Does Gamification Really Work?

Posted by Mark Currier on 11/11/15 11:29 AM
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GamificationWorldwide, the gamification market is expected to grow from $421 million in 2013 to an astounding $5.5 billion in 2018. That represents a compounded annual growth rate of 67% during that five-year span.

People embrace gamified learning in their personal lives, learning everything from financial management (Mint) to foreign languages (Duolingo) through gamified learning applications that run on a range of devices.

And corporations are bringing gamification into the training mix for a range of applications. Onboarding processes for new employees can be gamified to offer a welcoming touch while shepherding new people through the often-daunting first days of employment. And other corporate training programs are embracing gamification too because it can help people retain knowledge in ways that the traditional lecture and quiz methodology hasn't been able to.


Face It: Not All Corporate Learning Is Riveting

The fact is, much of what people have to learn to perform their work duties well is not terribly exciting, yet it's necessary. Regulation-heavy industries, like pharmaceuticals, must ensure that sales teams understand which regulations apply to which situations, and teaching this material in a traditional fashion can be not only boring but it can also be ineffective.

Gamification is great for helping people with this type of "dry" knowledge by placing the information into a game format where the "player" has to not only learn the information but put it to use in solving problems or advancing to higher game levels. And don't just think it's for Millennials. Gaming pedagogy is effective for adults of all ages, even if they did not grow up playing computer or video games.


Gamification Addresses Multiple Challenges at Once

What are some of the problems that today's businesses encounter in terms of training and on-the-job learning? A few examples include:

  • Getting new hires job-ready and productive
  • Ensuring the company is represented consistently in sales activities
  • Building product knowledge in a dispersed workforce
  • Short attention spans, particularly for less enthralling subjects like regulations

Gamified training can be made to overcome all these challenges, including in pharmaceutical sales training, where significant technical knowledge must accompany solid sales skills. Gamified onboarding can shorten the time until a new hire is bringing in more value than what the company has invested in hiring him or her. With geographically dispersed workforces, gamification offers unbeatable consistency of training and can ensure that employees everywhere have a consistent base of corporate and subject knowledge with which to represent their company. And gamification can take dull but necessary subjects and make them more engaging, which helps learners retain new information.


But Does It Actually Work?

Gamification works when it is incorporated into the training process, and not simply added on as an extra. When a company adds a gamified element simply as a gesture toward making training more fun for Millennials, they won't get an impressive return on that investment. But when gamification is assimilated into the heart of the training workflow, it can work tremendously well. That's because gamification does several things very well:

  • It offers immediate feedback. Timely indications of how a player is doing keep a learner engaged and interested, encouraged to move forward and creating a sense of accomplishment when learned material is used to make progress in the game.
  • It stimulates reward centers in the brain. When people make an achievement, even if it is leveling up in a game, the brain releases "reward" chemicals like dopamine and endorphins that reward them on a biological level for making use of new information.
  • With sales professionals, in particular, it appeals to the natural sense of friendly competition, as long as "status" indicators like leader boards are not taken so seriously as to alienate those who are taking a bit longer.
  • Gamification helps build community and encourage collaboration, indirectly working toward team-building in an engaging and enjoyable way.

Many people and organizations were ready to write gamification off as a fad, but it is proving to be a valuable element in corporate training, including sales training. It's important for sales trainers to explore all the resources available to them for building their team's skills and confidence. Training in the form of games may well be worth pursuing for your organization too.

Topics: Gamification