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3 Benefits of Game-based Compliance Training

This was originally posted on on Septmeber 11, 2018.

3 Benefits of Gamifying Your Compliance Training

When compliance is seen as a liability problem and not a people problem, compliance training becomes a little more than a legal briefing. Unfortunately, usually, the only folks who pay attention to such dense legalese are those who are already liability-minded and thus don’t need the training. For everyone else, the compliance issues continue unchecked, and frustrated lawyers are left pulling their hair and wondering what went wrong.

It’s not a pretty picture. Luckily, it can be fixed. And, in our opinion, a big part of that fix is gamifying compliance training.

There are many benefits to learning through game-like activities. These benefits include becoming more engaged with the material, applying knowledge in a realistic context, and gaining greater empathy.


Games have a way of drawing us in. If you’ve ever been to the homey Cracker Barrel chain, you’ll see a simple game on each table. A little research shows that this game is a logic puzzle commonly used for brain training.

Now, if Cracker Barrel presented the game as a brain training exercise, most people would probably forgo it. “Training” and “exercise” sound a lot like work. But that’s not how the restaurant introduces the game. They simply leave it on the table with a written challenge that says certain scores align with certain intelligence levels. No joke—attaining the lowest possible score gets you proclaimed an “eg-no-ra-moose.”

No one wants to be an eg-no-ra-moose, and so diners’ competitive natures quickly take over. Some spend the entire meal working out a solution with a level of vigor that wouldn’t happen if they were given the same task in a non-game context. That kind of voluntary engagement is exactly what compliance training needs. For best results, follow Cracker Barrel’s example by not introducing a compliance-related game as anything other than a game—at least not right away. It keeps participants from gut-reacting with the cynicism so common to compliance training.

Realistic Context

Compliance training scenarios more closely resemble such nonsense than they do real life.

When approaching topics like workplace harassment, realistic examples are hard to implement effectively with traditional compliance training. As I have explained in a previous article“…. harassment doesn’t usually happen like this: Lorena gets a new manager, Dave. When he is introduced to Lorena, he says, ‘Hi there, lovey pie. Forget about working for me. How would you like to be my girlfriend instead?’” Yet more often than not, compliance training scenarios more closely resemble such nonsense than they do real life.

In reality, some harassers don’t even realize that what they’re doing is harassment[3]. They’re not the only ones in the dark—victims often don’t know they were sexually harassed, either. And, since real life is rarely cut-and-dry, other compliance issues are also difficult to recognize. Whether something is an ethics or OSHA violation may be unclear, too.

Unfortunately, traditional compliance training does nothing to solve this issue. Stifling courses full of legalese only serve to confuse employees and muddy their understanding of the subject, and any rote scenarios tacked to the end of the legal dump don’t address the true nuance and complexity of the situation. It’s more helpful to immerse those taking the training in a game, which allows for the more complicated situations that are true to life.


It’s a toss-up as to whether games can make you more empathetic. Some researchers say yea. Some say nay. But even though games, where you embody someone from a different walk of life, may not guarantee an increase in empathy, they still have the potential to do so. Like books and movies, games allow participants to get into the heads of folks who aren’t like them.

Games allow participants to get into the heads of folks who aren’t like them.

The Conversation notes, “If we imagine ourselves in the situation of another person, we take an additional step down the path of empathy.” This is especially pertinent when it comes to compliance issues. When someone plays a compliance game where they’re put in someone else’s shoes, that empathy is more likely to come.

Emotions like empathy hit home where dry legal logic can’t. Someone who was previously unmoved by a legal course but who feels empathy through a game is less likely to be unethical, skirt OSHA requirements, or submit others to inappropriate comments once they see how those violations negatively impact a person whose viewpoint they’ve adopted.

In Conclusion

Although gamifying compliance may sound anti-intuitive, there can be real benefits. Employees who take gamified compliance training have the potential to become more engaged with the material, apply their knowledge in a realistic context, and gain greater empathy. It’s time to give games a bigger role in compliance training.