L&D Gamification: Peak HR buzzword or genuine learning strategy?

Gamification in learning is like a tense game of Jenga. One wrong move, and the entire set up of blocks – or, in this case, carefully planned learning modules - could come tumbling down...
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
L&D Gamification: Peak HR buzzword or genuine learning strategy?
Knowledge obtained from gamified L&D can be retained for longer periods

Gamification is one of those classic HR buzzwords.

The research tells us that it’s a proven way to increase engagement in learning programs. We hear at learning conferences about the latest innovations that can address dwindling adoption rates. Employees tell us that they’d probably be more productive if more of their work was gamified.

“Gamification can be a very useful tool in motivating learners to pay attention to and engage with a learning experience,” says John Trest, Chief Learning Officer at VIPRE Security Group. “Given the nature of how our brain is stimulated by rewards in games, the knowledge obtained from this type of learning experience can be retained for longer periods.”

Trest asserts that gamified learning ticks the motivation and engagement boxes – and when done right, the quality of the training experience. “You only have to look at how addictive games like “Pokemon Go!” and “Clash of Clans” have been!” he adds.

And yet, for all those positives, most learning leaders would probably wince or roll their eyes upon hearing it touted as a one-word solution to the L&D problems keeping them up at night.

It can be effective, but it has a reputation for being costly and complicated. When we imagine what gamification might look like, we often conjure the image of an expensive tool that adds to the already-proliferated learning ecosystem. For lots of HR teams, it's an investment too far, or simply not viable for their workforce.

But where did gamification get this reputation? How did it turn from a genuine attempt to add a little more fun to training processes into a painful process of deciding which glitzy learning tech platform to procure? And is there any reconciling these two very different approaches to gamification?

Learning gamification: How did it reach buzzword status?

Long before the dawn of SaaS platforms set on ‘supercharging’ your L&D, gamification was, at its core, a part of L&D. At its core, ‘gamifying’ learning means applying the principles of game design to workplace training or development programs. It could include games themselves, or also concepts like points, rankings, and trophies that are typically included in games.

Making training ‘fun’ in this manner has been a part of learning programs in some shape or form for decades. In 1973, for example, or example, Charles Coonradt released ‘The Game of Work,’ a book about improving employee motivation and productivity using concepts from games and sports. But throughout the past twenty years, accelerated by proponents of gamification such as Jane McConigal, whose Ted Talk ‘Gaming can make a better world’ has been viewed well over six million times, it has become ripe for productisation.

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