Why Employees Disengage From Training And How Gamification Helps

Engage Employees In Training
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Summary: Company training programs often fail, leaving employees uninterested in Learning and Development. The first step to engaging employees in training is to promote L&D programs from the top down. The next step is to create employee incentives with gamification strategies.

The Struggle To Engage Employees In Training

Would you believe that 50% of corporate training and development programs fail? That statistic might seem implausible but in reality, organizations often rush to create company-wide Learning and Development (L&D) programs without committing to a long-term strategy. Most training plans are created under the assumption that they will support themselves without requiring a shift in company culture or leadership behavior.

L&D programs fail for a multitude of reasons, but common factors include:

  • Little to no clarity or action from management
    Almost every unsuccessful corporate initiative can be traced to the same issue: failure to actively promote the plan from the top down. If leadership does not promote and accommodate training, then employees will not feel encouraged to participate.
  • Irrelevant or insignificant training content
    This fact is often hard to swallow for organizations: there is no one-size-fits-all approach to company training. An effective training program is tailored to support the wants and needs of individual employees.
  • A lack of understanding from employees about L&D
    Training that helps upskill staff is not always deemed "necessary" by the employees themselves. Instead of simply assigning mandatory courses, be transparent about the larger Learning and Development strategy. Sharing the big picture will help employees understand the need for different courses.

Photo from Riho Kroll on Unsplash

The Failures Of One-Day Crash Courses

Companies are quick to assign mandatory courses in response to crises. For instance, sexual harassment seminars [1] are easily implemented because they are deemed mandatory by management who sets time aside for employees to complete.

While crash courses are necessary for emergency situations, they are rarely effective as an overall training strategy. The British Chamber of Commerce reports that 60-90% of information learned in corporate training sessions is either forgotten, barely comprehended, or not applied on the job.

One-day seminars can leave employees feeling overwhelmed with information. Traditional crash courses include little to no interaction between instructor and learner, meaning the learner is provided a wealth of information with no chance to discuss or apply the tactics.

Skill mastery will not happen during a one-hour training seminar, it must be a continuous effort.

How Gamification Engages Employees

One way to improve employee engagement is by gamifying your L&D program. Gamification is often misunderstood but can help encourage participation, attendance, and improve the overall success of a training program.

Gamification is a natural way in which humans learn [2] by playing on memory retention and the cognitive reward system. Humans have been proven to perform better after playing games or doing exercises that simulate the task.

The basic concept of gamification in L&D is to use challenges and rewards to improve employee learning. An effective gamified training strategy will express clear and attainable goals with winnable steps along the way.

Gamification is not just another corporate buzzword; in fact, companies who implement gamification saw engagement levels rise as much as 48%, with 90% of employees being more productive and 72% feeling inspired to work harder.

Implementing Gamification In The Workplace

Gamification can easily be implemented in the workplace, even for companies with limited budgets for supplementary expenses. An effective gamification model is structured around company goals but also considers the desires of the employees.

In the case of company training, rewards can be distributed for every course or certification completed. To raise the stakes and increase urgency, rewards can be issued to the first handful of employees to complete a set of courses.

Examples of gamification rewards could include:

  1. Monetary incentives
    These rewards can be small, such as a $10 gift card to Amazon or simply comping the employee's next coffee run.
  2. Public acknowledgment
    Don't underestimate the power of peer recognition. A company-wide email blast or printed certificate can be extremely rewarding.
  3. Company merchandise
    Do you have a box of extra company sweatshirts or travel mugs? These can easily be redistributed as rewards.
  4. Additional benefits
    Employees work hard to play hard. An extra PTO day or the chance to leave early on a Friday is one of the best prizes anyone can receive.

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Checking The Boxes Vs. Comprehending The Material

Remember: it's one thing for an employee to attend a course, it's another to exercise new skills on the job. Leadership should be attentive to employees to ensure they comprehend the course curriculum and are actively applying this knowledge to their job.

Here are ways leaders can help employees retain learned information:

  • Track employee course progression and suggest topics that are relevant to their current role or career goals.
  • Provide multimedia content for each course or topic to accommodate different types of learners.
  • Gamify the experience further with short quizzes to help retain information

The ultimate goal of a successful training program is to help employees learn and develop in their roles. Gamified L&D programs should be inclusive and give every employee the chance to win, regardless of their job position, learning capabilities, and other life situations.

Most importantly, when implementing gamification, avoid punishments for employees for falling behind. In 2008, Disneyland Resort Hotels [3] in Anaheim created an electronic leaderboard to track the performance of their laundry staff. The mounting pressure of this program meant workers were skipping bathroom breaks in order to meet the goals.

Enacting successful gamification for your L&D strategy will take time, dedication, and the willingness to tweak the program when needed. Take time to evaluate your company's training program and create a reward system that will help engage employees in Learning and Development.


[1] Does Sexual Harassment Still Exist in the Remote Workplace?

[2] 9 Tools to Boost Engagement

[3] Be Careful: Gamification at Work Can Go Very Wrong