How to Be Successful at Game-Based Training

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If you’ve never run a game-based training program before, it can feel intimidating.

But the truth is, creating successful game-based training programs comes down to two things: hard work and an understanding of game based training strategy.

I know, it’s not nearly as exciting as a magic fix-all-your-problems tip.

But it also means that you don’t need a magic ability to build amazing training programs — you just need to put in the work.

To get you started, I’ve broken effective game-based training strategy down into 7 actionable steps.

By following these steps you can build game-based training programs that excite your employees and impress your boss — even if you’ve never designed a game-based course in your life.

Step 1: Start With Your Objectives

The first thing you need to know is what you want to achieve.

You need to know what your learning objectives are before you start writing.

Think about what you want your users to get out of the training program.  Is it memorization of product knowledge? Awareness of policy changes? Application of training concepts to day-to-day work?

Those objectives will dictate not only your content, but how you present it.

Step 2: Get to Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is paramount to the success of your training program.

Your employees are the end user, and the experience you create needs to be appropriate for their personalities, expectations and work environment.

What content is important for your audience to know? What’s most relevant for their day-to-day? What will help them do their job better? How can you put it in context for them?

These questions are key to ensuring that the information taught in your course not only furthers your learning objectives, but is presented in a way that’s relevant and useful for employees.

Remember, the end goal is to make your training relatable. It should mirror your employees’ personalities, expectations and the culture of their work environment. This is will ensure your course is well received and keep users engaged with the content.

Step 3: Let the Content Dictate Your Game Structure

When designing a game-based course, it’s important to let your content dictate the style of game. Different game-based modules are better suited for specific types of content.

For example, product features & benefits are best suited to short quiz style games that can be played frequently. This lets users master the content through repetition.

On the other hand, customer service skills are better suited to a role-play style game that challenges employees to apply what they’ve learned in simulated retail situations.

Step 4: Match Game Mechanics with Workplace Environment

Effective game based training programs don’t just rely on games to teach. They use a combination of game-based learning and gamification to motivate users and teach key concepts.

Game-based learning makes your course engaging and helps users learn and retain the content. But you also need a mechanism to motivate users to take the course in the first place.

That’s where gamification comes in.

Make sure the environment you host your training in is relevant to workers. For example, if you’re a bank — challenge users to build a banking empire. This helps keep learners engaged within a relevant context where you can also nest in subtle corporate values.

Step 5: Don’t Reward for Insignificant Achievements

Badges are one of the most common gamification elements people get wrong. They’re often just slapped onto content without any real thought to how they work.  

But badges are only useful as motivators if they are are awarded for real accomplishments.

Not to mention it’s boring, and in some cases annoying, to get badges for no reason.

Badges work best when they motivate users to do things they wouldn’t typically do. For example, if your users don’t tend to finish training courses adding a badge for finishing 5 courses could be an effective motivator.  

Step 6: Invest in Production Value

There’s nothing worse than putting time and effort into great content only to have the program fall flat because the visuals suck.

Whether we realize it or not, we are all used to a certain level of quality — both in terms of images and experiences.  

Throwing pixelated, boring images in front of employees won’t engage them — regardless of how great the gameplay is.

I’m not arguing for training programs to look like cutting edge video games. But your game also shouldn’t look like programmers designed it.

Aim for Farmville, not Call of Duty.

Step 7: Design for the Device

Finally, you need to consider the device employees will use to access your program.

Different devices have different standards for user experience, and you need to account for that in your design.

For example, smartphones have smaller screens and people use them while on-the-go. That means your copy needs to be short and to the point.

Why?

Well for starters, long paragraphs are tedious to scroll through on a small screen.

And secondly, there are a ton of other apps to distract users. You need the program to be quick and engaging to ensure they don’t navigate away from the course and hop on Facebook.

Remember: It’s a Strategy Not a Miracle Fix

Game-based training, as we so often say, isn’t a miracle fix. It’s a strategy. And part of using a strategy is understanding why it works.

Start by identifying your training goals. Then take the time to understand your employees: what motivates them, what their workplace environment is like, and what style (images, copy etc) is relatable for them.

Let that information dictate which game elements you choose, and the style of course you create. Remember, every element you add to a game-based training program should have a purpose.

It motivates, it teaches, or it engages.

It’s not just “fun.”

Finally, ensure your course has sweet graphics and tailor the user experience for the device employees will access it on. Your course should look great and feel natural to play.

Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to building a game-based training program you can be proud of.

No magical abilities required.