Five Tips For Using Games To Train Your Employees

Gaming has solidified itself in the modern world as a part of our everyday lives and has encompassed our culture. According to a study done by Essential Facts, in 2016 more than 60% of households in America had someone who plays video games regularly. The constant rewards from mastering objectives and being pushed forward to master more and more make games addictive.

Over the past decade, companies have been experimenting with gamifying their employee training. “Introducing serious gaming into a leadership development program allows leaders to build expertise and prepare for future events in a safe environment while offering significant psychological benefits,” writers said in a Deloitte article.

Gamification is the concept of applying game principles (points, badges, leaderboards, levels, etc.) to non-gaming experiences. Badgeville and Bunchball dominate the gamification industry with their plug-and-play toolkits, motivating millions of employees to take action every day. A key reason why gamification is so effective is that for so many of us, our minds are viewing many aspects of life daily as a game:

  • 6 a.m.: Lose 25 points for bailing on an early morning workout.
  • 8 a.m.: Pass the time commuting playing Trivia Crack
  • 11 a.m.: New rank unlocked – “Employee of the Month”
  • 3 p.m.: Gain 10 points for happiness and five for productivity by ordering Grubhub for the team
  • 4 p.m.: Earn a 17-day score streak of 10,000 daily Fitbit steps
  • 7 p.m.: Pause for family dinner
  • 9 p.m.: Begrudgingly go to the gym. Achievement unlocked – “Better Late Than Never”
  • 12 a.m.: Level 58/365 complete

In short, gamification aligns training with the thoughts and habits that are ingrained in employees’ minds, turning their ambition into a competition with themselves and their colleagues. While points, badges, leaderboards and levels are interesting, the most effective tool in a gamification strategy is a game itself. Studies show that games hook employees in and engage them a far deeper level than any other form of training. As a result, games are being used by corporate trainers to tackle multiple topics including new employee onboarding, compliance, culture, products, processes, and wellness, and companies like ours are offering both custom and templated games to complement training efforts.

Research suggests that training games appeal to employees and employers because they drive higher engagement and better learning outcomes. And engagement is critical; a recent report by Gallup researchers demonstrated a significant difference in performance between engaged and disengaged employees. Those “in the top half on employee engagement nearly doubled their odds of success compared with those in the bottom half,” the report stated. “Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. Work units in the top quartile also saw significantly lower turnover … and fewer safety incidents.”

Successful game-based training should perpetuate a sense of progress. Earning points, receiving badges and leveling up transforms the mundane experiences of everyday work into something engaging, and employees can better retain and synthesize mass amounts of information and tackle quest after quest when they are broken down into bite-sized engaging experiences, deliver constant feedback, and provide a sense of mastery.

But it’s often challenging for trainers to create effective training games on their own. Finding the intersection of fun and education can be tough. Below are a few tips to keep in mind if you plan to design a training game yourself, based on our experience at TGA:

  • Tell a compelling story. Everyone likes a good story and I believe that stories are more effective than standalone facts in helping people remember critical information. Adding a storyline to your game can create a narrative thread and pull people through. To make it great, you must focus on four elements: characters, plot, tension and resolution.
  • Create conflict. Good games require conflict. Players need a challenge to overcome. This could be a physical object, character objections, or the conflict between time, budget and quality. By putting conflict at the center of your game, you can provide your employees with a safe place to practice skills required for success in their everyday work life.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of aesthetics. Aesthetics is a powerful tool for immersing players in your game. With training games, it can be tempting to cut corners on visuals. However, this can have a negative impact on the player’s experience. Make sure to create a certain amount of visual appeal, even if you have to license pre-designed assets online.
  • Strike a balance between challenging and difficult. When creating a game, it’s important to focus at least 50% on balance. This means making the mechanic fun and challenging. Both are hard to get right but when it comes to the challenge, it’s important that you don’t make your game so difficult that players give up before they learn new information or practice required skills.
  • Give players control. Employees want to feel a level of control over their education as do players over a game. Don’t just ask them to progress through a level to earn points. Let them choose their paths and experience unique gameplay based on the choices they make. Points are great but control is even better. By making choices throughout the game, players can take small, but important, risks, learn from their mistakes and build critical skills.

Trainers have succeeded if their employees are engaged. No matter your product, service or size, the positive effects of games know no bounds. Getting started is simple. If you game it, they will play it.


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