Kids Learn From Play, So Why Not Professionals?

Gamification has been all the rage in education over the past few years, offering a way of integrating technology into the classroom, redefining how students learn, and better engaging students. Indeed, gamification can offer insights into student motivations and help improve their connection with a topic. But if gamification is so useful in the classroom, what can it offer the workplace?

Despite infrequent utilization, gamification can not only improve workplace performance, but also be used in training, to help supervisors track progress, and to encourage collaboration. The key is to figure out how to modify necessary tasks so that they mimic the strategic, competitive, or narrative nature of games.

When Training Is A Game

For many employees, the most boring aspect of work is training in all its forms. Whether it’s the manuals associated with onboarding or learning new software, training can feel like pulling teeth. Gamification, on the other hand, can offer the necessary motivation to master a new process.

Consider, for example, individuals who are interested in learning about real estate. At Success Path, a program developed by famed house flipper Tarek and Christina El Moussa, new investors are encouraged to play Monopoly to learn what makes a successful investor.

As Christina explains, if you’re going to win at Monopoly, you need to buy all the property you can afford – and the same applies to actual real estate flipping. But of course, there are multiple ways to distribute your money across properties. In the real world and on the Monopoly board, location, timing, and other factors play important roles.

In real estate, of course, experimenting with investment strategies is an expensive way to train, and while Success Path emphasizes that you can’t learn without putting money on the line, Monopoly – or other forms of gamification are a risk-free way to learn the logic of a process. The same applies to any other high-risk learning activity. From learning a new piece of equipment to practicing customer service interactions, professional play offers an ideal way to understand a process.

Motivation And Information

Another reason gamification is popular in the workplace is that it can add an increased degree of motivation to everyday activities – and with added motivation comes improved morale and productivity. Some forms of gamification, such as that enabled by Taskworld, measures progress, creates competition, and allows employees to experience a sense of achievement surrounding tasks they would otherwise perform in isolation.

Gamification also enhances professional motivation through what’s known as cascading information theory. Cascading information theory relies on the idea that the user or worker is continuously unlocking new information and experiences. Users stay engaged because they are pressed by time limits, encouraged by bonuses, or are on a mission to discover information needed to solve internal problems. And more than any other factor, most of us are driven by loss aversion. Employees don’t want to lose, even if the stakes are low or the game is invented simply for motivational purposes. Not losing is enough of a reason to keep going.

Monitoring And Assessing Performance

Finally, gamification is an ideal way to simplify and enhance workplace performance reviews. First, most employees know when they’re stuck on a task or not performing well, but with gamification, performance is visualized at all time. Gamification not only provides preemptive feedback on an employee’s work, but it can provide the motivation to break out of a rut.

When it comes time for a formal review, gamification also offers advantages for the supervisors. In general, these systems quantify an individual’s work so that supervisors can highlight successes and failures, compare performance across employees, and more. The startup EvaluAgent sets staff goals in alignment with those for the larger business, using their game-based work system. If employees perform to these goals, then the whole company succeeds. And with performance numbers at the ready and set in comparison to goals, evaluations are virtually pre-written.

Gamification has shown to improve cognitive agility, motivation, and morale, among other factors, yet it remains far more popular in the classroom than in the workplace. Particularly at the startup level, then, it’s time for businesses to use play to innovate. Work could be much more fun – and more productive – with gamification.