Play the Game: Why Gamification Works in Employee Training and 6 Tips for Using It

Employee training isn’t all fun and games…or is it?

That’s the question companies are asking themselves. With the rise of online training and learning management systems, employers are also finding it’s increasingly simple to include elements of gamification in employee training.

At the same time, some employers are still reluctant to embrace games, often citing the belief that it’s ineffective and distracting.

Think about the following data regarding gamification in corporate training:

  • In a recent study from TalentLMS, 89% of surveyed participants said they would feel more engaged in their training if a point system was involved.
  • 62% of respondents said they would be motivated to learn if training involved competition against colleagues and leaderboards.
  • A study from The University of Colorado regarding simulations and games in connection with adult learning showed that participants who experienced gamified eLearning scored 14% higher on assessments of their knowledge, and 11% higher when it came to factual knowledge.

So when done well, why does gamification work for training?

It’s Based on Adult Learning Theory

Gamification isn’t simply about trying to make training fun. It actually goes much deeper than that and is firmly rooted in concepts of adult learning and behavior. From a very early age, we’re taught not only that games are fun, but that winning is rewarding.

Gameplay within corporate training also builds on elements of how we remember and recall information, and how we make decisions and choose between varying options. All of these are things that can then directly translate to on-the-job performance.

Many times businesses report having trouble training employees because they’re just not engaged, or they see training as uninteresting. By adding elements of gameplay, these roadblocks can be avoided. Gamification tends to add aspects of motivation to the training process, driving employees to not only compete but also complete training.

Gamification Promotes Both Competition and Collaboration

Psychology shows us that competition is an important driving factor in human behavior, but so is collaboration.

Gamification can seamlessly bring together both. You can have employees working against each other in some elements of gaming-based training, but also come together in teams for other areas. This is a strategy that tends to work especially well for onboarding new employees.

Games Help Learners Go Beyond the Surface

Gamification can provide an entirely immersive experience for employees, which is going to strengthen learning and retention.

Think of it this way: let’s say your employee training consists only of a manual and a few how-to videos. Your employees aren’t going to really feel like they’re part of the training. They’re going to feel like they’re skimming information, and they’re just an outsider to what’s being presented.

With gamification, they’re becoming a part of training and information through the playing process.

Incentivize, Recognize and Reward Without Spending MoneyScreen Shot 2015-09-11 at 12.07.01 PM

Undoubtedly employees tend to thrive more when they feel like they’re being recognized and rewarded for their performance. However, it’s unrealistic to think this is always going to come in the form of promotions, pay raises or bonuses. It’s simply not a sustainable monetary model.

Gamification, however, is an inexpensive way to incentivize and recognize employees, which improves performance, morale and overall corporate culture.

There’s a sense there’s a reward waiting for employees who are willing to engage fully in training and master the information and skills being presented.

It can also be a valuable way for you, as an employer, to recognize high-potential employees within your organization.

Employees Feel Like They Have Power Over Training

The more control your employees feel like they have in their training, the better they’re going to feel about it. Employees want to feel independent and like they’re driving their training experience. That’s how they’re going to feel when they’re in charge of gameplay.

6 Tips for Using Gamification in Your e-Learning

  • When you’re using gamification in your e-Learning and corporate training, the number one thing that we emphasize is that it should always be linked to business objectives and employee performance goals. If it’s not, you shouldn’t be using it. The goal of gamification is to influence the behavior of your employees, so always design gamification-based training with that in mind. The focus of any game should always be job performance.
  • Ensure you’re designing game elements that seamlessly translate to the real world of your employees. Don’t make game concepts and rewards so abstract that it’s impossible for employees to see how they relate to their lives and their jobs.
  • Ensure that games also offer feedback, quickly and frequently. This is one of the tremendously valuable features of using games in corporate e-Learning: the ability to provide feedback. Don’t miss out on this.
  • Don’t create games that focus on punishment or embarrassment. The goal of gamification as it pertains to adult learning theory is to reward positive behaviors, instead of punishing negative behaviors. If you’re designing games that are meant to call out employees who aren’t performing, they’re going to have a negative feeling toward this style of training.
  • Set time limits on games. You want games to reinforce training, not completely take over the workday. Make sure that each game is designed with a limited amount of play time. As with traditional learning modules, provide information in a byte-sized way that’s easy for learners to take in, without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Consider tying e-Learning gamification in with in-person activities and training. This will pave the way for a more energizing training experience, and you can bring together the best of both worlds: a technologically-driven learning management system and traditional in-person learning.
  • Make gamification accessible to everyone, regardless of their experience with technology. The mechanics of the games shouldn’t be so complicated that it takes a manual just to learn how to play. Keep it simple and fun to achieve the most value from game-based employee training.


We’d like to know your thoughts. Is gamification something you’ve used as a training tactic in the past? If so, are you planning to continue, or is it something you’d like to launch in the future?

Leave a Reply