Why And How To Build A Gamified Simulation Training Program

Why And How To Build A Gamified Simulation Training Program

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I help people to learn faster & better by making learning more fun & fruitful as marketing director of Attensi.

Getting staff to engage with training and development can be a real challenge — especially when it comes to those dull topics. You’ll know which topics I’m talking about because your employees will be repeatedly trying to avoid them or doing the bare minimum to get by and move on. You’ll see their eyes glaze over when the same slide deck appears on their screen that they’ve seen for the last five years.

Of course, a lot of this training can’t be avoided. It’s about compliance. It’s business-critical. It’s about simply trying to get your employees to perform at the top of their game.

So what if I told you that this training can actually be fun, that your teams can love doing it and that you can see a business impact you can measure?

Game on.

Creating More Powerful Learning And Development Programs

As the marketing director of a company that offers gamified simulation training solutions, I believe there’s a lot we can adapt from the gaming sector when it comes to training our teams and doing it well. If The Sims 4, a game that simulates every mundane part of life — from eating and sleeping to washing — can attract 10 million monthly active users, then gamifying your training has the potential to transform business-critical-but-dreaded training into something your employees will actually want to do.

Building Confidence

The Sims has proved it — we love a life-simulator game. What is it that makes us just as inclined to spend an hour pretending to clean our kitchens and throw a dinner party as we are to actually do those things in real life?

When it comes to the psychology of gaming, particularly in life simulators like The Sims, I think it’s because we’re given the gift of freedom — the freedom to make decisions and get things wrong as many times as we like with minimal repercussions. We’re not afraid to give things a go.

That’s why gamified 3D simulated environments can be a useful training arena for employees to build skills sustainably. 

Learning And Repetition: Why Practice Makes Perfect

There’s a reason that professionals never stop practicing their skills. The sizes of the goalposts and the ball don’t change, but that doesn’t stop Cristiano Ronaldo from training every day.

And of course, this doesn’t just apply to sports. It’s not just that repetition and practice can lead to stronger performance; there may be a measurable cognitive impact, too. In particular, research suggests that retrieval practice supports your memory — so more practice could lead to better memory precision and accuracy.

Personal Development And Your Bottom Line

When it comes to learning and the impact on an organization’s financial performance, it’s no surprise that 2018 Udemy (via Culture Amp) data found that high-engagement companies tend to spend more on learning. Additionally, the same survey found that 70% of companies that added online learning experienced an increase in revenue.

But I don’t believe staff always improve from annual training, as the repetition and practice intervals may be too long. Giving your staff the ability to practice as often as they want means giving them the tools they need to learn and develop continually.

Understanding Your People Through Simulated Choices

It can be challenging for leaders to understand the people they manage so they can motivate them, support them and help them reach their peak performance.

An older study conducted by an undergraduate student found evidence to suggest that the way people behave in The Sims could be a projection of their real-life values and personality characteristics. When you’re seeing how your employees respond and react in virtual environments, you might be seeing a reflection of their personality traits.

If you can understand people better, you’ll know how to get the best out of them and how they can get the best out of working for your organization.

Tips For Designing A Gamified Simulation Training Program

By creating training that combines psychology, gaming and learning, you can provide corporate learners with fun, engaging and effective training. 

You should make sure the gamified simulation scenarios you use are individually tailored for your business and bring to life actual experiences from your workplace reality. Make sure your employees have the ability to respond in real time and match their results against their colleagues to create friendly competition.

Another area to consider is that you should ensure your training offers a safer environment for your employees to make mistakes and learn from them.

You may be wondering why, if there’s a chance of getting things wrong, there’s any motivation for players (and learners) to get it right. The answer might lie in SDT (self-determination theory), and why the right knowledge and application of behavioral psychology is vital when it comes to creating gamified simulation training with impact.

SDT tells us that humans have an innate need for competence, autonomy and relatedness. Therefore, you should make sure the training you design makes employees feel like they’re mastering skills, that they have psychological freedom and that they are emotionally connected to others. 

To create this motivation for your staff to keep engaging with your simulated learning environment, you’ll need to understand the basic psychological needs that various elements of the game satisfy. One 2017 study showed that games that emphasize flexible rules lead to players feeling more competent. Interactional elements can provide feelings of relatedness.

You should also encourage employees to learn and play through your modules multiple times. Then, you should use the data from their training sessions to determine which areas they struggle with the most. This will assist you in helping your employees become more confident in these areas. Effective training does not only require the trainer to design the modules well but also to ensure they can track and assist employees well.

You might say you don’t want to change the game; you want to create it. And I think both your staff and your shareholders will love you for it.


Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


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