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Driving Employee Engagement with Gamification

Have you ever walked out of a bad movie? Or more likely: Have you ever stopped watching a film on Netflix with absolutely no desire to finish it? Maybe it was ridiculous. Maybe it was not funny. Maybe it was simply boring, not engaging.

A similar phenomenon exists in elearning. Employees bail on courses without finishing them, resulting in a low number of course completions. Naturally, companies are concerned: “Why aren’t they finishing what we invested time and money to produce?”

The likely answer? They were bored, unengaged.

One solution is gamification.

Gamified training dramatically improves engagement in the long term. Because it incorporates gaming principles and mechanics into instructional strategy, employees feel a competitive urge. They’re in it to win it, all while moving a few steps closer to behavior change. And they’re having fun.

For employees to change their behavior, they have to want to practice new skills. Gaming staples such as rewards, challenges, decision points and levelling up get learners interested, motivated and hooked: They keep coming back for more.

In particular, the following aspects lead to better employee engagement:

  • Competition: Learners compare their progress against their previous scores and also to their co-workers’ scores.
  • Repetition: Learners are motivated to complete the course again, improving their score.
  • Fun: Learners’ curiosity is ignited, and winning feels good, reinforcing skills and information.


Learners, by and large, love challenges and healthy competition (this is particularly true for Americans). Throughout a gamified course, learners can receive feedback that shows their score and how it compares to their past scores. Not only that, they can compare their scores to their co-workers’. As everyone is striving to be the best, they engage more enthusiastically. Success becomes rewarding.


Because learners value competition, they engage more frequently, and that improves retention. They want to play the game several times, and in doing so they deepen their knowledge every time.

Allen designed a number of courses for one company, a major heavy equipment manufacturer, including one called the Customer Experience Game, which shows employees how their everyday decisions impact the company’s brand and the customer experience. The player’s responses determine whether the game characters become promoters, detractors or passive about the brand. Each response is tallied and the player’s score carries with them throughout the rest of the courses, where it fluctuates according to new information and decisions.

To improve their score, the player can replay the Customer Experience Game. During each playthrough, they learn more about how they can improve the brand.


When learning is interesting, it sticks. Games that are fun and relevant to the skills you want learners to acquire keep them engaged throughout. They focus better and discover the real-world applications. Plus, the thrill of winning reinforces the new information.

Allen worked with Domino’s to design a gamified course for new employees learning how to put toppings on pizzas. The goals were speed and accuracy. Learners felt motivated thanks to game elements such as achievement awards, points and badges, and leaderboards. Making a virtual pizza became a fun, competitive experience that engaged learners and prepared them for the real deal.

A caveat about having fun: A gamified course must be relevant to the learner’s job, or else it won’t change behavior. Too much fun and too little value doesn’t help the learner.


So there you have it: Gamification, when used correctly, enhances training and engages employees because it naturally fosters competition, repetition, and fun. They’ll stick with the course and not bail on it like a bad movie.

Get to the next level.