When most of us in L&D talk about gamifying our programs, we mean adding some element of playful competition as an incentive to get learners to do something we want (like complete a training class). We dangle points and badges like dog cookies, hoping learners will respond with wagging obedience.
Doesn’t always happen.
That’s because good gamificaiton is really a bit like advertising.
It’s rare for advertising to create an entirely new need that didn’t exist before; more often, good advertising taps into something we already wanted and makes us believe it’s attainable. Similarly, gamification doesn’t often incentivize people in any long-term way all by itself. It’s more likely to work when we tap into an existing motivation within our target audience, when we show them that points and badges are stepping stones to achieving their goals—goals that are meaningful, motivating and exist independently of our training programs.
Goals like Love, Money and Glory. If you can show learners that active participation in a training program leads to one or more of those goals, you have a better shot at keeping them engaged. Then gamification becomes a fun and useful way to communicate their progress towards the goal.
We each have some topic we find riveting. We’re drawn to it like a magnet. It energizes us. We cannot stop ourselves from engaging with this topic … because we love it.
For nearly every training program you could offer, there is someone in your organization who loves it. Find them; they’ll be among the early contributors and those who contribute most. Their enthusiasm is contagious; others will sense it, and a few will catch the contagion themselves. Their interchange will keep your program lively and dynamic. And knowing they can earn more points and badges for the effort can help fan a new flame.
The lovers will do things like:
- Foster discussion. They know the best conversation starters and how to reply in ways that probe and invite more contributions.
- Curate content. Since they can’t stop themselves from following this topic, they recognize the best material—from outside sources and from other learners’ contributions.
Some training programs can help people earn more money, such as many sales training programs, and some certifications and programs designed to help people get a promotion. Whether it’s top of mind or a distant hope, money is a factor in why learners will choose to participate in these training programs.
Help these learners draw the connections between learning and earning to drive their participation. Give them ruthlessly relevant activities designed to help them succeed in selling more or getting that promotion, and out-size the rewards associated with these activities to underscore their value, both in completing the training and helping them achieve their goals.
- Have learners create and share their sales pitch presentation and/or a video of themselves delivering it. Then have them peer-review each other so they get exposed to a range of approaches and are asked to think critically about what makes an effective presentation.
- Set up discussion forums in which they challenge each other by posting the toughest leadership challenges they have seen and discuss how they would handle the situation.
Sometimes we do things for recognition: the cheers of the crowd, the clicks of the “like” button, bragging rights at the top of the leaderboard and maybe the knowledge that our manager sees it all.
Glory-seekers may also be lovers-of-the-topic, but their motivation is more about being acknowledged as leaders. They want a followership; they are seeking a position at the top of their professional game. If your training program gives them such an opportunity, they will put more thought and energy into their contributions. Again, using big gamification rewards for these contributions taps into an existing motivation.
To engage those seeking glory, create opportunities for learners to:
- Share their point of view and best practices with the group
- Act as coaches or subject matter experts on certain topics, such as leading discussions, sharing presentations or organizing group projects
As you craft your gamification plans, consider what already motivates your learner group and how your program can tap into those motivations, harnessing them to drive active participation. Because that activity helps learners to achieve their goals—including the pursuits of Love, Money and Glory—and your goals for sustaining a vibrant learning community.