Business training doesn’t really have the best reputation among employees. As I said in a previous post, Gamification: the spoonful of sugar for the training medicine, e-learning professionals had to find ways with keeping trainees engaged with their courses and gamification turned up to be exactly what they needed.

When done right, the use of game thinking and game tools and mechanics in learning contexts can have multiple benefits, including:

  • improvement of the attitude towards learning
  • higher motivation
  • better engagement rates
  • boost in productivity

There are many ways to include gamification in a business training strategy, so L&D professionals need to test various techniques to find out exactly which ones best suit their specific organizational learning needs.

While there is no perfect recipe, the following three gamification techniques could be part of it:

Design with levels of progress

This, I must admit, is my personal favorite. My introverted nature was never a fan of aggressive competitions, from kindergarten to college life and later as an employee. Things were particularly unpleasant when I had to compete against my friends. However, I was always competing against my yesterday self: Did I learn something new today? Am I better at something than I was last week? This sense of personal progress has been far more motivating than any me versus others situations.

Since a third to a half of the world population are introverts, there are high chances a lot of your trainees are introverts as well. So they also prefer to reach the next level of any training by improving on their previous accomplishments.

Using a progress bar or any other method to show progress within a learning module works well for extroverts too. Knowing exactly where they are in the whole learning journey — how many and what kind of activities they need to do to get to the next level; how many levels there are in total — contributes to a better management of time and resources.

One rule of thumb instructional designers should follow when creating gamified courses for business training is to gradually increase the difficulty of the course modules. This principle is the same for simple, match three balls of the same color games, as well as for more complex, strategic, network games. The first few levels are easier to pass, but things need to get more serious and demand more skills from the players/learners as they progress along the learning path.

Include rewards

Small things like a thank you note or a pat on the back acknowledging a job well done can do miracles in a workplace setting. These and other positive reinforcements contribute to a pleasant working atmosphere and increase motivation.

While any LMS can come with a set of social features, gamified training courses need a little more than that to make users feel their learning progress is really appreciated. That’s where rewards like points, leaderboards, badges, trophies and certificates come in handy. Let’s take them one by one and see what they stand for:

  • points — the more the merrier; 1,000 is better than 100 and 1,000,000 is better than 1,000;
  • leaderboards — working harder to get there and showing everyone else who they’re dealing with;
  • badges — striving for perfection and being proud of one’s mastery of skills;
  • trophies — always starting and always finishing a job, no matter how difficult;
  • certificates — just in case someone doesn’t seem very convinced with the spoken words.

Another rule of thumb instructional designers should follow when creating gamified courses for business training is to connect rewards with real performance. There’s no use in collecting hundreds of thousands of virtual points if those points don’t mirror knowledge retention and real world improvement of skills.

Offer instant feedback

We live in a fast world. Everyone is hurried and everything needs to get done faster: we speed walk on our way to work, we speed dial people during the day, we even speed date after hours. Should anyone be surprised that today’s employees demand instant feedback regarding their tasks?

That’s right, the answer is no. Feedback needs to be delivered as fast as possible, because no company can afford errors. If employees make mistakes during training, they need to know exactly what they did wrong, why, and how to fix things. Otherwise, they’ll add up new knowledge on top of bad or unclear information and when they draw the line at the end of their mandatory CPD (Continuous Professional Development) hours, they’ll end up with erroneous training. This will, sooner or later, translate into poor performance and average company results.

From Time’s up! and You need [insert big number of] points to unlock this level to Wrong answer! [followed by a detailed explanation], L&D professionals could make use of these bits of feedback to keep learners on the right track to success.

The last rule of thumb (of this post, of course) instructional designers should follow when creating gamified business courses is to include personalized feedback on any learning activity that has the potential to be unclear. This way, you’ll minimize chances of misunderstandings and maximize the results of the training modules.

What would you add to this very short list of most important techniques that will positively influence the outcomes of a gamified learning business strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Author: Livia M

Livia is one of the online voices of MATRIX by CYPHER LEARNING. She writes about workplace learning and L&D strategies for businesses, as well as other training and e-learning related subjects.