Why top industry leaders are using gamification in training

High turnover and absenteeism are making it harder for employers to engage employees in learning experiences—at a time when learner engagement is more critical than ever. So how do you get your employees to prioritize skill development when they’re already tired and overloaded? One way to do it is through gamification.

Gamification is all about adding game mechanics to make your employee onboarding and training more engaging. These mechanics may include points, badges, leaderboards or any other features that turn learning into a fun, competitive challenge. There’s a reason why industry leaders like Walmart, Kroger and Levi’s use gamification in training: It really works.

But it’s about more than just adding points and badges to your learning programs. To make an impact with gamification, you must understand what motivates and engages your workforce and align your learning strategy accordingly.

How gamification boosts learner engagement

Gamification is effective for the training process because it promotes continuous learning engagement. The more people engage in right-fit learning activities, the more opportunity to learn and develop timely skills. The more people learn, the better opportunity they have to apply what they learn on the job to achieve performance goals.

Of course, there are many factors to consider to create engaging learning experiences. For instance, the experiences must focus on relevant topics and must be easy to access. But you also have to keep people engaged in a distracting workplace. That’s where gamification comes in as an important part of the mix.

There are a few key reasons why gamification resonates so strongly with learners.

1. Gamification appeals to all demographics

Research shows that gamification benefits learners across all age groups. Frontline workers, like grocery and retail employees, tend to represent a mix of age groups, so you can be sure that your gamified training will have broad appeal.

The same universal appeal is applicable to team members across different genders, education levels and other key demographics. Gamification enables you to apply a range of game mechanics to meet the preferences and interests of every employee. Some might enjoy playing games while others might value the opportunity to win awards. A great gamification strategy blends tactics to meet the wide range of motivations that exist within your workforce.

2. Gamification gets learners excited about training

Workplace training covers a broad range of topics including compliance, safety, product details, company processes, and much more. It’s not all fun or particularly relevant to the job experience, but it still needs to get done.

Gamification tactics can boost interest in overall training, including the boring stuff that people tend to not get done until they get chased down by their manager. For example, casual gameplay, which refers to the inclusion of simple games as part of the training experience, is proven to boost participation by 52%. Many participants will gladly log in to complete their lessons day after day without having to be told, if only to rise higher in the rankings or earn that next badge.

There are several reasons why game mechanics are so motivating to learners. For starters, gamification is a fundamentally extrinsic concept. Whereas intrinsically motivated learners pursue positive feelings and an internal sense of fulfillment, extrinsically motivated learners are motivated by the prospect of rewards—whether that means a tangible prize, the potential for advancement within the company or the recognition of peers. Game mechanics like points and badges may start as extrinsic motivators but can help people find their intrinsic motivators and foster long-term engagement.

3. Gamification increases knowledge acquisition and retention

Studies have shown that gamification improves knowledge retention. So as new concepts are learned in the workplace, they’re also more likely to be remembered and applied on the job. In order to maximize both knowledge acquisition and retention, it’s important to reinforce the learning concepts time and time again, and the reinforcement should be tailored to the learner in a gamified environment.

Axonify experience data reveals that casual gameplay results in 27% higher knowledge growth compared to traditional training. Users who play games in Axonify display more knowledge growth than those who don’t. It doesn’t compare to other training methods. The competitive stakes incentivize learners to focus intently on the material, and learners feel personally invested in the results. This naturally equates to fewer distractions and more information absorbed.

4. Gamification fosters employee connection

Job training, especially online courses, can be isolating experiences. But gamification can reduce this sense of isolation by fostering a social learning environment with a bit of healthy competition. The team leaderboard connects participants to one another and motivates them to consistently raise their game. Some learning management systems, like Axonify, will even include social feeds that allow participants to encourage one another and engage in friendly ribbing as they work through the training materials. It’s the perfect marriage of training and social media.

This sense of connectedness doesn’t just motivate learners to improve their scores. It promotes a sense of confidence and trust between participants. Learners feel more at home within the organization, which can lead to improved retention and overall employee engagement.

5. Gamification helps employees track their progress

One-and-done training courses don’t provide employees with any means to track their progress beyond that single event. They know they finished the course. That’s it. It takes time to build knowledge and skill, and it’s important for employees to understand how they are progressing after the training is finished.

A gamified learning experience stretches beyond a single course to show employees how their knowledge and skill are changing over time. For example, badges can be used to show how much an employee has learned and how far they’ve advanced through the training, while leaderboards reveal how the employee stacks up against fellow team members. The instant feedback and visual achievements promote a sense of confidence and the motivation to continue pressing forward.

6. Gamification uncovers key workplace insights

The insights gleaned from gamification stats aren’t just useful for learners; they’re also useful for administrators. Game mechanics, like achievements, can help you identify capability within your team and transform knowledge and skill into opportunities by matching people with the right roles and responsibilities. You have a better sense of which team members would thrive in specific real-life scenarios.

These types of insights are especially important in the new economy. By understanding the strengths of each employee, you can easily reskill, upskill and cross-skill your existing team in line with changing workplace demands.

How Axonify uses game-based learning

Axonify is an industry-leading frontline LMS that applies gamification as a core tenet of the learning experience. Our system blends a wide range of game mechanics including casual gameplay, leaderboards, virtual coaches, achievement badges and other game mechanics that keep learners engaged day after day. This approach is one of the big reasons we see 83% of Axonify users worldwide participating two to three times per week, which is far above the norm for employee training programs. Our gamification elements play a major role in this success.

Here are just a few of the ways that Axonify makes learning enjoyable:

  • Our system is equipped with a variety of games ranging from arcade-style adventures to brain puzzles and sports games. There’s something for everyone.
  • We use games to add fun and help people focus on the training experience.
  • Learners can earn points for a wide variety of tasks, like completing a module or learning path, answering a question correctly or participating in individual- or team-based challenges. We provide options for redeeming points, including online shops, auctions and raffles. Companies add their own prizes based on items that match their culture and are proven to motivate employees, such as gift cards, extra vacation days, exclusive parking spaces and company swag.
  • Participants earn badges for their achievements.
  • Learners can select their very own virtual coach who guides them throughout the learning process and offers ongoing guidance and encouragement.

Axonify’s gamification strategy stands out for one big reason: choice. Every employee gets to decide which parts of the experience they most enjoy. Some people are into games and add one to every training session. Others prefer rewards and try to earn as many points as possible by completing daily training activities. Rather than assume the same game mechanics work for everyone, Axonify provides companies with the opportunity to construct a gamified experience that best matches their culture.

How to get the most from gamification

To get the most from gamification, you have to do it right. It’s not just about creating a competitive environment. Certain elements of gamification have proven more effective than others. So if you’re looking to incorporate gamification into your own company training, keep the following essentials in mind:

  • Remember that gamification isn’t just about making training more fun. It challenges people to continue learning, helps them track their progress and recognizes them for their efforts. Plus, it makes training more fun!
  • Make sure to select game mechanics that align with your culture.
  • Provide high-value training content, such as microlearning (short training sessions) focused on critical topics. Gamification may get people to engage, but you must provide value – otherwise they won’t come back no matter how fun the training is.
  • Recognize people for their effort to continuously develop, including offering tangible rewards. There’s a lot of debate among HR teams about whether it’s okay to give people prizes for learning, but this approach can be extremely effective. Note that Axonify users who have the incentive of physical prizes get at least 15% more participation.

If your learning management system has gamification built in, you’re already halfway there. If your LMS doesn’t support gamification, it may be time for an upgrade.

Implement gamification into your corporate training

Companies spend over $350 billion every year on training. In spite of this, one survey found that 75% of managers are unhappy with their learning and development (L&D) function. What’s worse, only 12% of employees actually apply their learned skills on the job. In other words, ineffective training efforts can cost your organization a fortune.

But gamification—when properly utilized—can change all of that. It promotes engagement, participation, learning acquisition and retention. It helps employees to feel more connected to one another and to the goals of the company, and it motivates them to keep learning long after the initial onboarding.

If you’re struggling to keep your employees engaged through the learning process, the answer may be as simple as introducing some gaming mechanics into your training courses. Give it a try, and see why some of the world’s top organizations are gamifying their eLearning solutions.

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