A recent report from a small school, you might have heard ’em, called Harvard Business School, they took up the thing we think about a lot…
Do games work? We were able to catch up with some of the authors of this recent study called, Does Gamified Training Get Results? And, here is what they found when Harvard Business School tagged along for a recent experiment with KPMG.
They found that corporate training isn’t all fun and games, but maybe it should be. The study was conducted among client-facing employees. Participation was optional and open-ended, like most games are. Employees could also engage with the platform as frequently and as often as they liked.
They were trying to see if games were a more effective way to uptrain and upskill employees, especially in revenue generating roles.
You ready for the results?
Here we go…
Analysis showed that the training helped increase fees collected by more than 25%. The number of clients rose by up to 16%. Opportunities from new clients rose by as much as 22%.
The more that the employees played the game, the more likely they were to improve performance in their jobs. The employees that showed a higher willingness to train increased fees by 16% more than the ones that didn’t use the games. They also went on to find that they increased total business opportunities by 8%.
The researchers offered three (3) recommendations if your organization is going to put game-based learning and training into practice.
So, maybe it makes sense to pick a platform that let’s you see those data insights, from day one.
Now back to work.
Harvard Business Review full article below.
Developing Employees | Does Gamified Training Get Results? (April 2023)
By Jamie Cullen
Summary: Corporate training isn’t all fun and games, but maybe it should be. Most of us have (often grudgingly) used corporate learning systems. We skim through 50-slide PowerPoint decks hoping to correctly guess enough answers to pass so that we can get back to our “real work.” Much of what we learn is often forgotten by the time we receive our certificate of completion.
But a new study, conducted at the professional services firm KPMG, shows that gamified training done right—lessons conducted carefully and over time, incorporating elements such as progression through challenges and levels, instant feedback, points, and competition—can significantly improve employee performance.
Corporate training isn’t all fun and games, but maybe it should be. Most of us have (often grudgingly) used corporate learning systems. We skim through the 50-slide PowerPoint decks hoping to correctly guess enough answers to pass so that we can get back to our “real work.” Anything we learn may be forgotten by the time we receive our certificate of completion. But a new study shows that gamified training done right—lessons conducted carefully and over time, incorporating elements such as progression through challenges and levels, instant feedback, points, and competition—can significantly improve employee performance.
The research took place at the professional services firm KPMG. “Leaders had developed a gamified training tool for their employees, but they didn’t want to just roll it out and wonder whether it worked,” explains Ryan Buell, a professor at Harvard Business School and a coauthor of the study. “They were committed to rigorously testing the effects.”
The study was conducted among client-facing employees in 24 offices participating in the training, which was rolled out at various times in a randomized order. Called KPMG Globerunner, the training was meant to deepen employees’ awareness and understanding of the firm’s products and services so that they could better identify business opportunities. Employees designed a character for themselves and “raced around the world” answering questions about the firm’s offerings. A correct answer earned travel points that enabled players to progress. Employees could also complete mini-game challenges to earn additional points and unlock new levels. Participation was optional and open-ended; employees could engage with the platform as frequently and for as long as they liked.
To determine the training’s effects, if any, on each office’s performance, the researchers analyzed five measures on a monthly basis over 29 months: fees collected, the number of clients served, total business opportunities generated, opportunities generated from existing clients, and opportunities from new clients. To measure each office’s use of the training, they looked at how much time employees spent playing Globerunner and the number of questions they answered. To assess employees’ engagement with their jobs, they calculated the share of people in each office who logged on to the platform at least once (indicating an interest in furthering their skills to help meet KPMG’s goals) and how quickly they did so once the platform was available. Finally, they analyzed whether and how much leaders in each office played the game.
Analysis showed that the training helped increase fees collected by participating offices by more than 25%. The number of clients rose by up to 16%, and opportunities from new clients rose by as much as 22%. The more that employees played Globerunner, the more likely they were to improve performance in their jobs. Offices whose employees showed a higher willingness to train increased fees collected by 16% more than others. Offices in which employees were more engaged with their jobs to begin with increased total business opportunities by 8% more, opportunities from existing clients by 10% more, and opportunities from new clients by 7% more.
Leader engagement with the training was also important. The more office leaders who registered to use the platform, the higher the employee sign-up rate. And that improved results. Offices whose leaders participated more than others increased fees collected by 19% more and grew the number of clients served by 7% more.
The researchers offer three recommendations for using gamified training to improve employee performance.
Communicate enthusiasm to managers and employees. Before adopting gamified training, organizations should stress the importance of manager participation. Leaders who visibly play while in the office are more likely to boost employee participation and business results. “Prior research on digital gamified training platforms tells us that they can be seen as a distraction,” says Tatiana Sandino, a professor at Harvard Business School and a coauthor of the study. “But if the leader jumps in and signs on to the platform, it gives employees license to sign on as well.” It also encourages employees to see the training as more important than they otherwise might.
Employees should feel comfortable using the training at their desks during office hours, free from concerns that others might think they are goofing off. “The fact that it’s fun may make it seem less permissible,” Buell says. “Do I really get to play at work? The leader is modeling that not only is it OK to play; playing is a good thing.” In other words, playing should be viewed as a legitimate part of work, not as a break from it.
Measure outcomes officewide. Performance improvements at KPMG were greater in offices where many of the employees were already engaged with their jobs. But the firm’s results also suggest that organizations will see some level of improvement from everyone. “The time spent on training and the number of questions answered boosted performance even among employees who had low engagement with their jobs, and regardless of whether their leaders used the training,” says Wei Cai, an assistant professor at Columbia Business School and another coauthor of the study.
However, those workers’ results probably won’t be as robust or obvious as improvements among more-engaged employees; such trainings aren’t a panacea for poor engagement. So organizations should set officewide performance goals rather than define success by how much the least-engaged employees improve.
Be patient. Don’t expect same-day or even same-week results. Most of the performance boosts at KPMG took hold in the second or third quarter after the training was introduced, and they gradually increased thereafter. This cumulative effect will most likely continue as employees improve their mastery of the lessons and their knowledge of the firm’s offerings. “When organizations implement this kind of system, they need to give it time,” Sandino says. “People may not be able to immediately apply all their new knowledge.”
KPMG’s employees continue to use and benefit from the training platform. Even though the study ended more than 18 months ago, “We continued to track their performance,” says Cai. “And we saw that the benefits persist long after the rollout.”
About the research: “Learning or Playing? The Effect of Gamified Training on Performance,” by Ryan W. Buell, Wei Cai, and Tatiana Sandino (working paper)
A version of this article appeared in the March–April 2023 issue of Harvard Business Review.
1Huddle is a coaching and development platform that uses quick-burst mobile games to more quickly and effectively educate, elevate, and energize your workforce — from frontline to full-time.
With a mobile-first approach to preparing the modern worker, a mobile library of 3,000+ quick-burst employee skill games, an on-demand game marketplace that covers 16 unique workforce skill areas, and the option for personalized content, 1Huddle is changing the way organizations think about their training – from a one-time boring onboarding experience to a continuous motivational tool.
Key clients include Loews Hotels, Novartis, Madison Square Garden, PIMCO, TAO Group, and the United States Air Force. To learn more about 1Huddle and its platform, please visit 1huddle.co.
Dana Bernardino, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle
"1Huddle is a great tool to drive knowledge retention and make it sticky, make it fun, and also serves as a huge analytics tool for us to understand the quality of the stuff we’re rolling out.”
—James Webb, Global People Development & Engagement
Annual savings per location (312+)
“All of a sudden, people are playing the game multiple times a day to rack up points to get to the top of the leaderboard.”
—Lauren Constable, VP of Operations
Annual savings opening
5 new locations
“This thing is amazing. I’m awestruck with the power of this tool. 1Huddle makes running and operating restaurants fun and greatly increases our employees’ knowledge.”
—Tony Daddabbo, Director of Training
in training time
Annual savings across 60 locations