Modern Training

4 underutilized ways that companies can apply gamification in online learning 

Posted on: April 21, 2022

Most modern learning management systems incorporate game mechanics to some degree, but if you want to get the most from gamification in your online learning strategy, you have to be smart about it. 

When using game mechanics like points, rankings and leaderboards, you need to ensure that they align with your company culture and employee experience. This will promote a gamified experience that motivates employees to improve their knowledge, skills and performance. 

1. Reward employee effort with actual rewards 

As simple as it sounds, rewarding people for learning is still not commonplace, but it should be. After all, we commonly reward excellent performance, so why not learning? At Axonify, we’ve seen 15% higher participation rates among teams whose learning objectives are tied to physical rewards, whether they be gift cards, company swag or workplace perks like preferred parking or paid time off (PTO). 

Axonify awards points whenever a user completes any learning activity like watching a video, completing an eLearning module, completing a job-related task, or answering questions correctly. Some of our customers use broader rewards and recognition programs so that employees can trade in those points for actual prizes. 

For example, let’s say that an employee completes their onboarding path before the due date and is awarded 500 points. On their own, those points are meaningless, just numbers on a screen. However, if those points can be traded in for a free meal at a nice restaurant, they take on a whole new level of significance.

By presenting the potential for rewards in a gamified learning environment, you’re recognizing team members’ efforts to develop themselves and also their successes as they hit important milestones and grow within the organization. Extrinsic motivators, such as prizes, can help boost internal motivation to want to learn and develop new skills, so it’s not all about superficial rewards.

Axonify can execute rewards programs that are customized and overseen by your organization. You can even create a custom store within Axonify and list your own prizes with specific point values. If you’re a larger company that already uses a company perks or rewards program, you can move the points from Axonify to your central rewards program. 

In order for this to work, though, you must know your culture and know what motivates your audience. Some teams might be motivated by fitness memberships, while others are motivated by sports tickets or paid time off. Make sure you’re offering the kinds of rewards that will actually motivate the people on your team. 

2. Identify and validate expertise 

Whether employees are mastering topics or demonstrating their mastery of important subject matter, you can use game mechanics and points to establish credibility in those areas. So in a large organization, you can look at an employee’s profile and determine that they’re credible and trustworthy in a given subject—even if you’ve never met them. The game mechanics and instant feedback provide a source of surface credibility, or the ability to validate someone’s potential expertise at a glance. 

You can also leverage the same concept to reward people with additional capabilities. So if people are proving that they’re credible experts in a given area, they might be granted advanced permissions. Depending on the organization and the role, this might mean allowing the employee to contribute content to the platform, oversee related projects or take on assignments that require specialized knowledge. 

When used to verify and scale these permissions, game mechanics provide another objective input to help you make informed decisions related to proven knowledge and capability. After all, employees aren’t advancing through the system by racing cars or crushing candy; they’re advancing by developing their skills in the workplace. So why not leverage that data to make valuable project and personnel decisions? Surprisingly, a lot of organizations still aren’t doing this in a meaningful way. 

3. Use badges for career development 

To expand on the previous point, you can use badges as career development milestones. Badges are a great gamification tool; they’re ubiquitous in gamified LMS platforms, and employees can earn badges for hitting a hot answer streak, achieving a high score in an online course or becoming an expert on a topic. 

Some of these badges can have strong career development implications, particularly when they’re related to specific skills. When considering employees for promotions, raises and other career growth opportunities, you can include your game mechanics as required benchmarks. 

A common career development plan will focus on job outcomes. For instance, an employee might be required to hit a specific list of KPIs before being considered for advancement. But learning should be an important part of career growth as well. If someone wants to advance from a frontline role to a managerial role, they’ll need to develop skills related to leadership and management. You can use your gamified environment to establish specific learning benchmarks, often in the form of required milestones, badges, rankings or other skill-related achievements. This may be done in addition to any certifications that are built into your LMS. 

In addition, if multiple people are up for the same promotion, you can use your gamified assessments to help determine who’s more qualified. Assess their scores, leaderboard rankings, badges and skills breakdowns to determine which employee has the edge. 

4. Make gamification a part of the onboarding process 

Gamification in training is extremely common, but gamification is still underutilized for the broader onboarding process. Most LMS platforms assign gaming elements to the corporate training lessons and quizzes (and, to a lesser extent, the social aspects of the LMS), but anything outside of that is beyond the scope of the platform. 

Axonify is unique in that our onboarding tool supports both the digital and hands-on aspects of onboarding. When a user logs in, they might find that their first task is to watch an orientation video and then take a quiz (pretty standard stuff). But then their second task might be to schedule a company tour with the HR manager. Although this work is done outside the platform, the user can still check the assignment as completed once the tour is over. 

This flexibility ensures that the employee can complete all onboarding tasks (from pre-hire paperwork to supervisor check-ins) while still achieving the same credit and motivation that’s already tied to their virtual learning experience. 

The important takeaway here is that gamification doesn’t just have to happen within eLearning programs. You can gamify outside tasks while still using your platform to keep score. The implications for onboarding are huge, as only 12% of U.S. employees believe that their organization does a good job of onboarding. Proper onboarding makes a big difference for performance, productivity, employee engagement and ultimately turnover, so it’s very important to get it right. Gamification can be an effective part of that process. 

Think outside the box when it comes to your gamification strategies 

Gamification is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year enterprise. Companies spend a fortune on gamified learning platforms, but most aren’t using them to their full potential. Are you?

Don’t just use gamification for the sake of gamification. Consider how you can tangibly leverage gamified eLearning to motivate your employees and benefit your business. It all starts with rewarding employees and getting the most from your gamified data.