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Gamification has become very popular in the workplace, mainly because it bosts the engagement of the learner, providing a break from all too often monotonous learning courses and trainings. By investing in gamification – which is actually using techniques similar to those used by video game designers – employees can be motivated and challenged to reach their learning goals. But be aware: gamification can also create problems if it isn’t done well. There are a few pitfalls that you need to take care of when gamifying your learning solutions:

  1. Don´t isolate the learners

Make sure you avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to gamification in your company. What works in one team might not apply to another. This is simply because there are multiple “player profiles” within every organization. Each will approach the games differently, for example:

  • Strivers who want to surpass themselves and beat their own development records.
  • Slayers who want to beat their peers to stand out.
  • Scholars who want to learn and master the rules of the game.
  • Socialites who want to use the game to collaborate with others and get to know them better.

If a manager is a “slayer” and creates a game with the idea of pitting team members against one another to see who performs the best, they may easily end up creating a stressful work environment for everyone.

  • Be aware of the consequences your gamified learning setup creates

Learners will either reach their goals or use the system to their advantage in unintended ways you might not be prepared for. Your gamification scenario may offer a popularity score based on the learner´s activity, like how many followers they have or how often they posted on a forum. However, it easily happens that users realize that they could boost their scores by posting constantly, without caring about the quality of the content. In other words: make sure that your team doesn’t sacrifice certain performance criteria just so they can win the game.

  • Lower Performers May Become demotivated

Gamification can actually be demotivating for employees. Let´s use the often used leaderboard as an example: the top five people are usually highly engaged, but once you get to the bottom of the list, people start checking out. What is the point of participating if you can’t even crack the top 20, much less the top 10? Furthermore, the employees in the top positions were likely already high performers, which means the gamification process just rewards them for doing the work they were already doing.

Conversely, when done well, gamification can be used as a tool to encourage top performers to build up their colleagues. Gamification can be a powerful tool in driving collaboration between employees. A top-rated employee who shares their best practices with the group or cross-trains lower performers can be rewarded for creating valuable training materials or for assisting their team members if bottom performers improve.