The new hot concept in the world of HR and employee training is gamification. While initially misunderstood by many companies, over the past several years, extensive research from gamification experts coupled with the documented results early adopters have presented have paved the way for gamified learning to establish a foothold as a new frontier of corporate training.
Gamification, as well as the culture of technology out of which it was born, can work together to improve both the quality of corporate training as well as its accessibility. Gamified learning modules can be stored on a company server, allowing access to any employee with an Internet connection. This streamlines the efficiency of learning, since workers can access these modules on their own time when it’s most convenient for them. Additionally, the engagement and retention benefits, discussed later in this article, lead to more effective learning that can provide a boost to overall performance.
To best understand the appeal of gamification, it’s useful to highlight the shortcomings of more conventional training paradigms. Helping managers understand where they’re losing efficiency on the training front, and where they have room to make improvement, can help pave the way for implementing gamified learning in your company.
Where conventional training fails
Ensuring that new hires are armed with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed at their job is perhaps the most important function HR can serve post-recruitment. Unfortunately, delivering effective training has historically been something of a stumbling block for many companies. The sad fact is that on the whole, management simply isn’t training staff in a way that is most conducive to developing and retaining new knowledge.
One of the principle drawbacks of the traditional classroom method of training is that it is almost entirely front-loaded. A study published by Dutch company Continuous Learning found that on average, employees spend 85 percent to 90 percent of a typically two- to three-month initial training session in a classroom. While this concentration may aim to inject new hires with adequate job training, it has the alarming side effect of falling off almost completely after the initial training period. This results in workplaces that are less development-focused, which in turn breeds employees who are less engaged and who tend to stagnate in their positions rather than growing their skills with the company.
On a similar note, the method of learning used in classroom training is itself far less effective than companies realize. The lecture method may be effective in a setting where small bits of information must be disseminated to a large group of people, but corporate training represents the exact opposite scenario. According to the Reference For Business, lecture-based learning is best restricted to a handful of data points at most, and any learning objectives over and above see exponentially reduced retention and stickiness.
How gamification helps
The situation employers are left with as a result of the factors discussed above is one in which learning is both ineffective and infrequent. Especially in today’s workplace, employees must be adaptable and flexible, and require training that is as ongoing as it is effective.
Gamification makes use of psychological principles to provide a much more highly engaged learning experience, and the flexibility that online platforms and elearning software afford learning developers means that these gamified learning systems can be as accessible as possible.
But how does it work? Simply put, CIO.com explained that gamification taps into the same psychological motivators that children chase when they play games and applies these strategies to learning to offer employees an experience that is self-directed, autonomous and engaging. At the most reductive level, gaming is an attractive activity because it triggers our brain’s dopamine loop. In layman’s terms, when we carry out a task and are rewarded for doing so, our brain releases chemicals that create a positive association. Thus, a “game” in neurochemical terms might be described as a process that encourages players to chase this dopamine release by providing challenges that must be completed a certain way.
How you can prepare for gamification
The success of gamification hinges on its ability to be as targeted and direct as it is engaging. Standardized classroom-based learning is ineffective due to a lack of focus. Universality is the enemy of specificity, and when you’re looking to train specialized expert employees, that’s the last thing you want to be doing.
Gamification works because its tasks are keyed to specific objectives. In the gaming world from which these principles were borrowed, this could mean slaying a dragon, while in the office, it likely means higher sales or better customer service. If gamification is to be successfully implemented, you must first establish which learning objectives you most need to meet, and design your training around that one goal. Without this objective-based guidepost, any learning module, regardless of how engaging it may be, will still fail to provide the laser-focus that breeds experts.