Games, Precious Allies in Training Programs.


Game mechanics, or gamification as experts like to call it, really help in creating engagement within employee training programs, for sure. This method has been used in training for hundreds of years. For example, the Girl Scouts and the US military have used badging, levels, challenges and rewards since their inception. As distractions continue to increase in our world (smartphones, social media and so on), it’s harder to motivate and engage employees in the workforce. Because of this engagement crisis, we are now seeing some of the world’s largest companies adopt gamification as a key employee engagement and HR strategy.


The key to engagement lies in 3Fs: (F)eedback, (F)riends and (F)un. Game-based learning is a powerful tool grounded in a powerful neurotransmitter− dopamine. A study conducted by Jesse Schell shows the human brain releases almost twice as much dopamine when a person is playing a video game compared to when that person is resting. Dopamine activates a sense of pleasure in the brain and a great deal of it is probably released, not only when a toddler receives a reward during a learning game but also when a teen is playing a video game or a business tycoon increases productivity, sales and profits utilizing game-based learning. The pleasure people feel in the process motivates them to seek more of the pleasurable activity. Gamification can also help to change employee attitude towards tasks that were previously considered boring through positive and frequent feedback, and lead to more fun in the workplace. People love playing games and games are an excellent and non-threatening way of drawing people in, even if they have to un-learn old methods and learn new ones.


Currently, one of the best employee engagement examples is Delta Airline’s Ready, Set, Jet! system. The company managed to compress 4 years of training for its employees into 1 year by making it interesting and fun through a series of mini-games on geography, customer service, processes and the rest. Like Delta, top companies such as IBM and Deloitte have turned their entire employee training process into a series of games, which for Deloitte resulted in 50 percent higher employee engagement in their Deloitte Leadership Academy an online training program for management/leaders. IBM, SAP, Salesforce, Oracle, Cisco and Microsoft have all engaged heavily in the subject of gamification of the enterprise. Most effort has been spent in gamifying training and development, recruitment and reviews.


Creating a meaningful system that works in the long term requires far greater thought and intrinsic reward than classic games, team-building or social sharing. Nor can everything be gamified. While many environments would benefit from the application of appropriate engaging techniques, participation in a correctly gamified system is voluntary. If participants do not agree on the overall goal, the rewards and the evaluation principles, it will not motivate players. A good gamification solution has at its heart the aim to engage users with the best ideas from games, loyalty programs and behavioral economics. Because gamification is about the process, there is the need to develop an industry workshop that helps companies to learn the skills for designing the game mechanics. One of the most important events about gamification workshops is the annual GSummit conference, which will take place in San Francisco on June 10-13.


Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Spring 2014