One of the more exciting new buzzwords in learning and HR is gamification — the use of gaming techniques and game mechanics to engage learners and solve problems. We have been doing research on gaming and game mechanics during the last few years and now, thanks to lots of new tools and platforms, anyone can incorporate gaming into his or her L&D strategy at a low cost.
The idea is not necessarily to create a game, but rather to use gaming techniques to make learning experiences more fun and engaging. A few of the gamification principles — mechanics that have proven to drive engagement in real online games — include:
Progression: Make it easy for people to progress down a path and feel like they are moving all the time. Providing lots of small modules with a visual path is a great way to do this.
Achievement and rewards: Award points or rewards on a regular basis to give people continuous positive feedback during the learning program. Accumulated points is a simple approach, and people get more or fewer points based on their achievement.
Cascading information: Provide learners with more information as a class or program progresses, but give them new information only as they need it. For example, give learners a job to do but withhold certain information until they have learned the first step.
Countdown: Set a time limit to complete something to make the process urgent or more fun.
Levels: Establish different achievement levels. Today this is often accomplished using public badges and rewards so people can easily identify the top achievers. Leaderboards — online lists of the top learners or points winners — are a common way to communicate levels.
Quests: Provide difficult tasks that certain learners may want to undertake and that have unique and bigger rewards. These encourage learners to go deeper into a topic.
Ultimately, one of the biggest challenges in any learning program is getting employees to engage. Once they show up in the education center or join the online program and have a cup of coffee and a doughnut, what can be done to make sure they focus on learning and have fun? Almost every one of these game mechanics can be used to solve this problem.
One high-value online sales training program we recently reviewed gives all the sales reps different amounts of money at each step in the program. This money is put into a bank and communicated openly online, so all salespeople can see how much money everyone else has made. As you may imagine, the sales teams immediately started competing vigorously. Wouldn’t we all want that kind of engagement in any training program?
Another example is the Cheesecake Factory’s game to teach new cooks how to make hamburgers and other types of food. The company’s CLO had an iPhone game built which shows a hamburger bun and different types of food and condiments falling from the top of the screen. The learner has to grab and arrange these ingredients in the right order to assemble the correct hamburger before the items fall to the bottom. Once the learner starts to succeed the game speeds up, and scores are shared among all employees. Those with the highest scores are widely known, and these people are experts in how to assemble and cook various menu items. It’s a simple game, but is fun, engaging and gets the message across.
There are hundreds of ways you can apply gamification to your learning programs — whether online, in a classroom, social, real world or computer simulations. You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to incorporate game mechanics into a training program, and the results can be outstanding. Next time you sit down to design a new program, browse some of the hundreds of available game mechanics ideas and incorporate a few in the program — you will be glad you did.
Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin & Associates. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.