Gamification strategy questions you must answer.
Just 13% of organisations feel their learners have a clear, positive and compelling reason to take online learning and only 6% feel they eagerly engage with courses to improve their work performance.
We know that games have a positive impact. We know that whilst playing they can make you more positive, help you collaborate better and help you be more creative. They can teach you to control your attention and are one of the best ways to induce a flow state – that state where we lose track of time and engage completely in the task in front of us.
For Learning & Development professionals, these benefits represent the holy grail. Imagine if you had learners that became so focused and immersed in their learning that they lost track of time and were able to solve problems faster and produce more creative solutions.
A powerful way to move towards these goals is the implementation of Gamification. The road to a successful implementation needs careful thought and planning because there are many examples of failed Gamification implementations. This article is going to look at the pitfalls to avoid and the questions you need to answer that will help you deliver successful gamification for your organisation.
Reasons why Gamification fails
There are many reasons for failure. We’ve distilled them down into four main areas.
- Poor strategy
Gamification is effective when it encourages specific behaviours and aims to meet specific goals. It also needs to be designed to engage a specific audience with specific needs. Failure to narrow down the behaviours, goals, audience and needs is a key problem a lot of implementations have. Poor strategy manifests itself in applying a one size fits all approach and blanket deployment of Gamification techniques.
- Lack of alignment to business goals
Only 9% of organisations feel that their platform allows them to fully align business goals to learning content. Gamification needs to be designed to support and promote achievement of business goals. Simply applying points, levels and badges to learning, courses or resources without considering the business impact is a recipe for failure.
- Weak design
Game design is hard. Finding the right balance and boosting the intrinsic motivation of a learner through an extrinsically motivating system takes time, skill and experience. Getting it wrong leads to the wrong behaviour being promoted and bad practice being promoted. In fact, it leads to learners feeling devalued, with only a minority reaching the top of leaderboards and the rest dis-incentivised to even attempt an activity.
- Unrealistic expectations
Gamification works very well as an initial motivator and a reinforcement tool. For learning that means induction, new processes/procedures and then a way to reinforce learning through contribution. However, each of these situations needs specific design, not templates forced on top of them.
A further expectation issue is that gamified systems sometimes produce a lot of activity and this is seen as a success. However, activity doesn’t equal engagement or learning and it’s critical that the organisation understands this.
Questions to answer
These are nine questions we suggest you ask before you start your Gamification project. You may not have complete answers to all of them at the start but they will go a long way to helping you load the dice in your favour when implementing a gamification solution and engaging users with clear, positive and compelling reasons to attempt the learning.
- What are you going to gamify?
It’s best to start with a single project so that you can test your approach and iron out any issues. To find the best one pick one that has a clear skill gap, that has low user engagement or has a big impact if it’s done well.
- What are your success criteria?
How do you know that it’s successful? It should be aligned to a business goal or metric and if you can’t find one, then you need to consider gamification for a different project or course.
- Why are you going to gamify it?
Is it to increase productivity, or make it more interesting? Is it to encourage greater participation or to highlight top performers? These questions are important to get clear so you can ensure you can hit your target. Once again though, these should be tied to a business goal.
- Who are your users and what engages them?
Are your audience younger people who are more used to games, or older people who don’t play games, or a mix? What are their attitudes to games? What is their motivation now? Will they ‘play’ in their own time or is this a work time project? All these questions will help you consider your audience well, and appreciate that each type of user has a different set of needs. If you know this, you can design for this.
- How are you going to let your users collaborate to achieve their goals?
Your engagement will jump upwards if you let your users collaborate together to achieve their goals. They will motivate each other and push each other forward. Give them a meaningful goal as a group, whilst ensuring meaningful progression rewards individually. You will find that more experienced users help less experienced ones if you allow collaboration.
- What is the context or narrative you’re going to use?
With only 10% of organisations always allowing a narrative to flow through their learning content this is a very important consideration. Gamification works best if users can see its relevance in their own context. If you work in an office having a shopping context makes no sense. The context could also be common situations that arise where the new skill or process is being applied.
- What mechanics are you going to use?
Will points work for you in this situation? Will your users respond to levels? Or will they work better been given challenges to complete or milestones to achieve? Will it be a mixture of all of these? It’s very important to test this early, because delivering a points system to users who have no reason to push themselves forward will not work.
- What is the communications strategy?
As with all learning, you need to ensure that a user understands the need before starting. With gamification you can use its motivational factors to help that, but you need to let people know in advance what they’re going to do. They need to know the potential rewards and the process. How will you tell them?
- What feedback, reporting and analysis will you do?
Once it’s over, what results will you collect? Who needs to know what and what do you expect to see? Can you see an increase in the metrics or success criteria you defined? These are incredibly important to enable you to show the success of your solution.
Gamification is a powerful tool to enliven your learning within your organisation. Careful planning and a thoughtful strategy will go a long way to ensuring that your Gamification implementation doesn’t end up as just another training initiative that didn’t really work.