One of the biggest complaints employers have in terms of training and development is an overall lack of engagement on the part of employees.

It is difficult to increase the level of engagement employees feel toward corporate training materials, regardless of how important the information may be, and employees who do not feel engaged tend not to retain information, leading to big problems in the workplace.

In fact, a study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), showed employee engagement was the number one concern felt by HR organizations. This lack of engagement tends to be a constant struggle for employers and leaders, but there is a silver lining: eLearning is providing new and exciting ways to increase engagement.

One of the top terms on the tip of everyone’s tongue right now is gamification. The introduction of game-based methods into corporate training is not just for fun—there is real science to back up the concept that gamification increases engagement.

Gamification: Avoiding the struggle with employee engagementeLearning Overcomes Traditional Challenges

The idea of gamification in the workplace is not a new one—in the past it is been common to see employers rewarding employees with various prizes for varying levels of achievement. Often we have seen monetary-based prizes, for example gift cards or pay bonuses.

Despite this reliance on gamification, there are challenges to the traditional style of introducing competition to increase engagement—namely, the cost. It becomes incredibly expensive to implement these full-scale reward systems into a workplace, and money has its limitations when it comes to increasing and maintaining engagement. People tend to want these type of rewards systems to increase over time, otherwise motivation wanes, and many organizations have a difficult time with scalability.

Research shows what continues to motivate people over the long-term is not money or material prizes, but rather is a sense of power and recognition. eLearning is an ideal gamification solution, because it provides this sense of competition and recognition, is easily scalable and is an inexpensive way to introduce games to an organization of any size.

The Reason Games Work

There have been countless amounts of research on games and gamification, including specifically how it translates to a corporate environment. There is one simple concept that keeps popping up in this research: people like playing games.

Other than the plain and simple fact that engagement is increased when you are doing something you enjoy, games have a way of achieving everything from appealing to the learner on an emotional level, to tapping into our need for competition and reward.

In 2010, a meta-analysis conducted by UC-Denver showed people who trained on video games had a better job performance, a higher skill level and retained information longer than learners in a passive environment.

Researchers spent a year gathering data from nearly 7,000 learners, and the ones who utilized video games had an 11 percent higher factual knowledge level, a 14 percent higher skill-based knowledge level, and a 9 percent higher retention rate than those people in compared training groups.

Top Tips to Make it Work

If you are a corporation or organization planning to introduce gamification into your eLearning, consider these tips for success:

  • Recognition is an important component in terms of both engagement and motivation, so find ways to incorporate social aspects into your eLearning gamification. Utilizing socialization in eLearning games can increase the level of teamwork and cooperation, in addition to providing opportunities for recognition, and these are all important to increase engagement. People tend to learn best from game when they extend beyond the actual parameters of the game and translate into real-world situations. Using social media and social components helps achieve that, as well.
  • Along the same lines, it is important to find the right balance between cooperation and competition. Successful gamification usually involves elements of both, but if there is too much of either, it can diminish the effectiveness.
  • Do not simply use gamification as a means to increase productivity. It works well for this, but it is also a valuable tool to improve overall skills. Gamification can be an ideal way to improve a very specific skill set, e.g., customer service skills.
  • There should also be a balance between how many times an employee is able to play a game and content mastery. What this means is that while the learner should be given a couple of attempts to try again if something is not successfully completed, this should not continue on once they have mastered a particular skill. This can be counterproductive to the learning process and could diminish productivity.
  • Make the rewards relevant to the real world. Rather than doing something abstract, like simply giving points for mastering something in a game system, make it applicable to the skill being taught. For example, successfully producing a certain number of components for a medical device. These real-world reward systems tend to be more motivating and familiar for employees versus something abstract.

Gamification continues to be one of the fastest growing trends in eLearning. It is important for organizations to learn how to properly utilize game-based training, as more opportunities become available through an increase in mobile learning, overall technology and increasing research.