Gamification: Adding strategic value to training

Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

A SEVEN-YEAR-old boy was once asked by a priest after the mass: “Little boy, how many siblings do you have in your family?” He answered: “Twelve!” The priest was taken aback by such high number of children in one family and opined that 13 children in one family must have cost a lot of money for the parents.

The boy answered: “Oh no, my parents don’t buy them. We just raise them.”

As a college educator and seminar facilitator, miscommunicating wrong expectations is one of my major concerns. Fortunately, it is easy to decipher. Before a learning event, the course description and outline of topics must be explained in writing. During an event, read the body language of people. If they start fiddling with their smart phones or do a lot of side conversations, if not begin frequent trips to the toilet, chances are you are already boring them. This does not include people who can sleep while their eyes remain open.

Also, after each event, the first two questions that bug me are: Was I an effective presenter? But really, how did I fare with my audience?

That’s why it takes more than just designing a curriculum, crafting a presentation, and delivering a clear, unequivocal message to ensure a successful training program. There’s no single formula for it. It can come in the form of conducting energizers, telling humor stories, showing interesting photographs, playing video clips, analyzing case studies, doing self-assessments and group presentations, or all of the above, depending on the allotted time. Variety and timing are important.

In addition, I’ve diversified into gamification to make the learning experience fun, interactive, and engaging. Gamification is the use of parlor games, playing cards, and simulations to engage the participants to retain key information and prod them to apply these in real work life.

In my regular classes at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, I require my management students to play Lingo Bingo by writing down all buzzwords that they hear from me and other student presenters during each short presentation (around 15 minutes) each. As soon as the students complete the 25 boxes in the bingo card or depending on the allotted time, they will be subjected to a graded recitation.

I’ve also created a new version of tic-tac-toe to stimulate the thinking process between students, who must handle the “O” representing positive support to a certain theory, and “X” as a negative factor against it.

Recently, I required my students on international business to simulate foreign currency trading by buying and selling their imaginary two million dollars into other currencies while forecasting the highest possible amount of return after five days of trading. Win or lose, the students are graded based on the reasons why they bought high and sold low.

On quality management, my students are required to submit 20 kaizen (low-cost, common-sense) solutions on certain problems. If they want to be exempted from taking the final exam, the minimum requirement is 30 ideas per term.

In my seminars on Kaizen, the participants (working in groups) go through the process of defining the actual problems of their organization under the category of DOWNTIME (defects, overproduction, waiting, non-use of resources, transportation, inventory, motion, and excessive processing). After that, they are required to discuss all possible reasons for the recurring problem using the Fishbone Diagram. Then of course they have to generate all possible solutions by asking at least five “whys.”

The list is endless. You’re only limited by your own imagination. You can piggyback on many ideas from somewhere and tailor-fit them within the context of the subject matter. The success of any program hinges largely on whether participants believe that what they’re being taught has direct and practical relevance to the day-to-day challenges they face in their current or future jobs.

Gamification is a critical approach in any training program. More importantly, at some point expect your CEO to ask you to answer one simple question: “Is the money and time being invested paying the expected return?

If not, join the club of HR managers who have longed wrestled with the issue of measuring tangible results out of a training program. One easy way is for you to evaluate the performance of your seminar facilitator immediately after a learning event. The feedback may be limited but useful. But nothing can replace requiring people to show results because seminar facilitators can only do so much.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random thoughts. Gamification: Adding strategic value to training


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