5 Strategies For Turning Your Employee Training Into A Game

It’s noon on Monday and your team’s work week has gotten off to a perfect start. Your employees have gone through a three-hour training session to master the basics of your company’s newest product and they’ve headed to lunch. Starting tomorrow they will be ready to speak with clients.

Or will they?

By lunch time on Tuesday, it’s likely that your employees will have forgotten most of the training session details, despite the fact that your training included a lively discussion.

Scientists have studied the “new normal” of our ability to concentrate, and have found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds. Employees consume media nearly 11 hours each day and shift their attention between their smartphone, tablet and computer 21 times every hour. Employees no longer consider what they are looking at but rather what else they should be looking at. As a result, companies are asking how to get and keep their employee’s attention.

Games are one possible solution. Games engage audiences with social and competitive elements, driving heightened attention, sustained focus, and more action. In a game-based learning case study, Karl Kapp reveals data that shows a 17% higher retention rate in curriculum involving gaming over lectures. Games are extremely malleable and can be applied throughout a wide range of fields and industries.

Last year, one of our clients, a pharmaceutical company, asked us to support their national sales training meeting for the launch of a new product. Like all pharma companies, they needed to ensure that the hundreds of sales representatives at the training event learned the myriad of details about their new drug and how to effectively communicate the information to doctors. The sales reps were told that after each session, they’d be playing a game on the specific topic which kept everyone on their toes (what we call actively listening). By playing a contextually relevant game, the sales reps were actively participating in their learning. In immediately using the information to play the game, the data was being driven into the long-term memory areas of their brains to help them better retain and access this information in the future.

Here are five ways turning your training into a game will improve your staff’s retention and productivity.

  1. Tell a story with your subject matter. Create a reason for your employees to interact with your content within an appropriate context. Have them search for treasures or characters along the way to add incentives to engage in the storyline. For example, a pharmaceutical company client of ours helped physicians better understand their patients with HIV by providing a customized online e-learning course that focuses on communication, patient engagement and quality care.
  2. Actively engage. Let employees know that they are controlling the action of the story rather than merely reading through a storybook. Let them know it’s acceptable to be wrong by simply correcting them as they go along, thereby promoting strong decision making. For example, another pharmaceutical company launched a role-playing video game that took place in a James Bond-like atmosphere in which players chose and personalized characters, got behind the wheel of a sleek, high-tech vehicle, received sales directions from headquarters, and focused on overcoming healthcare professional objections.
  3. Use levels and badges. Game levels will allow you to guide employees through segments of linear content. Let the learner know at the beginning how many levels they need to achieve, and tie each one to a learning objective.
  4. Encourage collaboration. Playing together allows employees to mutually invest in the outcome of the game. Your team can then hone skills, define roles, provide constructive criticism, and develop a unified vision.
  5. Build a leaderboard. Simple and impactful, personalized leaderboards allow employees to choose their friends to compete with and see a display of their relative position within the team by showing five scores above and below the learner’s score. And always make sure to allow access to the top scores.

Game-based training motivates employees and increases their effort and knowledge. According to The Federation of American Scientists, games are a powerful learning tool, resulting in 20% increase in player confidence, 90% improvement of learning retention, and 300% lift in task completion.

Many Fortune 500 companies use games during internal meetings to educate and engage employees. Most of these games have a surprisingly great effect on morale. These games reward players for everything they do well, triggering the release of dopamine, a hormone in the brain that encourages us to explore more and try again.

Companies that we work with like Microsoft, Merck and Pfizer already utilize gamified management systems to help their employees and channel partners master topics and techniques including communication skills, management skills, sales skills, wellness, and a host of others. By combining slides and videos with games, quizzes, badges, and leaderboards, these companies are seeing a significant lift in comprehension, with some initiatives reporting that up to 93% of users felt more prepared to do their jobs as a result of gamified training.

By playing contextually relevant games, your employees actively participate in the learning and in immediately using the information to play the game. This drives data into their long-term memories, increasing their retention and information access in the future.