board-761586_1920How Gamification Makes Training More Effective

What do quests, boss battles, levels, and points all have in common? They are all game mechanics that can be used to gamify training. In this approach to Instructional Design, you structure the training around achieving an overarching quest. You can find examples of overarching quests in the game world that might include conquering the world, defeating the dark side, or saving a damsel in distress. Similarly, becoming a top notch sales professional who consistently meets or exceeds quota or a coffee roasting technician who consistently roasts coffee beans to perfection are both examples of overarching quests that could occur in the real world. So how does gamification make training more effective?

Gamifying Employee Training 

Since overarching quests, such as saving a damsel in distress, are too big to undertake in a single step, players complete a series of mini-quests. Mini-quests that might support the achievement of this overarching quest could include cracking a code to reveal a hidden door, evading a grumpy troll that inhabits a moat, or defeating a fire-breathing dragon that guards the way to the castle where the damsel in distress is held prisoner. Likewise, since becoming a top notch sales professional in a single step is unlikely at best, it makes sense to break this overarching quest into a series of mini-quests, such as identifying and classifying 20 qualified prospects or developing a pitch deck to support a product demo.

Whether players succeed in completing the mini-quests, and thus the overarching quest, is crystal clear. They crack the code or the door remains hidden. They evade the troll or are stuck on the wrong side of the moat. They vanquish the fire-breathing dragon or they die trying. And, as a result, they save the damsel in distress …or she dies. Real world mini-quests should have the same level of clarity. 20 qualified prospects have been correctly identified and classified or they haven’t. The pitch deck is done and meets specific quality standards or it doesn’t.

Any knowledge and skills players gain during game play are directly related to what they need to know to complete each mini-quest and to survive in the game world. In fact, achievement, in the form of mini-quests, is the main priority, not learning. Learning, or skilling up, becomes almost secondary in nature because its function is to support achievement. For example, skills like sword play, dragon tracking, or wall scaling are taught just in time to allow players to achieve a particular mini-quest. An example of a skill that might be taught in this just-in-time fashion is product knowledge. Instead of being taught all at once in a dedicated training session, it would be woven throughout to give players exactly what they need to complete each mini-quest. So, sales reps would learn what they need to know to identify and classify qualified prospects and then layer on additional product knowledge to complete the more difficult mini-quest of developing a pitch deck.

When learning at work mirrors learning in the game world, employees are rewarded for achievements and learning occurs in the service of more or better achieving.

4 Important Ways Gamification Of Training Increases Its Effectiveness 

1. The SWAG Way Of Determining What Content To Include Is Out.

Or the Scientific Wild Ass Guess in which an expert decides what to include based on intuition and experience. Rather, you test the content you are planning to cover against what learners actually need to know to successfully complete each mini-quest.

2. The Sponge Approach To Training Seems Like A Horrible Idea.

It becomes immediately apparent that having learners sit through a series of PowerPoint presentations or click through a page-turner eLearning course, even if you throw in a few case studies or role-plays, won’t be sufficient to adequately prepare them to tackle each mini-quest. Instead, it makes more sense to design training so that learners spend the vast majority of instructional time actively doing as opposed to passively absorbing sponge-like.

3. The Confusion About What To Do Upon Returning To Work Evaporates.

Learners know exactly what they are supposed to do when they get back to their desks because you’ve spelled it out in detail when you defined the overarching quest. And, you chunked it into digestible steps when you created mini-quests.

4. The Mystery As To Whether Training Actually Worked Is Solved.

Everyone, including learners and their managers, knows whether they successfully completed the overarching quest because you defined success in binary terms. (The damsel in distress lived or she died.)

Final Word

In short, training becomes exponentially more effective. Is gamification more work? You bet it is! And, it’s not just more work, it’s hard thinking work.

To be honest, though, it’s probably not worth gamifying every course. But for the big important training where you really need to skill people up, it’s certainly worth considering. Sales onboarding, end-user training on a new expensive system, and safety training are just a few cases that immediately spring to mind where gamification might very well be worth the extra up front work involved.

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