As we greeted 2015, more than 119 million people enjoyed full-time employment in the U.S., according to the Department of Labor. Providing effective training to equip those workers to do their jobs well is just one of the many challenges business leaders face. In high-performance organizations, workplace learning is likely to take on the added complexity of ongoing development aimed at ensuring that employees' skills keep pace with evolving technologies and business strategies.
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) reported recently that companies spend an average of $1,208 on learning per employee per year. That's 1,208 reasons for leaders to make sure that their learning programs are delivering high-quality, effective training. Content design and delivery are part of the equation, but effective learning also depends on the learner. What keeps employees interested in learning? What makes content engaging and appealing?
For about one in four organizations, the elusive something-that-spurs interest might be gamification. When i4cp partnered with ATD on the study Playing to Win: Gamification and Serious Games in Organizational Learning, we found significant curiosity about gamification as a means of enhancing workplace learning, though only about 25% of surveyed organizations were actively applying it.
Defining gamification and serious gamesWhat is gamification? The i4cp/ATD study defined it as "the integration of game characteristics and mechanics into a real-world training program or task to promote change in behavior." Gamification is most often used to motivate and engage learners. Elements of gamification include such things as badges, levels, rewards, points, and leaderboards.
Serious games, which the study also explored, are more involved. They are "simulations that have added elements of games, such as story, goals, feedback, and play that allow students to have experiences, reinforce skills, supplement instruction, access opportunities or increase their contact with content in a learning program." Fewer companies currently use serious games--about one in five.
Gamification proponents are enthusiasticIf use of gamification and serious games in learning isn't widespread, why consider it? A white paper on Playing to Win: Gamification and Serious Games in Organizational Learning, available to i4cp members, points out a couple of very promising findings:
- Learning programs that use gamification or serious games get high marks for effectiveness. Thirty-seven percent of business and learning leaders said gamification was a highly effective element in learning programs, and 51% rated serious games highly effective.
- Data supports users' enthusiasm: Organizations that rated their overall learning to be highly effective were more likely to be among those already applying gamification and serious games to their training and development offerings.