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Using Gamification Effectively in the Onboarding Process

By Special Guest
Lance Noland, Content Writer
September 13, 2016

“Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.” These words inspire dread in the hearts of anyone who has played Monopoly. Why? The answer is simple: people want to succeed. We want to be the best. And we do not want anyone else to beat us to it. Because of this innate desire to compete and win, gamification has become a critical tool in today's business world, but especially in the onboarding process.

What's gamification?

Gamification is the application of game-like elements in a non-game context. Gamification can be used in education, business or retail, but it is especially beneficial when you are trying to create a level of engagement with an audience that has not been previously involved.

Using Gamification Effectively in the Onboarding Process

The nature of gamification makes it extremely useful during the onboarding process; however, you need to follow a few simple steps to ensure its effectiveness.

  • Know your audience. If you are looking to onboard primarily young adults, their social and educational background will be very different than those of middle-aged individuals. What's exciting to a new mother is unequivocally not exciting to an 18 year old man. Know your audience so you can define activities, games and rewards that are appropriate.
  • Research your rewards. Once you know your audience, it's important to do research to know what rewards will work. Depending on the duration and involvement of the onboarding process, simple visual rewards such as virtual badges might be sufficient. The longer or more detailed the onboarding process is, though, the more meaningful the rewards will need to become. Perhaps individuals can work their way through a series of titles until they reach a certain tier and title. Perhaps certain milestones can be rewarded, either with special reward-oriented game play or even with real prizes. Ultimately, find out what will work best to keep individuals engaged and participating.
  • Check in often. What works with one group may not work with another. What worked yesterday may not work today. Gamification, like any part of onboarding, should be a dynamic process. Focus groups, one-on-one discussions and team meetings are all ways that you can check in on the effectiveness of your program

Mashable reported a rise of gamification in all types of businesses—thanks in part to the rise of custom elearning solutions—and predicted that this process would be integrated into innovation, execution and retail - just to name a few areas. They cite several methods that work well when designing a new program.

  • Points - Points are one of the oldest methods of gamification that invaded non-gaming environments. Airlines, Grocery stores and retail establishments have all dabbled in allocating “points” to customers based on purchases. Why not make this a part of onboarding? Points are a great tool for record keeping as well as inspiring people to do more and to self-govern.
  • Badges - There's something about being given a "badge of honor" that brings out the pride in all of us. The same holds true with a virtual badge earned for something during an onboarding process. There are two ways that badges can be effective. First, individuals can earn progressive badges (novice, beginner, learner, expert, etc.) Second, unique badges could be used for different activities. For example, someone who completed a self-paced workbook could earn a “bookworm” badge while someone who completed watching a video could earn a “movie critic” badge. Either way, the badges can be used to share their knowledge or something they have accomplished.
  • Leader boards - reports that disengaged employees cost U.S. companies more than $450 billion each year in lost productivity. By creating an environment where people can climb the leader boards throughout their onboarding process, you will help keep employees engaged and see productivity climb along with the names on the leader boards.
  • Levels - Similar to leader boards, levels give people goals. Rather than competing against others, though, they compete against themselves. This is most effective if your onboarding process is self-paced. It gives each individual the motivation to do what's required to move from one level to the next.
  • Challenges - With any of the above methods, challenges are a great way to break the monotony. Use them to insert competition in an individualized environment. Or offer new and unusual challenges as rewards for hitting milestones.

Use one, or use all of the gamification techniques in your onboarding process. Whatever you choose, it's certain to increase the productivity and engagement of your team. “Advance to Go. Collect $200.” Or at least collect the benefits from a highly successful onboarding.

Author Bio

Lance Noland writes for the business and leadership spaces, and is especially curious about eLearning and gamification. He grew up just outside of Juneau, Alaska where he developed a love for photography, nature and writing.

Edited by Alicia Young
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