If we look to the news, screens are the enemy. Screens take up more and more time; a recent Nielsen study found that American adults, on average, spend over 11 hours a day interacting or consuming media. We are constantly reminded (ironically while looking at our screens) to look at them less. But at work, it’s rare to be able to interact with technology less. Knowing this, how can employees be engaged meaningfully in learning and development?
Employees will need to be masters at balancing. It’s well documented that the jobs of the future will be both more human and more technical. Current roles that are repetitive and laborious will likely be automated. Deloitte predicts that jobs in the future will be driven by data and machines, but workers will still need human skills like problem-solving, communication, listening, interpretation, and design.
The ability to learn is slated to be an in-demand skill in the future as is the ability to collaborate. Perhaps teams of the future will be a hybrid of human and machine— like this Wired article suggests— which will certainly require clear communication skills and transparent collaboration.
Want to help employees retain information and learn new skills? Then make it fun. Gabe Zichermann, founder of creative agency Dopamine, found that making work more fun pays off. In fact, employees’ retention and skills increase by up to 40%. When designed correctly, gamification can engage employees in learning and preparing for the future in a way that is similar to how they already consume information.
Banco Santander has already adapted how they design learning and development. “Employees use social media and search in their spare time to satisfy their curiosity, right when they need it. It should be exactly the same at work. We must create corporate learning experiences to match consumer-grade experiences. This is our vision: to create a learning-in-the-flow-of-work ecosystem and become a learning organization, whose workforce is upskilled in real time,” explains Elisabetta Galli, Global Head of Knowledge, Development & Talent Management at Banco Santander, in a recent Havard Business Review article.
It’s not just Banco Santander that has evolved its learning and development practices. Another multinational company, SAP, also uses gamification to prepare sales representatives. They created a gaming app to help simulate client meetings. The app, Roadwarrior, trained sales reps and also provided a time and place to practice the skills needed to successfully answer customer questions and close deals in the field. They used game design mechanics like PBLs (points, badges, and leaderboards) to get employees engaged.
The mental benefits of play are numerous, and it can genuinely impact employee performance at work. When adults play, the brain is working in a positive way. Play reduces stress and helps adults relax, raises productivity and creative thinking, and even strengthens relationships.
Gamification enables companies to engage their employees while making it fun. Another reason that gamifying learning and development works well is it allows for microlearning, or learning small bits of information in a short timeframe. For example, Duolingo, a language-learning app, teaches users a language through short, 10-minute lessons. It also gamifies their experience by giving out badges, using leaderboards, and providing immediate feedback.
Smartphones and games can be great tools to help us learn. A recent Harvard Business Review article explained that “learning is a consequence of thinking, not teaching. It happens when people reflect on and choose a new behavior. But if the work environment doesn’t support that behavior, a well-trained employee won’t make a difference.”
Companies will benefit from helping their employees be future-ready by providing support for upskilling and reskilling. They need to create an environment that embraces change and training, a place where spending time on gamified learning is as natural in the office as it is for us to unwind with games at home.