Gamification for Training

by Ryan Stacy | January 13, 2017 | Experience Design

While most of us can immediately recognize the benefit of training at a job, I doubt most of us would call this activity fun. But there are things that can be done to make it fun and engaging or at least less tedious than it traditionally is. And that in turn will make employees more likely to recall what they’ve learned. This can be achieved with something called Gamification.

What is it?

Gamification is the process by which you alter an interface, product, or process that was not originally intended to be a game to incorporate aspects of games. If you can bring the same type of excitement people have for games to something that is traditionally not an engaging activity, you can increase the likelihood of someone wanting to repeat that activity. People tend to have better memories for things that elicit strong emotions, so you’re increasing the likelihood of the training having a positive effect on their job performance.

We know this in part due to what is described as a “Flashbulb Memory.” For example, do you remember what you were doing on September 11th? How about a more recent emotionally charged event such as the birth of a child or their graduation? What about a game you have fond memories of? While these are not all happy events, they do provide evidence that emotion can improve the recall of memories.

We can use this knowledge to try to make our training more emotionally charged by adding an element of gamification, or better yet, turning the training into a game itself.

Good UX in Gaming

For the interface of your game you can have a good user experience (UX). But for gaming the goal is to introduce challenges and rewards for those challenges, which are a bit different from UX’s goal of decreasing pain points.

“UX design is about removing problems from the user. Game design is about giving problems to the user.” – Raph Koster, A prolific game designer and UX expert

Gamification can bring the same type of excitement people get from games to training exercises but remember to leave some challenge and reward. Otherwise you risk making the game too easy, boring, and without any sense of accomplishment

Case Study

Let us say that as a part of your yearly employee development you need to train employees in correct OSHA procedures. You’re never going to make this as fun and engaging as a triple A title from a well-known game publisher, but that doesn’t mean you cannot gamify the training, increase memory recall, and see reduced accidents.

Key Considerations:

• Identify the key competencies you want employees to attain

• Reward the mastery of those key competencies in game

• Make it engaging. This is easier said than done, but this is part of the challenge. Use successful games as examples to build from.

• Test the game early

• Test continuously

The last two considerations are critical. You don’t want to have spent a ton of time developing a game and realize that the game is not engaging or employees are not learning the things they need to know. While testing may not be the most glamorous thing to do and it can be hard to take feedback well, it will save you a lot of time later.

You can do this by paper prototyping. After identifying the key competencies you want employees to attain, start building screens on paper of what the game will look like. Then have a few employees test it out.

Be sure not to ask leading questions (for example, “What were the frustrating parts of this game?” – Instead “What did you think of this game?”), let them know their unbiased feedback is appreciated, and emphasize you are testing the game and not them. You want them to be honest. Then have them take a short test to see if the game did its job of teaching the desired concepts. Later after the game is developed you can see if an improvement in job performance occurred. While it may be difficult to determine if it was the game or other factors that may have improved performance, if you consider the impact of the other factors — and performance did not get worse, you can count it as a success. Especially so if employees enjoyed the game!

With data, you can feel empowered to start building the game and do not forget to repeat this testing throughout the development process!

Why Gamify your training?

Gamifying your training can bring about excitement in an otherwise dull activity. You want people to be excited while learning, have improved performance, and be more likely to be engaged while doing the training in the future.

Now who can help you do this?

I’m suggesting Saxony Partners, as I and others here are experienced UX practitioners and love opportunities like this! But if you go with someone else, they should be emphasizing assisting you in identifying requirements for both the trainees and your business, promoting testing to ensure you are building something that meets those requirements, and be willing to educate you about any design/testing questions you have. Thank you for reading and we would love to hear from you!

About The Author

Ryan Stacy
Senior Consultant, Research Driven Design

My goals are to make unique, usable, and lucrative interfaces for clients and users. I have a strong interest in learning the complexities of many industry's User Experience (UX) challenges evidenced by my experience in the following industries: eCommerce, Education, Event Hosting, Health Care, Hospitality, Mortgage Lending, Pharmaceuticals, Real Estate, Telecom, and Travel.

I value research and the outcomes of it above all else and convince clients of its importance. With research I assure them that the decisions they make are ones that will empower their staff, their customers, and help build their organization's success.

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