Gamification is about taking the essential ingredients of a game and applying them to real-world, non-game situations. By introducing game mechanics such as rules, challenges and rewards for achievements; businesses can not only increase the fun factor, but motivate and engage their audience to achieve important business objectives.

Employee training is one area that can be transformed through the careful application of gamification. According to the American Society for Training and Development, U.S. companies spent more than $156 billion on employee learning in 2011, yet despite training being an essential part of any business, many employees tune out from traditional teaching methods.

In collections, a team needs to perform at a high level of execution and consider issues such as customer service, negotiation tactics, policy issues and legal issues.  Training is essential to reinforcing those best practices and to coach the team to higher performance. 

Gamification can be an effective way to ease the tedium of training and boost the talent pool without trivializing the learning content. But it's not as simple as providing points or badges for a job well done. Serious gamification is a science.

The Secret of Successful Game Design

In any context, a game can only be as good as its design. Gartner forecasts that by 2014, more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application. However, the firm also predicts that "by 2014, 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives, primarily due to poor design." For optimum effectiveness, game-based training should be architected with a clear understanding of how game elements can influence learning behavior.

One of the most powerful aspects of games is their ability to ignite a player’s emotions, producing everything from frustration to pride and therefore deeply engaging them in the task. Rules, for example, provide the player with boundaries within which they are free to explore and discover – testing theories and learning through trial and error. Virtual worlds enable players to assume various identities and tackle challenges from the fresh perspectives of the new roles – honing problem-solving skills.

A game designer must harness these drivers by carefully selecting the basic building blocks of a gamified system and placing them within the framework. These building blocks include progress paths, feedback and rewards, social connections and interface/user experience.

Each of these blocks must satisfy basic human motivations, such as a desire for status, recognition and self-expression that are important to players. In its 2013 report on gamification, analyst firm Ovum stated that social technologies and gamification work well together when points, badges and leaderboards are tied to a meaningful value system that records status and accomplishments and meets users’ desire for feedback.

The key to creating successful game-based training is in accurately pinpointing the motivations of each learner and providing them with the ideal balance of challenge and reward – accompanied by a reinforcement of learning objectives, constructive feedback and a dynamic classroom environment.

Getting Serious About Gaming

Game mechanics are just the start. Sophisticated games often incorporate simulations that immerse learners in a virtual world, challenging them to put theoretical knowledge to the test within a safe environment.

For example, a training simulator for collections would challenge learners to maximize ROI by aligning staffing, customer risk profiles and dynamic market conditions. Research conducted by the Federation of American Scientists revealed: “Students remember only 10% of what they read; 20% of what they hear; 30% if they see visuals related to what they hear; 50% if they watch someone do something while explaining it; but almost 90% if they do the job themselves, even if only as a simulation.”

It’s no wonder that simulation has long been a key component of training in the aviation and medical industries, as well as the military. Now these same game-based learning technologies are accessible to businesses that want to heighten the skill levels of their teams.

‘Leveling Up’ Expertise

Games that are well designed and aligned to specific initiatives can produce impressive results.

For example, Deloitte has created a Leadership Academy, a gamified corporate training program that is accessed by more than 50,000 employees in more than 14 different countries. The academy delivers leadership training classes through an online portal and mobile applications. In collaboration with software company Badgeville, employees who complete course modules, share ideas or reach notable leaderboard statuses are rewarded with badges and can share their achievements through social networks, such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

Collecting Results

For collection operations that are ready to raise the bar, gamification is much more than a buzzword. It is poised to reinvent the way employees learn and to change employee attitudes about training. In collection organizations, employees at the top of their games will bring greater agility and decision making to the workplace for optimal use of company resources.

Michelle Katics is the CEO and founder of BankersLab.

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