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Is Your Training Ready to Get in the Game?

Posted on Mon, June 1,2015 @ 14:53 PM

One of those “next big things” in training – “Gamification” – is here. It hasn’t yet turned learning on its head, but companies are getting results using game-based mechanics and aesthetics to engage people, motivate action, solve problems and promote learning.


M2 Research estimates that by 2016, the market for tools, services and applications related to the deployment of gamified strategies will reach $2.8 billion. Learning platforms such as Axonify, Badgeville and Bunchball today help organizations present course material in a game-like environment that uses animation, simulation and storyline frameworks.

“2015 will be the year gamification inside the workplace migrates from a few isolated pilots to a new way to engage and recognize high performing employees,” wrote author and workplace consultant Jeanne Meister in a recent article in Forbes.

It hasn’t been the easiest sell. In corporate America, the executive suite often viewed game-based learning as employees wasting time playing Halo on an X-box.

“A few years ago, people couldn’t say the word ‘game’ because it was a four-letter word. But now that we’ve added ‘ification’ to it, it seems to be okay.” Karl Kapp, author, consultant and professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University.

Kapp recently presented a webinar on gamification, detailing how elements such as leaderboards, badges and prizes combine with game mechanics – a challenge, a competition, fun and engagement – to motivate participants to take part in the exercise. While working toward recognition, status and even achievement in a game-based platform, participants gain knowledge, retain learnings and even make behavioral changes.

Plenty of case studies provide evidence of gamification’s effectiveness.

  • Walmart began using gamification two years ago to deliver safety training for 5,000 associates in eight Walmart distribution centers, resulting in a 54% decrease in incidents.
  • Blue Shield of California used gamification to drive its wellness program, delivering an 80% employee participation rate in at least one wellness program, a reduction in hypertension by two-thirds, a decline in smoking of 50% and an increase in physical activity of 50%.
  • Xerox uses an app called Qstream (similar to the popular trivia game, Trivia Crack) to instill best practices in employees who are on the go and too busy for formal training seminars. More than 94% of Xerox sales people participate in the Qstream games.

Gamification is similar to any training, according to Kapp, in that it should have specific goals – an area of strategic value (e.g., increase product knowledge), a target group (e.g. sales associates), targeted behaviors, a purpose and defined success. The end product is based upon content that will achieve those goals in a format that pushes the buttons of the targeted audience.

The experts who design gamification typically build the programs with four key components: a story, a strategy, a score and support. The story encompasses the message, why it’s important and how it will be used. The strategy covers what the participant will do and how it will impart learning. The score will give status, achievement, instant feedback and measurement. Support makes sure the learner knows what to do in the activity and knows how to access additional tools, if necessary.

In TD Magazine’s excellent primer on gamification, they provide outstanding resources to help just about anyone get started, from presentations like “Gamification – Defining, Designing and Using It” and “Meaningful Play: Getting Gamification Right” to TED talks such as “Gaming Can Make a Better World.”

Gamification isn’t just adding badges or rewards to existing training. Headlines from the research firm Gartner illustrated that ill-conceived efforts at gamification might have been partially responsible for the "next big thing in training’s" delayed arrival.

"By 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes." Gartner 2011

"80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily due to poor design." Gartner 2012

To get it right, Meister suggests applying these three lessons to drive engagement and results:

  1. Think strategy first, identifying specific business objectives you are trying to achieve with gamification.
  2. Understand what motivates your employees, as gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology.
  3. Engage employees at the emotional level, so that they aren’t just earning points, they are learning “points.”

So, what do you think? Is your organization deploying gamification in its training efforts? How is it working? Or, if you are on the receiving end, how do you like it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

If, on the other hand, you simply want information on how ABC Signup and its complete registration software can bolster your training programs, give us a call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or shoot us an email.

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