Let’s Gamify This Training!

Our SDIx Creative Director Jim Barnes recently posted a blog about elements that make gamification so effective, which got me thinking about experiences I’ve had incorporating gamification into overall learning program strategies. In short, adding gaming elements CAN be highly effective if the proper thinking is done up front.

Let me share an anecdote to help set up a few key points I want to make.

We recently consulted on a curriculum where our direct client was provided executive direction that gamification must be included as part of the design. So as we designed the learning experience for a leadership audience, we included a number of gaming elements, including:

  • A real-time “learning journey” board to indicate where each participant was in their individual curriculum progress compared to their peers
  • Integration of “tokens” into workshops, where participation and peer interaction may be rewarded with receipt of a token by either facilitators or peers. These tokens could be redeemed for prizes/awards at the end of the workshop.
  • An overall point and badging system, with a real-time leader board.
  • Points would be awarded across a variety of activities, ranging from completion of formal learning events (workshops, eLearning) to informal learning (submitting or responding to questions via the curriculum portal, reading subject-related books and submitting a summary of key learnings, job shadowing mentors, attending lunch and learns with senior leaders, etc.).
  • Badges would be awarded at specific milestone events, such as creation of an online cohort profile, completion of a specific learning track, or writing/responding to a subject-related blog.
  • An overall leaderboard indicated real-time status of program participant point and badge totals.

Sounds pretty cool and sophisticated, right? But when the curriculum structure was presented to the executive, his response to the gamification strategy was “All of this is nice, but I just wanted to make sure eLearning was included.”


Why was there a disconnect? In this situation, an assumption was made regarding what the executive was asking for when he said “I want gamification.”

This leads me to a couple of key points to consider when thinking about adding gaming elements to a course or program.

Define What Gamification Means for Each Specific Client

As indicated by the example above, gamification means different things to different people, and that should be clarified when designing a learning solution with gaming elements. In today’s world, people typically consider “gamification” as including some sort of online/technical element… but workshops with team-based activities have been around since the inception of training, and serve as early examples of gamification.

Savvy learning consultants will be able to position the benefits of specific gaming elements and influence a client’s final decision; but just with any other critical program elements, you should know the client’s perspective prior to making recommendations (or even worse, decisions!).

Consider the Audience

What is engaging and makes learning more impactful and memorable for one job role or company may fall flat or seem “silly” to another. When determining gaming elements, be sure to consider the specific audience for the training, as well as the overall company culture. Are you creating learning for a sales force? Then a visible peer leaderboard will probably connect with the natural competitive drive of the role… but for a group of engineers, this may not be the best approach. Are you creating a training course for a young demographic? Then incorporating an “Xbox” experience of leveling up and earning swag may be the way to go… while for an older demographic, they may not find that experience appealing or beneficial.

Determine the Organizational Return on Investment

As with any learning solution, you need to consider the value (in terms of time, money, and impact) that a gamified solution will provide to the client. Given how “hot” gamification is these days, this may take a couple different forms:

  1. Personally, you may have a really cool online gaming idea for a client’s training need, but the audience size is only twenty people. Will the client see value investing in an online game for that small of an audience? At a minimum, you need to have a really compelling case ready to share to try and sway the client’s thinking!
  2. Conversely, I’ve encountered clients who are so excited about the prospect of creating a gaming experience, that they want it without considering the ROI. As a good partner, sometimes our role is to position the ROI (or lack of) to them, so they can make a well-informed investment decision, versus simply making choices based on passion or response to perceived demand.

If you’re a learning professional considering adding gaming to an upcoming training, consider these three things and you’ll be well positioned to make the learning both efficient and effective, while also making it resonate with both your client and your audience!

For more information or advice on how to determine an appropriate gaming strategy, contact us by clicking here.

For ideas on incorporating creative gaming elements into your learning, connect with our SDIx team.

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