Should you really be using gamification… or more likely game mechanics?

Are you really implementing gamification, or should you be concentrating on the elements that make your learning more engaging? Sunder Ramachandran explains.

If you are in the enterprise learning space, chances are that you have considered or are already using gamification to boost learner engagement and drive results. You may have been to one or more learning conferences with gamification as a main-stay theme.

There are blogs galore that define the trend and a Twitter or Google search will throw up enough use cases. There is also an active vendor community pushing game based learning as the magic bullet that solves all business problems and delivers a tangible ROI on training investment.

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While there is considerable interest in the learning community around gamification, there is also the fog screen that accompanies it. For a start, let’s differentiate between a full blown gamification strategy and integrating baseline game mechanics as part of any enterprise learning workflow.

The difference

Launching a gamification portal or integrating it in e-learning is a long process that takes careful planning, the right tools and expertise. This can often become a high entry barrier for organisations wanting to experiment with game based learning.

Enter Game Mechanics, an easier combination of leader-boards, social competition, badges and progression to add a dynamic engagement component. In that sense, game mechanics can be agnostic of learning: i.e. the goal is to improve adoption and engagement and build a competitive spirit, with learning being built in as one of the possible end goals.

As an enterprise learning team, if you are not ready for full blown gamification, here are simple game mechanics that you could consider integrating with existing enterprise software and mobile applications. Some quick ideas to consider:

Social competition

A layer of social competition can make the regular knowledge assessments that most organisations push out to employees more engaging. Imagine, a distributed workforce being able to challenge their peers on a product quiz.
Add to this the, multiple attempts functionality and the best score being credited against the employee as additional mechanics and it will significantly improve the completion rates. This is just the sort of thing that consumer apps like Quiz Up do so well and it’s no surprise that they have risen to become the amongst biggest trivia game in the world.


Making performance visible and having learners see where they are in relation to others pushes them to take the assessment multiple times and thereby raising the scope of assessment from completion to mastery. Most organisations struggle with this and influencing the learner to take the assessment once and ensure 100 per cent compliance in itself becomes a stretch goal.

Scoring and badges

Most organisations have a structured mechanism to provide feedback to employees on some form of their job performance. This is usually done via managerial observations which manifests in some form of checklist or coaching form. Capturing this data in a quantitative format and adding it to the assessment score (knowledge check) could potentially provide a proficiency score for every employee.

This could be the sales or customer service proficiency depending on the nature of the role. Creating proficiency badges for employees provides a knowledge and skill check to the managers as well. The enterprise training team can focus their time and effort on colleagues who really need help. Think targeted learning and moving colleagues from a lower to a higher proficiency bucket also becomes a strong ROI proposition.

Where can you start?

Integrating game mechanics can be an easier way to build an engaging user experience around existing enterprise websites or content. Good places to start this journey could be:
•    Enterprise mobility apps including mobile learning
•    Enterprise social networks
•    Intranet / SharePoint portal

There are several plugins available like which will provide you the ability to add game mechanics to these platforms.

In summary
Game mechanics make for an easier integration proposition and should be the first step for organisations considering to get into full blown gamification. It also provides you a safe option to test the appetite of the employees for these mechanics and cultural fit.


About the author

Sunder Ramachandran is General Manager, Training at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals India. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on Twitter @sundertrg


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