The power of gamification

Elsewhere we’ve talked about the positive impact on a motivated, engaged workforce, but what tools can we use to bring this about? Gamification is a hot trend in training – in this blog post we’ll look at how we can apply it and what benefits we can expect.

The challenge

In 2019, the global spend on training was $370.3 billion. While that figure is expected to be roughly 5% less in 2020 (for obvious reasons), it’s predicted to rebound in 2021, rising 3% (Training Industry, 2020). However, despite the scale of this investment, it’s estimated that 90% of the new skills learnt are forgotten within 12 months (Silverman, 2012). So what’s going wrong? Well, maybe it’s not the ‘what’ but the ‘how’? Maybe companies are forgetting the simple fact that they’re training people – and people don’t just learn for the sake of learning – they need to be inspired.

Gamification is one increasingly innovative method to encourage employee engagement, whether it be through putting a workforce into competition with colleagues, or incentivising them to compete with – and surpass – their own personal bests. Points, badges, rewards – they’re all methods to track your progress and get a sense of tangibly advancing towards a meaningful goal – rather than just passively receiving information.

“In practice it’s about drawing attention to and rewarding desired behaviors: using carrots instead of sticks”

Supertrends – Larsson-Broman, Ejenäs, Siljerud, 2019

The science supports gamification as a tool. The ‘forgetting curve’ is an academic measure of knowledge retention. It works on the premise of 100% recall immediately after a learning event, with retention dropping to 58% after 20 minutes – after 2 weeks that number drops to 25%.

A study showed…

that when a study group was divided in two, with one half receiving standard training and the other a ‘gamified’ regime, the latter outperformed across all metrics, although the benefits were particularly noticeable over a shorter time period, perhaps suggesting that training should also be put into practical effect as soon as possible for maximum benefit (Treiblmaier & Putz, 2018).

The Solution

Gamification is everywhere – even toothbrush manufacturers are producing ‘gamified’ connected devices, awarding points for good brushing habits, points that translate into rewards and discounted partner products.

But it’s with learning – and training in particular – that we can see the most startling effects. A recent survey (Apostolopoulos, 2019) on workplace satisfaction showed that 83% of those who receive gamified training feel motivated, while 61% of those who receive non-gamified training feel bored and unproductive. A massive 89% believe they’d be more productive if their work was more gamified.

While the figures above may appear to be subjective, relating to how the recipients of gamified training feel, in many ways this is as important as the more academic studies referenced earlier. Feeling engaged can act as a powerful motivator in itself, increasing an employee’s sense of personal involvement in the training process and, as a result, leading to broader improvements in collaboration and communication.

“Gamification is about achieving short-term and long-term goals through immediate feedback, visualisation of targets and the progress of individuals or teams towards achieving the goal”

Supertrends – Larsson-Broman, Ejenäs, Siljerud, 2019.

The Result

Gamification is indeed a powerful tool in the training arsenal, but to be truly effective it needs to exist as part of a broader package. Gamification can indeed increase engagement, motivation, and knowledge retention, but it’s only a single piece of a complex jigsaw. Relevant, work-related scenarios, customized content, and smarter, more mobile methods of delivery all have their part to play.



In their book ‘Supertrends’, our colleagues at Prosales Research have discussed this issue (and many more) in greater depth.


Apostolopoulos, A. 2019. “The 2019 Gamification at Work Survey”.

Silverman, R.E. 2012. “So Much Training, So Little to Show for It”. The Wall Street Journal.

Training Industry, 2020. “Size of the Training Industry”.

Training Industry, 2020. ” The Business of Corporate Training Landscape: A Guide to the Training Market”.

Treiblmaier, H. Putz, L-M. 2018. “Increasing Knowledge Retention through Gamified Workshops: Findings from a Longitudinal Study and Identification of Moderating Variables”.