How to Easily Add Gamification to your L&D Program

February 7, 2019

A lot of learning and development thought leaders have been using the term “gamification” lately. This could be in large part due to L&D always looking for creative ways to boost learner engagement. Meanwhile, if we look at the world of video games, we see eye-popping engagement and sales numbers that would have been deemed impossible just a decade earlier.

Fun fact: This year the video game Grand Theft Auto 5, which has $6 billion in sales, has become the highest grossing piece of entertainment of all time. Surpassing the entire Star Wars franchise which holds 2nd place with just $4 billion in sales.

Although it may seem that gamification isn’t related to the serious world of L&D, there are certain principles that can be lifted. And, those L&D professionals who have already started to “gamify” their L&D programs have already found great success.

Here are the top ways to use gamification in your L&D programs:

4 Types of players L&D pros can leverage

According to Richard Bartle’s taxonomy of player types, there are four primary types of players:

“Killers” - Focus on winning, rank, and direct peer-to-peer competition. They are engaged by leaderboards and ranks. In the context of L&D, the highest concentration of “killers” is usually found in the sales org.

“Achievers” - Focus on attaining status and achieving goals quickly and/or completely. They are engaged by a recognition of their achievements. Achievers are the people in your org who tend to have an above average interest in getting promoted.

“Explorers” - Focus on exploring and are curious to discover new things. They are engaged by discovering hidden gems or less obvious achievements. Explorers tend to be the people in your org who want to learn about subjects less related to their direct day-to-day job.

“Socialites” - Focus on developing a network of friends and contacts. They are engaged by group activities, newsfeeds, and peer-to-peer interactions. Socialites benefit from having a shared learning experience with their peers.

Creating a single learning event to motivate all four types of “players” is very difficult and not necessarily the best way to build out a well rounded L&D program. Just as game companies create different games to appeal to different players, L&D professionals should consider creating different activities to motivate the different learners in their organization.

You could, for example, create a competition to motivate your “killer” learners one month and then create a group study event to motivate your “socialites” the next month. You could also leverage features within your online learning platform, such as badges and certifications, to motivate your “achievers.” Or, for your “explorers,” you could open up a catalog of over 13,000 courses that they can browse on-demand however they like.

Getting Started with Gamification

The trick to adding gamification to your L&D program is to start with just one or two “player” types and build from there. An easy way to start with gamification is by targeting both the “killer” and “achiever” players in your organization by hosting a learning competition. Most successful organizations will have plenty of these types of  personalities by virtue of hiring smart and driven people, making a learning competition a solid way to activate them.

Here are a couple of examples:

The Arvato Cup - Player Types: Killers, Achievers

To gamify their L&D program, a global services company, Arvato, took a page straight out of the NHL. The L&D team had a trophy built that they treated similar to the Stanley Cup. The trophy is given to the office that learns at the highest rate and the trophy travels all around the world throughout Arvato’s global offices.

Arvato’s Learning & Development Consultant, Gavin Walsh, said, “It’s just a fun way to keep learning top-of-mind. People are excited to win the trophy, and they also get motivated when they see it go somewhere else.”

The LinkedIn Learning Challenge - Player Types: Achievers, Socialites

At LinkedIn, our own L&D team created an entire week of competition known as the LinkedIn Learning Challenge. The challenge pitted each department against one another and we saw 3x the engagement numbers compared to previous weeks.

The goal for engagement was set at just 15 minutes, making it easily achievable, yet the “achiever” learners tended to overachieve that goal by logging 57 minutes of learning on average. “Socialites” also engaged with the challenge as we saw a ton of friendly jousting from different departments in email threads, chat groups, and even between executives. In the end, it was the Legal & Public Policy team who won the LinkedIn Learning Challenge cup, but we’re sure that next year the other departments will step up their learning even more.

More Engagement Tactics for L&D

If you’d like to learn more about how you can leverage gamification and other learner engagement techniques into your L&D program, take a look through our Learner Engagement Playbook, which features worksheets, templates, and case studies.