – Gamification is cost-effective. Not only can you avoid paying instructors to run your training programs (which can cost a pretty penny each time you do it!), your employees can complete the training at their own pace and avoid cutting into working hours. While it’s cheaper to make training videos instead of using an instructor, these are often dull and dated. But, if you use a virtual training program and make an effort to gamify it, you take something that was deeply boring and make it engaging instead. It is similar in cost to a training video but your employees are less likely to take a nap during ultimately it making more cost-effective.
Example: You’ve made your new hires and you want them to come to work ready to go, or at least only needing a brief face-to-face chat to clarify questions. By having your new employees complete the training program prior to starting, you reduce the number of work hours that you’ll need to devote to bringing them up to speed which adds to the overall cost benefits of developing this program.
- Efficiency – Unlike with an instructor-based training program, a virtual training program is efficient. Yes, there is the initial cost to develop it but after that you’ve got your program that can largely be used year-in, year-out. With instructor-run programs, the cost is high and remains high each and every time you go that route but, more importantly, it’s not efficient. There’s no guarantee that you get the same instructor each time which means investing more and more time into bringing them up to speed about your goals. To top it off, a training seminar takes your employees away from their jobs and that’s pretty much a non-starter for guaranteeing employee efficiency!
Example: In a well-designed training program, you’ll give yourself a chance to see where your employees strengths and weaknesses are. Were there aspects of the game that they struggled with? How did those areas relate to the tasks they’ll be assigned to? Rather than observe them working over the next few months and enduring setbacks as they flub a task that they don’t really understand, you can look at the results of the program and make a point to address it early on. By ensuring maximum productivity this way, you add to the overall efficiency (and cost benefits) of the training program.
- Effectiveness – As we discussed above, gamification makes the training process fun and engaging and this, in turn, leads to greater employee enthusiasm and productivity. In short, the more you enjoy doing something, the faster and easier it is to learn. Gamification makes training programs (or other educational processes) more enjoyable for the learner which leads to more effective and efficient learning.
Example: Millennials are entering the workforce in droves and if anyone loves a good game, it’s millennials. By gamifying your training programs, you appeal to the generation that is going to increasingly be making up your company. By showing that you are with the times and recognize the things important to your employees, you make your company seem a little bit cooler than the competition
- Teamwork– Gamification has also been found to increase the collaboration between employees. Business owners always want their employees to get along and work well together but it’s not always easy to figure out a good approach for this. Much like the first day of school when our teachers made us play games to get to know each other, adults similarly bond over games. Laughing at ourselves is a great way to break the ice and to form bonds with each other.
Example: Anyone who has worked in an office where employees aren’t getting along knows what a toxic environment that quickly becomes. By incorporating game elements into your program where your new hires have to come together in some way, you can create a bond between them that gets them off to a friendlier and more productive start before they ever even meet in person! Your program can be tailored to include tasks or projects that your new hires must work together on to solve so that when they do meet, they associate each other with something enjoyable and recognize in each other the assistance that they can provide the other in the workplace.
- Motivation -Gamification motivates your employees. In a traditional training program, there’s no sense of accomplishment or achievement when employees finish the course (Well… that’s not totally true. There is a sense of achievement. It’s just usually the sense of achievement that comes from your boss not realizing you fell asleep during the presentation). Another benefit is that by using things like badges, milestones and pop-up tasks can foster a healthy sense of employee competition.
Example: When you gamify something, you can put small things like milestones or badges throughout which will keep the sense of achievement going for your employees throughout the process. Small pop-up tasks with a timer can help increase the ability of employees to work under pressure. Humans work better when they feel slightly competitive so motivating your employees this way also has benefits for cost and efficiency!
No one loves going through a training program at work. Most of us have come to view it as a soul-crushing exercise in patience and resilience but it doesn’t have to be that way!
People learn better and are more productive when they are having fun, this is a fact. The release of dopamine that comes from play and other reward-based behaviors leads to a feeling of enthusiasm for the task at hand which leads to more productive employees. Pretty sweet, right? Not only does using a gamified training program allow you to streamline the process, it also allows you to save money by not having to hire instructors year in, year out. A training program that has been gamified will not only be more cost effective but it will be more efficient and more effective overall because it will encourage teamwork and it will provide employees with motivation via a greater sense of achievement.
Just because we’re adults, doesn’t mean that work and learning have to be dull affairs! Consider gamifying your training programs and encouraging happier and more productive employees! Your CFO will be pleased too, I’m sure.