How gamification in corporate learning can boost engagement

In a hybrid working world, gamification of corporate learning can deliver more motivated and engaged employees and teams – so more firms are signing up

Last year, as part of a company-wide strategy to promote digital transformation among employees, global banking group BBVA introduced a new and improved upskilling system.

Designed to reinforce, update, and deepen employee knowledge, the training system was created in a digital, gamified environment where employees can decide their own development pathway and learn via different methods, from videos and podcasts to simulators and game-based learning experiences.  

Courses completed in the new system increased seven-fold in the first 48 days, compared to the bank’s previous digital learning platform. 

For BBVA, recently named Europe’s most sustainable bank by S&P for a third consecutive year, gamification is an extremely important element of its training system design – as it helps to “cement employee motivation and engagement and therefore commitment to development”, says Pilar Concejo, BBVA’s Global Head of Learning. “It allows us to design experiences in which employees feel much more identified and increase their level of commitment to the learning process.”

And what business wouldn’t want to achieve that? Having a workforce that is motivated, engaged, and committed is the holy grail in post-pandemic business – where hybrid working reigns supreme, digital transformation is accelerating and employee burnout is rising.

Gamification – previously more commonly used in business as a tactic to win and retain customers – is proving that in the corporate learning landscape, it can achieve just that. A recent survey by TalentLMS found gamification makes employees feel more productive (87%), more engaged (84%), and happier at work (82%).

It’s little wonder then that more businesses, from IBM to BMW to Deloitte, are turning to gamification as a strategy not just in sales and marketing but as part of HR and learning development to attract and develop talent and boost worker motivation and engagement.

Following roll-out of its digital badge pilot program in 2019, IBM noted a 694% increase in the number of individuals who passed their end-of-course exam; while Deloitte, which uses leaderboards in its digital leadership academy to help participants develop soft skills, has seen a 47% increase in the number of return users each week.

David Semach, EMEA Head of AI and Automation at Infosys Consulting tells Business Chief that while gamification is the “go-to idea” for making modern consumers love brands, buy products, and stay loyal, it has “serious potential for internal training and engagement too”.

And since the onset of the pandemic, acceptance of gamification by business has become more widespread, as companies are forced to engage with digital transformation, says An Coppens, Chief Game Changer at Gamification Nation, which creates game-based and gamified experiences to help remote and hybrid businesses thrive.

“They realise that some of their work tools or work setups and structures aren’t quite so motivational, especially for younger employees like Generation Z who have grown up with apps and games and use them in their personal lives.”

Benefits of gamification in motivating and engaging employees

Gamification as a business strategy is nothing new. Defined by Gartner as “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals” – game-like elements have been part of business optimisation strategies and brand awareness for decades.

Big brands, from Starbucks to KFC to Nike, have been using it as a marketing tactic to enhance product sales and loyalty through incentive-driven gamified campaigns for years. While, among early pioneers of gamification in corporate learning, Hilton Garden Inn introduced in 2009 a video game for workforce training – something they insist boosted information retention among employees and improved the guest experience.

Because, while gamification is sometimes oversimplified as reimagining one’s mundane tasks as fun goals or exciting challenges, it offers a lot more than that – encouraging engagement in activities and improving the memories of those participating.

An, who frequently uses team-based gamification in an employee setting to stimulate team collaboration, says gamification of employee learning can attract more of the right people to the team, thereby stimulating a more productive team culture and improved retention. “Our motto is ‘Teams that play together stay together’ as we believe games connect us as humans on a deeper level than just communication”.

Simply put, gamification can change behaviour and create habits in a non-competitive environment. It breaks down complex concepts into bite-sized content, makes learning fun and immersive (often in a VR setting), gives feedback and measures progress in real-time, and incentivises employees allowing them to earn points, status, and rewards as they improve their skills.

“Creating a memorable experience that surprises and delights pays exponential dividends in terms of customer and employee loyalty,” David says. 

Scientists have shown how the chemicals behind the brain’s pleasure system, endorphins, and dopamine, can improve motivation, prompt repetition, and enhance learning. Taking part in challenges or competing to win a skills badge, say, can improve employees’ retention, expand their knowledge, and promote cooperation across organisations – something more needed than ever in a remote working world.

“When you know what motivates and drives your team members, you can achieve change by appealing to what they desire or what can be shown as the desirable new vision,” An tells Business Chief. “To stimulate action towards said change is to provide the first tangible next step. You would then look at ways of nudging them towards what you want more of in terms of changed behaviour and rewarding some of these items when the effort to achieve them has been fulfilled.”

Gamification and personalised learning

Today’s workers have very different expectations. Described by David as being “more meandering than ever” the modern employee doesn’t fit the mould and expects more bespoke career paths than their predecessors.

“Because of this attitude shift, personalised training, learning and development journeys are an essential differentiator for employers right now,” David tells Business Chief. “Training in the future will be both mobile and personalised – these are inherently linked to AI and gamification technologies.”

Infosys Consulting uses its own proprietary digital tools to recreate the best of in-person learning, all of which are cloud-based and mobile-first so employees can access them anytime and anywhere. “AI is vital to both virtualise and personalise L&D initiatives, moving away from the one-size-fits-all programmes in the past.”

David points to gamification as the missing piece to add to this AI-enabled training. “We are seeing increased investment in training platforms that learn your strengths, weaknesses, learning style and working preferences and adapt accordingly to create a truly enjoyable and engaging experience,” he says.

These insights can be used to automatically suggest suitable training courses and modules to a person’s role, as well as adapting the way individual training is delivered. “With these gamified applications, organisations have the ability to automate employee training programmes, saving significant time and costs in a difficult economic climate whilst actually improving employee engagement – which often falls victim when time or funds are of short supply.”

The future of gamification – AR, VR and the Metaverse

The application of AI to new technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Extended Reality (XR) is moving gamification into the next level – leveraging the principles of gamification in real time, moving from training to learning by doing, and from one-size-fits-all to personalisation.

David says that while the use of VR and AR is already becoming prevalent in the education sector, “we are yet to see the same traction in corporate settings”.

One study predicts 14 million US employees will use AR glasses for on-the-job tasks and training by 2025, with some companies, like BMW, already deploying AR headsets in some of its factories for engine assembly training. While wearing them, employees are guided through all steps of the process and can reference visualisations to learn more about parts they are working with in real life.

David tells Business Chief that these technologies have extensive applications for remotely upskilling employees, especially when combined with gamification. For example, developing presentation skills, something that’s an often unenjoyable process for staff standing in front of a room of colleagues, can now be achieved in a virtual and fun way.

“By populating virtual rooms with realistic elements like distractions and background audience noise, and gamifying the process of dealing with these correctly, employees can build these skills in a more enjoyable and engaging way. With AI, solutions like these can also give feedback on interpersonal elements like pace of voice, number of hesitation words and even eye contact,” he says.

An believes that the current developments around metaverses and digital workplaces will become part of how we work in the future.

She points to the workings of decentralised teams as an example to draw inspiration from, where people come together to give their skill and experience for a goal and the key is that they volunteer or opt in to doing so because they believe in the goal or cause.

“The big trend is toward self-organised autonomous teams as we see with the whole metaverse movement,” she says. “The metaverse itself is using game worlds or at least game technology to create experiences whether with avatars or with real people that is bringing us into an interesting place where more and more game companies are entering the business world.”

An also believes that whilst tech is driving some of the advancements, making the gamified interactions created to be more human in nature and more holistic towards the whole person at work will be vital.

Quoting world-renowned designer of alternate reality games Jane McGonigal, who once said, ‘Game designers are obsessed by creating emotional experiences for their players’, An believes the time has come for managers in business to “think the same way”.

David Semach


David Semach, Partner and EMEA Head of Artificial Intelligence & Automation, at Infosys Consulting

With over 17 years of business and IT experience, David’s role sees him regularly collaborate with Fortune 500 companies on AI solutions that include business disruption, machine learning, Bots, cognitive and predictive capabilities, and RPA. He is an expert advisor on the challenges that come with AI roll-out in an organisation, and how to overcome these to achieve optimal return on investment.

An Coppens

An Coppens, Chief Game Changer at Gamification Nation

At award-winning agency Gamification Nation, An offers gamification and game design solutions to clients worldwide, including Adidas, Chuff, Google, Merck and Thomson Reuters. She is also CEO of My G-Nation and involved in building a metaverse for work to help create a positive team culture for hybrid and remote teams. An has worked in L&D and change management roles for Modern Times Group, Xigma Management Consultants, Philips Electronics and Arthur Andersen Business Consulting.

5 steps to ensuring gamification is effective as a business

An Coppens, Chief Game Changer at Gamification Nation outlines her five tips for businesses considering introducing gamification

  1. Understand the motivation of your target audience
  2. Tailor the experience to their motivation so they feel happily inspired to talk action and engage
  3. Make it memorable with good graphics, storylines and engaging characters they can relate to, learn from, and be inspired by
  4. Make it inclusive. That may mean having to design multiple journeys to suit different experience levels and abilities
  5. Don’t look at any one framework to solve all of your problems. Use what matters for your people

5 firms using gamification to motivate learning

How 5 companies have incorporated game-like elements into corporate learning programs to engage and motivate.

1 Siemens Using storytelling as a gamified element to encourage participation, in 2011, Siemens launched an online game called Plantville featuring a character called Pete the Plant Manager. This online game, which has trained more than 23,000 engineering professionals, simulates the experience of being a plant manager, providing an innovative, educational and fun way to train employees on best practices for plant operations.

2 Cisco The company’s Social Media Training Program includes a progression element, where participants move onto new levels upon completion. In the program, trainees can acquire three levels of certification – Specialist, Strategist, Master.

3 Deloitte The Big Four Firm uses leaderboards to help employees develop soft skills. Often cited by experts as one of the most important elements of a gamified experience, leaderboards show participants how they rank amongst their peers. At Deloitte, after each completed activity, participants are able to view a list of the top 10 performers with the list resetting each week to encourage newcomers to compete.

4 IBM Earning badges which represent various learner achievements is another way of gamifying learning and one used by IBM. The firm’s digital badge program, which further incentivised learners by enabling them to instantly post their badges on social media, proved successful with 87% of participants saying they were more engaged because of it.

5 Walmart The retail giant has reportedly trained over a million of its associates using VR headsets as part of its VR employee training program and estimates that VR has returned “over a million full days of work” thanks to VR’s immersive experience reducing one-hour training to 10 minutes.


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