Digital led transformation is impacting all industries. People are at the core of this change. PwC’s Digital IQ® Survey 2018 shows that “lacked skilled teams” is one of the major barriers to digital innovation. No wonder, CEOs consider workforce reskilling in their top 5 priorities to stay relevant and beat competition.
“CHROs and CLOs across the board are looking for a magic wand of learning & development strategy that will transform their people and make their leaders future-ready. With so much banking on people performance, the effectiveness of development programs has never been more critical to organizational agility & innovation”
There are many things that influence the success of a learning program, and most of us, as proponents of enhancing human potential, already know about them. In my opinion, there are three parts to creating performance impact through learning. First, is to create curriculum that is closely linked to the knowledge, skills and attitudes you wish to enhance or build. Second, is the context of the work people do or are expected to do. Third, is to energize the workforce to consume the knowledge and be inspired to apply it on their job.
It’s like inspiring the horse to not just go to the “knowledge” lake but also willingly drink the “competency” water as it believes it will improve its performance…By no means do I want to say that humans are horses that will lose the competition to cars…but it seems there is no harm is asking how do we entice the humans to decide to “learn” something happily and not due to the coercion of their bosses or the fear of losing their jobs to automation!
Gamification is one way to do exactly this. Gamification guru, Gabe Zichermann says “gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology”. On its own gamification is not impactful however when coupled with a strongly aligned curriculum, contextualized content, leadership endorsement and a support system that enables the migration of knowledge from workshop (class or virtual) to workplace, it can be very potent in driving adoption of new skills at the workplace. Usually I have seen organizations use gamification techniques in two broad categories. Techniques that attract the user to get into the program and continue to sharpen skills throughout their career and those that engage the learner through the specific development journey till they meet the certification criteria.
Many organizations leverage the following gamification techniques to drive engagement and learning success –
1- Certification Badges
No matter how virtual our workplaces become, we still love to show-off our achievements. Badges / Certificates / Trophies matter to most people as they build social credibility. Learning programs and learning management systems have incorporated these “virtual” badges to allow people to showcase their competence and proficiency across the org. In fact, the rise of gaming has led to designers to include multi-tiered badges linked to proficiency levels of individuals or teams.
Thanks to the advancement in technology (AR/VR), this technique is the most impactful yet the most expensive way to make learners experience reality without dealing with the repercussions of their mistakes. Simulation is a sandbox that allows learners to work with situations and data, to make decisions and learn through the impact of those decisions. A great simulation could have a machine learning based coaching / feedback mechanism that flexes the complexity of content based on the proficiency of the learner. Simulations need extensive design effort and involvement of subject matter experts to develop both hardware and software based solutions.
3- Credits linked Reward system
Stand-alone the above two techniques can create siloed impact on performance. If you are looking for a way to encourage employees to learn on their own and be excited about it, a unique way is to link learning completion at a proficiency level to “credits” or reward points. Allowing the learner to track their credits just like any loyalty program with a solid “material gain” can be a huge motivator to pursue continued learning. The higher the level you achieve, the faster you do it and the more complex work type you can do, leads to better credits / rewards. One interesting observation is when employees redeem their reward/credits to sponsor certifications.
Competition is a great motivator and in my experience, leaderboards both as “wall of fame” and “wall of shame” work wonders in driving learning program participation and completion. Done well, a digital leaderboard can create a huge sense of achievement for a team and their leaders.
While you can view the above techniques individually or in a combo, if you want a widespread adoption of new ways of working or mindset shift that involves learning new tools or frameworks and demonstrating new / complex skills, then the best approach is to design a performance linked learning program that measures and recognizes shift in “learning quotient” of individuals and teams.
For example, if you want employees to build their digital mindset, it will not happen purely by completing a course. The shift in employee mindset will be a result of a series of actions taken by the employee in their day-to-day work over period of time. These actions could be – Badges collected, simulations completed on complex and high stakes work, webinars attended, ideas posted for improving process/products and implementation on the job by completing new/complex work, which get tracked in the system. A leader board of “learning quotient” when published by allocating weight age & scores to each action creates excitement and pride.
Organizations can then benchmark their best performers and run correlation studies between actions of employees and results generated. Thereby creating a predictive performance model to influence desired outcomes.
Such a holistic approach to gamification leads to sustained performance and high degree of engagement within an organization.