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The Importance of Gamification in Training and Development

The Importance of Gamification in Training and Development
Gamification - the incorporation of game mechanics into education - is a powerful technique that can make training far more engaging and effective, and it’s one that’s being adopted by an ever-increasing number of organisations as large and as varied as Microsoft, Kenco, and Autodesk. Read on through this article if you want to understand exactly why gamification is so important!
How gamification elevates learning & boosts information retention
Games and play have long been viewed as being anathema to education. There’s no denying that the historical attitude that educational content must be somewhat dry in order to be truly educational has been a pervasive one. But this view is being challenged.

A new approach to learning has been gaining momentum over the last decade or so – gamification. The name might make you think at first that this means teaching a lesson with a PS5 or a Nintendo Switch, but what it actually means is the inclusion of aspects of games and competition such as scoring, racing against the clock, teamwork, leaderboards, and much more into unexpected contexts to maximise learning.

In recent years, research into gamification has dramatically shifted the perception of the topic. Far from being an aimless distraction, researchers have found that game mechanics actually have the power to improve an individual’s learning and understanding of a subject by tapping into areas of human cognition and psychology that traditional schooling often overlooks.

Karl Kapp, professor at Bloomberg University and a leading light in the study of serious games and the integration of games into employee training, believes that “…By integrating game mechanics into learning experiences, we can tap into our natural desire to play and compete, and make training more effective." Kapp has authored numerous books and papers on the subject and is a major proponent of making gamification a commonplace teaching tool in the corporate sphere.
Gamification for learning on the go
Take Duolingo, for instance. The success of the most popular language-learning app on the market today (over 500 million learners according to the company’s 2022 Language Report) is arguably due to how gamification makes up the very core of the app’s functions. Learners have ‘hearts’ they lose when they answer incorrectly, earn bonuses for accuracy and speed, compete with other aspiring polyglots on leaderboards, and a host of other features that would not be out of place in a mobile game. Famously, Duolingo also has the ‘streak’, a mechanism that encourages users to complete a lesson daily to keep their streak going or else risk losing it.

With these features, the app has gamified language-learning and made it into a more enjoyable bite-size experience, where memorising and retaining knowledge is rewarded. Compare this to how much the average Year 11 student remembers from their French lessons, and you begin to see how a gamified approach succeeds where others falter.

The psychological power of games to boost how much information a learner retains, build better learning habits, and keep them motivated and engaged to keep learning in future, is something that is starting to be used in an array of applications, from academic study to practical skills.

Of course, given that gamification has only begun to be used in schools and companies in the last 5-10 years, it’s not surprising that the shift has been met with some scepticism. Some may still cling to the idea of games as gimmicky distractions, nothing more than a temporary fad. Others might be interested but feel overwhelmed by the prospect. After all, positive change is still change, which takes more effort than just carrying on as before.

To some people, particularly those who have been in the workforce for a long time, gamified elements might seem unfamiliar. Understandably so, as it’s been instilled in many throughout their educational journey through school, university, and the workforce, that games are for when you’re on a break or at home – not when you’re meant to be learning.

But this change is not as drastic as you might think, as even the traditional methods of quizzes and tests are examples of very simple gamification. Sure, they aren’t exactly what you would call the most entertaining games, but a quiz has rules, a win/lose-state, and an element of competition. Gamification is not new; it’s just being more wholeheartedly embraced as a truly effective and even enjoyable method of employee training and development.

Similarly, interactive learning techniques that are used in gamification cater to a broader range of learning styles than conventional methods. It has long been understood that not everyone learns the same way, and trying to fit all learners into a narrow window limits possible success. Game-learning, particularly when paired with creative visuals and audio elements, can draw in employees whose learning styles have been neglected by a traditional approach.
Setting new high scores
It's also important to know that game-learning - or experiential learning - isn’t solely catering towards less tangible metrics of success such as individual learner experience. The scores, accuracy scores, achievements that learners, and other feedback that learners receive all provide hard data that can be tracked and recorded to measure employee training progress.

"Gamification can provide a data-driven approach to learning and training. By collecting and analyzing data on learner behavior and performance, we can tailor the learning experience to individual needs and improve overall effectiveness." – Dr Michael Wu, Chief AI Strategist at PROS
How can game learning benefit your business?
So, we know that for the individual, gamification is a beneficial tactic with some serious science in the realms of psychology and cognitive behaviour. It fulfils basic human needs to feel rewarded, satisfied, and engaged with a task in a way that doesn’t feel like a chore.

How does this zoomed-in view of game learning translate to a broader business perspective? Here are just a few of the many upsides to gamification:

Boosts engagement with learning content – instead of long seminars and PowerPoint presentations that leave employees idly doodling on their worksheet, or daydreaming about what to have for lunch, gamified training modules can really hook an audience in. 83% of surveyed employees who had learnt using this method reported feeling more motivated at work as a result (TalentLMS, 2019)

Make onboarding smoother – quizzes and games can help to counter the ‘information overload’ feeling that new employees often experience. Not only does gamification make this information more digestible, but it also presents your company as innovative and forward-thinking to your new hires.

Better trained employees positively influences everything– with a well-designed training programme that uses gamification to encourage and reward learning, your overall learning outcomes will improve. This means smoother day-to-day operations, higher rates of productivity that can improve by up to 50% (eLearning Learning, 2019), and a more fulfilling customer experience.

Caters to the changing demographic of the workplace – currently, 85% of UK Millennials are in the workforce (Statista, 2022) and as time marches ever onwards, they’ll be joined by an increasing number of Gen Z. Given the omnipresence of technology in their lifetimes, workers of these age demographics are likely to respond far better and have little-to-no hurdle adjusting to the new normal of gamified learning.
Gamification makes learning a habit, not a chore
There’s one more crucial, and possibly revolutionary, way that gamified learning can add value to your employee training - time.

Odds are that, at some point in your career, you’ll have spent time in a seminar or training session that lasts, say, an hour or two. As a participant you might find that after the first half hour, your attention begins to drift – if you’re running the session, you might start to notice gazes straying out the window or down to phone screens. After, everyone leaves with a portion of the intended information which degrades until the next seminar in a couple weeks or so. Is this really the best way for both trainers and trainees to spend their valuable time?

A gamified approach reconfigures the way time is spent learning. Instead of long sessions spaced out over weeks and months that fall prey to a steep drop off of initial attention, gamified training can be bite-sized learning modules that take only 5-10 mins and can be done daily. The hefty task of learning suddenly becomes a rewarding habit that doesn’t dominate a day.
How you can incorporate gamification into your training and development
Gamification isn’t just a way to revitalise a Friday afternoon training seminar. It can encourage wholesale improvements in productivity, motivation, and satisfaction. After all, employees who feel confident in their knowledge and feel rewarded during the training process are bound to transfer that value into their work, and ultimately onto the customer.

By this point, you may be considering revamping your training modules with gamification, but still have a couple of lingering doubts. Sure, it’s great if you want to learn Spanish on your phone when you’ve got a spare 5 minutes, but how can your training and development program practically incorporate these new techniques whilst still aligning with your business goals? How can your content be gamified when it seems like a mammoth task to adapt what you already have?

Like any technique, execution is key. To make gamification really work for your organisation’s training and development program, here are some ways to realise the full potential of the method:

Customisation is key – every job, company, and industry has its own unique requirements, and this is something that should be considered when creating your interactive, gamified content. With a solid foundation of educational content tailor-made for your employee’s needs, you can create highly relevant and specialised gamified training to fulfil your training goals.

Production values shine through – when it comes to gamification, presentation matters. By investing in quality content, you can transform dull PowerPoints into slick videos that narrativise factual information and reinforce learning with quizzes and interactive elements baked in that engage and reward learners.

Take advantage of technological advances – gamification is a technique born from technological advancement, so it makes sense that it works hand-in-hand with developments in learning tech such as Virtual and Augmented Reality simulations. Instead of taking a compartmentalised tack of viewing these as separate options, why not combine these exciting new methods for maximum effect?
Take Your Training to the Next Level
Gamification’s potential to transform employee training and development is huge. As of 2017, approximately 70% of the top Global 2000 companies (Softtek, 2017) are already exploring gamification for their internal training. By weaving in elements of play and competition into a curriculum, game-learning synthesizes enjoyment and learning. Right now, businesses have a fantastic opportunity to inject some creativity, innovation, and vitality into employee upskilling and development – and reap the rewards in the long-term.

Why wait? Level up your employee training and develop today with gamified training content, custom-made for your precise needs.
March 2023

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