5 Common Gamification Myths Debunked

Think about what motivates your employees and what effect your training should have on their day-to-day activities. Then use gamification tactics that resonate with employees and encourage the kind of behavior you want.

We’ve all seen the headlines:

How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things”

Gamification Revolutionizes Corporate Training”

How Gamified Training is Transforming E-Learning”

It’s gotten to the point where everyone is writing about gamification and its benefits. You’d think it’s a miracle fix the way some people write about it.

With all the information circulating on the Web, there seem to be some common myths that come up time and time again. Let’s move beyond the hype and get to the truth.

Here are five of the most popular gamification myths debunked.

1. Just add badges. The most common misconception about gamification is that you can just add some badges and engagement will skyrocket. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

While badges can be an effective motivator, you have to be strategic when using them in your training programs.

Just giving people badges for completing courses won’t motivate them. Why should they care about earning a particular badge if it has no meaning in either the game or the real world? This is especially true if your training is ephemeral. Why should your employees care about earning a badge if training only lasts two days?

Gamification tactics have to correspond to your training (and business) goals. If employees need to work on collaborating, your gamification tactics should encourage that. For example, a team leaderboard would encourage friendly competition between teams. Or you could include a social aspect to encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration. Or you could award a badge that earns employees extra game points when they work together to complete a level.

You can’t just slap some badges on your training and expect employees to jump on board. Consider who your employees are, what their work environment is like, and what would motivate them best. Then use gamification tactics that fit those conditions.

2. Build it and they will come. There’s a common misconception that if you gamify your training, employees will flock to your program. The truth is, unless you promote your training program, participation will be no better than any other training program.

Get approval to send out e-mail reminders to employees, put posters up around the office, and put a banner ad on your company’s intranet site to promote your program. Anything you can do to raise awareness is going to help drive participation.

Ultimately though, you want employees to tell their peers about the training. We tend to trust the opinions of people we know, so word-of-mouth can be particularly effective at driving participation.

But to get employees talking about your training program, there has to be something in it for them. That’s where offering prizes can help. Even something such as an extra day off can motivate employees to take the training. Offer chances to win if employees complete the training. Or offer a prize to whomever gets the highest score in your program.

Regardless of how you encourage people to sign up, the key is to make sure you do. If no one knows about your program, they are not going to enroll.

3. Employees need to study prior to playing. Another common belief is that employees need to study prior to playing. While gamification can be used in an assessment format, employees actually can learn through game play.

Games can teach by getting people to think more deeply about the content, by driving repeat engagement and by incorporating scenarios that depict real-life situations.

Plus, gamified training is a lot more enjoyable than reading a pdf and checking “complete.”

4. Older generations don’t like gamification. There’s a common fear among training managers that gamification is only for Millennials. But the truth is, you also can use gamification to appeal to your older employees. Research shows that the differences between Boomers and Millennials have been over-hyped; the two generations are actually a lot more similar than you might think.

In fact, recognition for excellence is one of the top drivers for both Millennials and Boomers—a motivation that is easily addressed with gamification through star ratings, badges, leaderboards, and scores. Not to mention, Baby Boomers like games. In fact, Millennials and Boomers lead equally as the most avid social gamers (source).

The reality is gamification can appeal to your older employees—you just need to implement it strategically. Consider what motivates them and use that as a driving force within your program.

5. Gamification is perfect for Millennials. There have been a ton of articles proclaiming that gamification is the best way to connect with Millennial employees. But the truth is, the type of gamification you use matters much more.

Yes, you can use gamification to appeal to Millennials. And sure, gamifying your training will increase the likelihood they’ll enroll. But keeping them engaged in the game isn’t quite as easy. Their “digital nativeness” is a double-edged sword; they’re more likely to be accepting of gamified training, but they are also more likely to abandon it if the quality of the game isn’t up to par with their commercial experiences.

The quality of the game, including the graphics, game strategy, story, copy etc., makes a huge difference in whether or not younger employees will stay engaged with the training—especially if it’s not mandatory.

The Bottom Line

Gamification in the training industry is, and always has been, a strategy. It’s not a miracle fix.

You need to think about what motivates your employees and what effect your training should have on their day-to-day activities. Then use gamification tactics that resonate with employees and encourage the kind of behavior you want.

Don’t get sucked in by the hype. Gamification can be an excellent tactic for making your training more effective, but it’s how you use it that will determine whether your training levels up or gets a game over from employees.

John Findlay is co-founder of Launchfire, a digital engagement shop that builds game-based e-learning programs that make training fun, addictive, and effective. You can learn more about him at http://www.launchfire.com/about or visit http://www.launchfire.com.


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