When growing your company, one of the biggest factors for success is how well you can shape the organizational culture. Often, this is referred to as a brand, but that term may not encompass one of the most important features of an effective organization: employee training and development. A strong learning culture, wherein employees actively engage in training and continuous development can have a huge impact on organizational success.
Creating a Learning Culture with Gamification
The Navy SEALS provides a good case study for how to implement a culture of learning so everyone is prepared and bought in when change inevitably happens. Their method for informal learning first focuses on identifying a goal and the personnel they have to achieve it. Next, they will involve key leaders and team members in the brainstorming process. Ultimately, this method of learning collects as much data and as many relevant opinions as possible, preparing their learners for a mission while also enabling team buy-in and engagement.
When you increase engagement in a learning experience, performance improvement will follow. But, that means investing time and money into programs that embed learning within the entire organization and throughout the employee experience. So, emphasize top-down buy-in from leadership, and contrive social learning from peer influences. From employee onboarding to mentoring others, employees should feel supported as individual learners, and immersed in the learning experience.
Increasing Employee Training Engagement
With recent advances in training technology, it’s much easier to shape behaviors by targeting employee motivation and engagement. One very common way to accomplish this is to embed incentives or rewards for completing eLearning activities into the learning experience. This can be as simple as public recognition on virtual leaderboards, providing badges for top performers, or token-based incentives like gift cards and points program that can be traded in for prizes.
Whatever the incentive, there are a few general strategies for shaping motivation. To improve upon learning outcomes, here are three best practices from behavioral sciences that employee training and development teams should consider.
Satiety — Don’t offer too much of the incentive/reward. If learners are satisfied with their rewards before completing a task, then engagement and completion rates will suffer.
Value — Whether or not the incentive is tangible, it should offer some value (e.g., social reinforcement, financial compensation) specific to your learners. It’s best to offer several kinds of reinforcement to accommodate individual differences.
Difficulty — All incentives should be weighed against the difficulty of the task. If the work doesn’t seem to be worth the reward, then learners will become discouraged.
Moreover, not every eLearning activity needs a reward for completion. A variable ratio method of reinforcement (a more randomized rewards system for desired behavior) can be an effective method for dispersing training incentives. Compared to a fixed ratio schedule of reinforcement, wherein learners know they will receive a reward after completing a task, a bit of surprise tends to improve learning outcomes.
While some companies are still leery of relying too heavily on gamification for employee training and development, a survey by TalentLMS found 83% of employees with gamification in their learning strategy feel motivated, compared to 23% without it. But it would be wrong to assume that making the learning experience more fun will have much of an impact on learning outcomes. The real work is done by shaping motivations to increase engagement within the learning experience and with an environment that promotes continuous learning.
Whether you’re using gamification and incentives to improve the learning experience in corporate settings, in the Navy, or in behavioral sciences, the same strategies apply. By increasing motivation and engagement, you enable employees to learn. Better yet, they enjoy doing so. But be sure to take a calculated approach to your rewards and incentives. A poorly executed reinforcement strategy can hurt your learners more than help them.