Using Gamification to Support Social Learning

With about 2.7 billion gamers across the globe, it should come as no surprise that games have made their way into the workplace for many companies. However, we aren’t talking about playing Animal Crossing or Call of Duty while on the clock. Instead, we’re talking about implementing games into a Social Learning strategy to get employees excited about or better at their jobs, while simultaneously helping them establish a strong connection with the company’s overall message. What could be better than employees who are passionate about jumping into a new role? HR Managers and Training Managers are seeing the benefits of games and gamification as key elements to a social learning strategy. Social Learning, initially proposed by Albert Bandura, as explained in Simply Psychology focuses on “the importance of observing, modeling, and imitating the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Social learning theory considers how both environmental and cognitive factors interact to influence human learning and behavior.”

According to Instructional Designer, Brandie Jenkins in her presentation at eLBX in 2019, there are 5 Cs. to Social Learning they are:

  • Communicating: An interchange of knowledge and perspective among groups
  • Collaborating: Relationships that support constructive learning
  • Creating: Active learning influenced by cognition, environment, and behavior
  • Connecting: A cognitive process that takes place in a social context
  • Curating: A synthesis of knowledge that is personal to the learner

Why does Social Learning work? Jenkins explains that learning occurs with others, learning happens with direct and indirect contact, learning goes beyond that classroom and ultimately it is more effective than traditional training or teaching.

Games & Social Learning

Games engage learners, increase attention, improve confidence and, ultimately, drive success. Gone are the days of reading a manual that discusses company culture and office rules. Who wants to do that? Now, employees can immerse themselves in a game or a virtual world where they can be educated on new things in a more entertaining way. And while games can be a great single-player experience, they enable employees to explore, solve, and win together. 

Many companies are using games in the onboarding process and while training employees on their latest product/service launches, so they’re fully educated on everything they need to know. Not only does it make their initial training more captivating to hold their attention, but it can provide an incentive to do well by offering rewards. That’s where real effective gamification comes in. According to Merriam-Webster, gamification is defined as “the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point, competition, leaderboards, rewards, etc.) to daily activities to encourage engagement.” Gamification appeals to all different types of personalities because it taps into both our intrinsic (the need to be recognized) and extrinsic (the desire to be rewarded) motivation.

The Leaderboard in a gamification training strategy is the key driver to making the benefits of social learning take effect. Lead Instructional Designer, Walter Gill of Barclaycard explains his experience with implementing games in his training strategy, “That was something I did not think was going to happen,” he said. They [played the training game] not only because it’s fun, but because they are competitive and want to get on that leaderboard. A spot on the leaderboard gives the international crew bragging rights, while the game itself is engaging and challenging.”

Increasing Engagement Through Game-Based Training

Onboarding new employees is the perfect time to implement various game-based training techniques. Here are a few different techniques and game mechanics that get results:

1. Storytelling

At some point, we’ve all found ourselves completely enveloped in a story, whether it was through a book, a movie, or a TV show. But did you know that game-based training can include storytelling elements as well? By incorporating storytelling into the training process, employees can be assigned a variety of missions each based on unique lesson plans.

PepsiCo trains thousands of employees each year on team-based process improvement methods. Prior to the pandemic, this training was executed exclusively in classrooms. However, the realities of remote work have forced the company to rethink its training altogether. The result? PepsiCo has adopted Minecraft, a game that lets users create three-dimensional worlds, go on adventures, interact with other characters, and solve challenges. Employees play a module within Minecraft focusing on Six Sigma learning principles, competing against one another to build pallets fast and with few errors. The player experience is not about points or leaderboards. It’s about improving the process. Trainees spend 45 minutes in the game and then regroup to discuss their experience. Since its December 2020 rollout, trainees have expressed excitement about participating and there has been a significant increase in passing scores of final tests. It’s the competition among their peers that drives the excitement and engagement.

2. Simulations

A game-based training that features simulations is a great way to see how employees will handle themselves in real situations they may face on the job. Simulations recreate different real-life scenarios and require the employee to take action.

Through this type of training, they’re able to practice and make mistakes without actually harming anyone or causing problems in the real world. Should an error be made, employees will learn how to better handle the situation, so they’ll be prepared if it were to occur in the office. Mursion can assist with this, whether you need help with sales training, education, or even customer service training. Simulation games can either be created through VR software such as CenarioVR or a game-authoring tool like The Training Arcade® that has Scenarios or branching dialogue games. 

An excellent example of a simulation game being leveraged in a social learning strategy is a simulation game called The World of Wanda created by The Leadership Forum. This game is played in teams to and help young women understand how “to prioritize investments they make in their careers by choosing which actions will have the greatest benefit. Should they spend time in relationships and EQ or is it more important for them to get organized and develop their brands? As teams identify their priorities, a set of meters are created and displayed at the top of the screen featuring stakeholder management, promotion readiness, and business impact.” Facilitators take the learners through the course and ask individuals in small groups to make decisions along the way. Repercussions and player scores naturally leave room for group discussions.

3. Rehearsing Reactions

Training games give employees the chance to make mistakes that they can learn from and correct. Doing this over and over allows them to rehearse reactions, behaviors, and skills until they feel confident. This way, they’ll be more apt to tackle anything they face on the job.

For instance, Caterpillar, the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, is using game-based simulators as a recruitment tool, providing today’s students with an understanding of machine controls and operating procedures before they enter the workforce. Cat simulators provide hands-on learning in a safe and economical way to enhance traditional operator training programs.

Eutaw Construction, a Mississippi construction company, introduced simulators to train new workers. More than a mouse click, these simulators use pedals, throttles, and levers just like a real vehicle.

As challenges appear in the simulation game, employees can discuss and collaborate on how to solve the situations thereby ensuring they are learning and gaining more on-the-job onfidence.

4. Escape the Room

Team-based games such as Escape the Room games or mysteries that need to be solved are perfect game types for a social learning strategy. Team members have to work together, collaborate and communicate to solve the game. These types of games help to hone skills such as trust, accountability, and camaraderie which are essential to a team’s success. As Jenkins explains in her presentation, when using team-based game activities be sure to:

  1. Post Questions before an exercise
  2. Create goals or benchmarks
  3. Use dashboards
  4. Add a timer

Gamification in Your Workplace

69% of employees report feeling detached from teammates and 58% say working from home has made it difficult for them to see the larger purpose of their job within the organization. Games help employees establish positive professional connections and stay mentally and emotionally dialed into virtual training and daily meetings. Games are the most engaging form of training, offering employees a fun and safe place to try, fail, learn, try again, and succeed. 

There are obvious benefits to game-based training for your employees. Games provide a more interesting and effective way to onboard and train your employees. Games also offer new employees a virtual way to immerse them in their workplace culture and helps them acclimate to their new role. It’ll be great for boosting their confidence and preparing them for what’s to come.

Just make sure you have a clear objective in place for any game-based training you implement. Without an objective in mind, you won’t be able to achieve the end result you desire. Get feedback from employees after completing their training and monitor their work and behaviors afterward.

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