Gamification in Training: Learning That’s Engaging and Retained

These are the top reasons and methods for incorporating gamification into your employee onboarding and development.

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Gamification in Training: Learning That’s Engaging and Retained

Here's what you need to know:

  • When businesses prioritize employee learning and development, they increase their ability to attract and retain talent
  • Employees respond well to training that’s engaging and effective
  • Including an element of achievement with gamified training increases engagement and knowledge retention
  • Whatever you need employees to learn, there’s a way to turn it into a game
  • Create a reward system that motivates employees without breaking the bank

Employee development is top of mind for almost all businesses. Leaders are continuously training the newest hire on systems and procedures, or developing existing talent to take on the next challenge.

For many companies, compliance and safety training are ongoing. But for others, upskilling takes precedence. For most businesses, if you aren’t offering or administering training, you probably should be.

There’s always a need to build a larger knowledge base. Staff members who know more are able to do more for themselves and the company. When businesses prioritize employee learning and development, they increase their ability to attract and retain talent. When talent is abundant, that’s important. However, when it’s scarce, it’s critical.

Who wants game-based training and development?

Employees are interested and excited about training. They’re looking to grow their skills for the job they hold and the job they aspire to hold. When offered training that’s engaging and effective, employees build on their knowledge, but what’s more — they look to continue their learning journey. When training is dull and plodding, it’s not only ineffective today, it discourages further learning down the line.

The challenge for business is to find a way to deliver training that engages staff members to participate, and imparts knowledge that’s retained. Gamification can be the answer for the majority of your workforce. The wealth of video game systems and gaming apps on smartphones validates that they’re a popular way to engage.

When business shifts training to a game-based system, employees accept the challenge with enthusiasm. Gamified training can be basic or complex. But however you train, including some element of achievement increases engagement and, most importantly, knowledge retention.

How gamification in training engages workers

LinkedIn recently reported a Talent LMS survey that outlined how engaged employees can be when training is gamified. They found 83% who receive gamified training feel motivated: 33% want more ‘game-like features’ in their training.

From Millennials to Gen Z, traditional classroom-type lectures, seminars, and even online learning can be dull and tedious. Adding gamification breaks down learning into levels of achievement that encourage the learner to keep moving forward. Training with even the most basic gaming element triggers our desire to be rewarded, recognized, and challenged.

Adding gamification breaks down learning into levels of achievement that encourage the learner to keep moving forward.

Employers can use gamification for all types of training. Retailers use gamification to train employees on new product lines: some create virtual environments for staff members to navigate and learn.

The fast-food industry has leveraged gamified training to upskill employees on procedures. Many use virtual reality for safety training, allowing workers to master how to use machinery correctly in the metaverse before they’re at risk in real life.

These training modules turn learning into a game, but there’s no limit to what types of learning can be gamified. The Talent LMS survey found employees want gamification in all types of learning:

  • 30% in corporate compliance training
  • 18% in training on products and services
  • 16% in technical skills development

Knowledge is retained longer when gamification is part of the learning experience. The Forgetting Curve found about half of knowledge is lost within 24 hours: 90% after a week. Studies have shown that gamification increases knowledge retention.

Some studies show it increases skill retention by 40%. For adults, the University of Colorado found gamification resulted in 14% higher test scores for skill-based knowledge assessments: 11% higher on factual knowledge tests.

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How employee development games are played

Incorporating gaming into every type of training should be a priority for business. Gaming can be complex, with virtual reality scenarios that train on multifaceted procedures and protocols.

Whatever you need employees to learn, there’s a way to turn it into a game.

But it can be simplified, as well. Whatever you need employees to learn, there’s a way to turn it into a game. Whether it’s a skills challenge or a series of achievements — let the games begin.

Start with rewards

Awarding badges for achievements, or points that are redeemable for small tokens or bankable for larger rewards, is an easy way to gamify learning. Employees who complete training materials receive tokens, points or a badge: you can even break down training into smaller parts that earn progressively larger tokens or badges.

Like getting to the next level in a video game or app, that reward provides employees with a bit of a dopamine rush you can build on. When the training is complete, they’re prompted to earn more badges or points in other areas of learning.

Consider competitions

Leaderboards that challenge employees against each other or their own personal bests are another way to gamify learning. Employees who complete training classes in a group can compete on knowledge-based testing after the session, or earn points during the learning process.

Employees who complete the most training in their department, team, or company-wide can earn points, badges, or prizes. These challenges appeal to our competitive nature: while you don’t want every aspect of work to be a rivalry, leaderboards can motivate employees to keep up with their colleagues and even do better.

Scavenger hunts

One of the easiest ways to train employees on how to find resources around the office is to create a scavenger hunt. Once you’ve given a new hire the basics of employee onboarding, for example, offer a reasonable amount of time to find the items on a predetermined list. This interactive game can help employees retain knowledge. Being shown where something is can be forgotten — searching for it yourself in a game setting can make it easier to remember.

Role-playing games

These types of games can help employees prepare for scenarios they may encounter. Role-playing a disgruntled customer, in person, online, or by phone readies them for the real thing. Many companies have used role-playing in training, but you can increase their effectiveness with gamification.

Trainees can earn points in a variety of ways: how quickly they responded to the customer’s needs; how fast they were able to calm the situation; how well they were able to offer a remedy. Breaking down a difficult call, for example, into smaller parts gives the employee a chance to see what responses work and what they need to change. Rewards along the way lead the trainee to the path with the best possible outcome.

Progress points

Even if employees are not actively training, they can still earn trainee points. For example, a new hire has mastered a skill through training and is applying it on the job. You can assign progress points for when they’ve performed the task correctly 10 times, 20 times, or more.

Reinforcing learning and proper procedures through rewards can help employees focus more on completing the task correctly. Bonus points to employers who surprise trainees with progress points. Your message is we’re seeing how well you’re doing — and celebrating it.

If you have the time, create fun characters, badges, and scoring systems that are specific to your teams or company. The marketing star badge may be slightly different than one for accounting: remind earners to include badges on email correspondence. Front line trainees could be encouraged to wear their badges to show customers that they’re star staffers.

If you don’t have the time to create training in areas like legal compliance or other key employee knowledge, turn to online learning systems, but keep gamification. Every time an employee completes a session, award them points or badges. These will help inspire staff to complete the module and move on to the next level or course.

Making work more rewarding with gamification training

As you set up gamification for trainees or employees, create a reward system that motivates employees without breaking the bank. Rewards don’t have to be expensive, they can be badges, trainee of the day/week pins, posters, or sashes. If you set up a rewards system that lets employees earn and redeem points, conversions can begin very low or motivationally high.

An extra 15 minutes for lunch, or clocking out 15 minutes early is a low-cost way to reward staff. As they earn more points you can allow redemption for gift cards, company-paid lunch, extra discounts on products, days off, or cash prizes. Ask staff what rewards they’d like to earn and set up a system that lets them build up points to redeem.

Training employees in a game format makes it easier for learners to absorb and recall information. Rather than trying to call up a page in a training manual, workers remember getting points or a badge for learning a new skill. Adding games to training motivates employees to master new things or upskill existing knowledge. It works for the most basic tasks to the most complex.

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