Gamification and Learning Management - Two Truths and a Lie

Employee engagement and participation in learning and development programs has always been a challenge. With the rapid development and deployment of new tools and technology in the workplace, though, there's more to be learned and mastered than ever. Leaders are now looking for methods to tackle this issue head-on, and driving demand for changes in learning managemen. Enter gamification.

The use of game mechanics in non-game environments to improve user experience and participation is rapidly gaining interest as a solution for improving learning management. We're told it can fundamentally change an organization’s learning and development processes, but many still aren't sure how -- and have questions around what gamification really is.

The Truth About Gamification

Let me be clear: Gamification is not about turning work into a game, or making work fun. As Andrzej Marczewski of Capgemini explains, employees won’t be sitting at their desks, “with Call of Duty-like games on their screens, shooting at reports and running around 3D spreadsheets.” At its core, gamification is a tool for motivating your people to show up and perform to the best of their ability.

Gamifying a process takes basic elements of gaming (e.g. levelling-up, progress bars), brings them to a non-game environment (like an elearning module) to enhance user experience and motivate employees to take a more active role in the work. But it takes more than badges to effectivey gamify a process.

“Gamification isn’t about turning the office into a circus,” says Molly Kittle, VP of Digital Strategy at Bunchball. “You’re taking things that are fundamental to motivation, which have been proven to work, and applying them in a very non-game way.”

Why Gamification Thrives in Learning Management

Though application of this strategy is still in its infancy, there is undoubtedly an opportunity for gamification to make a stagnant learning management program more dynamic.

Learning and development for many organizations is dry at best. And, as Kittle points out, “Leaders are intrigued by gamification because it allows you to tie learning to things that aren’t stale,” like business objectives and performance goals.

Newsflash: The workforce is getting younger and more demanding. Employees have come to expect a deeper level of interaction in the workplace. It’s important to understand what gets your employees going, and that’s the greatest opportunity gamification has to improve learning management.

Motivators innate to gaming -- levelling up, achievements, and real-time feedback -- all act to consistently reinforce a clear path forward. In learning management, gamifying provides indicators of mastery and connects mastery with application, which makes learning a more interactive and dynamic experience.

Studies Show Wider Adoption in Days

Until recently, we’ve lacked good examples of game mechanics being used in the workplace to encourage employee motivation, completion, adoption. But according to a Gartner study conducted last spring, “more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes” by 2015.

Games are nothing new. I’d guess that anyone who attended elementary school in the last 50 years has experienced gamified learning. Games have successfully encouraged knowledge retention and application for years, but is that value limited to young minds? I’d argue not.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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