Allegro Media DesignBlog

13 Tips for Gamifying Employee Training

You’ve been there; in front of a computer screen rapidly-clicking the disabled “Next” button on a dreadfully dull eLearning course, waiting for the second it is unlocked. You want it to be over and done with. If so, or if not, you’ve probably sat through a training video that made thirty minutes feel like hours. What did you remember? Do you know all the objectives and competencies you were supposed to learn? If you’ve been in that situation, you and other staff probably won’t remember much, and that’s not your fault or theirs.

The human working memory can only endure so much content delivered in a monotonous method for so long. Our brains are hardwired to eventually tune-out during a gauntlet of a lecture-driven presentation. However, there is a way to combat this.

Gamification isn’t new in education, however, thanks to access to tools and resources in game development software, it’s popularity has been on the rise for years. If you don’t know what gamification is, it’s not bringing in a gaming console to have learners play popular franchises. It also isn’t as simple as saying “You did the training, here’s a badge!” Gamification is a bit more complex and relates more to game theory than it does actual video games.

The reason for both gamification’s praise and popularity is its ability, when used correctly, to be a catalyst that hits all points on Webb’s Depth-of-Knowledge (DOK) chart and Bloom’s Taxonomy chart. Both of these are how two tools that teachers and trainers use to assess the learning outcomes, competencies, and the impact a lesson has.

Webb’s Depth-of-Knowledge Chart

If you’re not savvy with pedagogical terms, Webb’s DOK chart breaks learning into four levels; Recall & Reproduction (1), Skills & Concepts (2), Strategic Thinking & Reasoning (3), and Extended Thinking (4). Teachers strive to achieve that final level but have to first guide their students through the first three steps. You have to learn how to stand on your feet before you learn how to run.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Chart

Bloom's Taxonomy Pyramid

For Bloom’s Taxonomy chart; think of a pyramid. The pyramid is comprised of six levels, with each one based on the verbiage used in the learning outcomes; Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and at the top; Creating. At the base of the pyramid, you have more simple learning outcomes like recalling, describing, or finding. Though at the top you have more complex verbiage used in the learning outcomes like design, role-play, modify, etc. The goal is to get to the top of the pyramid in learning.

As you move up the pyramid in Bloom’s Taxonomy, or as you move up levels in Webb’s DOK chart, you are requiring higher-level thinking and retention of the learner. Though the higher the learner moves up, the higher their competency is in that subject matter. Gamification allows for a curated experience that can hit specific levels at an effective rate.

Now gamification isn’t just about reaching those levels, but also making a lesson engaging while meeting those levels. An engaging lesson makes for a motivated learner, whether it’s in a classroom or in a workplace. A motivated learner and an engaging lesson make for both a more enjoyable learning experience and a higher retention rate of the content (Viau, 2004.)

Gamification adds three basic psychological needs (Ryan, Rigby, & Przybylski, 2006, 30, 347-364.) that are hard to achieve without; the need for autonomy (being able to, or allowed to, make their own choices), the need for competency (the ability to overcome obstacles or challenges), and the need for relationships or to make relationships (in this context; creating a memorable experience in which the learner can relate to later.) This is also in part why so many people enjoy playing video games.

13 Tips & Tricks for Adding Gamification to Your Training Courses

Now that we understand how gamification can make a lesson more engaging, we can look into how the mechanics of gamification can make a lesson more effective, specifically in eLearning training materials. This can range from scenario-based slides to assessment slides. As a former career-technical educator and game design instructor, I have spent years diving into what makes gamification work.


The content in gamification is only as good as its delivery. The first thing in gamification you should always be aware of is the level of immersion. In a slide demonstrating how to build a sandwich to a company’s specific standards, you could either have a multiple-choice question asking what order the ingredients go from bottom to top, or you could have an interactive slide where the user has to drag and place those ingredients in the correct order as though they were on the line at that restaurant. Immersion is everything.

Think Creatively

Just like immersion, hearing the line “Click Next to Continue” in the middle of a scenario can sometimes take away from that immersion. Instead of saying “Click Next to Continue” you could prompt the user to click on a new ticket order that just appeared on the screen by saying “Looks like another order just came in, select the order and make the next item.”

You could also prompt the user to continue, or click next, by providing other cues. Perhaps having a customer appear with a highlight or arrow, something to shift the focus. You could also additionally skip the whole cue process by having a scenario continuously progress after each item is completed until the end.


Starting with one of the most effective and most common methods is the scenario slide. Scenario slides can be easily dismissed if they’re not scripted properly. Though a truly unique and complex scenario slide can be one of the most effective tools in your toolbox when creating training materials.

Scenario-based slides shoot straight to the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy by requiring the user to role-play (Creating) or put themselves in the shoes of another individual. Scenarios should first set the scene and really put the user in the situation, the more realistic or practical the situation the more memorable it will be. Scenario slides are a bit of a blanket in gamification because they can include other gamification mechanics throughout them that hit all levels of both Webb’s DOK chart and Bloom’s Taxonomy, or make the overall lesson more enriching and memorable.


What may seem complex, or may not even cross the mind of most, is simply allowing the user to customize the experience of their learning. This can be something as simple as allowing the user to type in their name at the beginning of a course, which then would be used throughout scenarios and the course itself. Though it could be even more detailed in allowing the user to select one of a handful of avatars that will appear in the scenario. Studies suggest that people learn better when they can better relate to the lesson (Cocking & Mestre, 2019; Suina and Smolkin, 1994), avatar selection in scenarios is a great and simple way to help achieve this.

Matching & Sequence

Slides that require users to match or sequence certain elements hit almost every level on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Match and order slides are assessment slides that may require the learner to match terms to definitions or require the learner to arrange the steps of a process in the correct order. While these seem pretty simple, they do require some critical thinking.

Users have to remember the terms or steps, or what was or wasn’t a step in a process. They also have to understand the relationship between those items; what term what to which definition, or what part of the process a certain step is in. Being able to match or order these items requires the user to apply their knowledge and analyze what is being asked. Once they’ve evaluated their options and choices they submit their answer.


Assessment slides that use hotspots require users to implement some more critical thinking and can be a form of scenario-based interactions. Imagine a slide simulating a computer screen. The user is instructed to open a certain program. While simple enough of a task, the user has to remember what the program’s icon looks like, they have to understand where it would be located and apply this knowledge to find it. Then, once opened, the instructions might ask them to complete a specific task, which they will have to analyze the program and evaluate which option is the correct choice, all while creating a role-playing scenario for themselves.

Hotspot assessments can vary on difficulty. You could highlight a handful of options for the user to select, or you could leave the user in a truly realistic hands-on scenario by requiring them to select the option without any guidance. Additionally, you could allow for a hint if the user fails to find the option after so many attempts or if the user is taking longer than anticipated to find the option.

Loss Aversion/Consequences

Basic human psychology shows that no one likes to lose anything. Loss is a great motivator. (Zamir, 2015, pg. 15) Whether it be the user loses their points, achievements, progress, time, etc. having a potential setback is a great way to motivate users to be alert and engaged.

It could simulate how much time they’re taking to respond to a scenario or complete a task; with every so many seconds or minutes, their score goes down. Loss aversion could present itself as going back a few steps in a scenario if the user selects the wrong response or having to repeat a step. It adds risk and reward to what would otherwise not have anything to lose or gain, and could help the user focus and be more engaged.  


We’ve executed this mechanic in numerous courses, and it’s been highly praised. Progress and feedback not only tell a user how they’re doing but add to the mechanic of loss aversion. Progress and feedback could measure how far along a user is in the course, it could measure the amount of time they are taking on a slide, and so on.


Having a scoring system, or some reward system can be incredibly enticing to a user. A restaurant training course could measure scores as tips or a company could measure their score as sales. Goals can be established with this as well so that the user has to reach a certain dollar amount in sales by the end of the scenario. In all reality, these scores are fixed and simply measure either completing something correctly or incorrectly.

Scoring not only hits the reward center in our brains but it also triggers in some to fear of missing out when tied to something realistic or relatable. If a consequence of not performing a task well is not receiving as high of a score (tips or sales) or having to complete additional scenarios (more sales) to reach that goal, the user will be more focused or more engaged in completing the task correctly.

Branching Choices

This mechanic is actions and consequences on a more complex level. In the context of a scenario-based course, branching choices would mean that the scenario branches off with each user selection. So if the user selections Option A instead of Option B, the scenario will change instead of providing automatic feedback that they were correct or incorrect, and vice versa. This drives the narrative of a scenario to a much more enriching and memorable experience. It also caters the eLearning experience to the individual user a bit more.


Again, deep within our brains, we have both a fear of missing out and a need to see things completed. It leaves an itch in our brains if we leave something 70% done. Progression a great way to motivate the user. This could be as simple as allowing the user to unlock another scenario or to expand the scenario. In the context of the restaurant example from earlier, you could start the scenario with the user only working the sandwich section but allow them to “unlock” the salad section through progression. Progression also helps the user see where they started and where they are now. It provides a sense of reward in and of itself.

Boss Battles

This might seem like a stretch, but we all know there are your typical day-to-day scenarios and then your more unique and challenging scenarios that you may encounter every so often. Employees should be ready for anything, even the worst, and that is where “boss battles” come into play.

A boss battle should require all aspects that the training has so far covered and additional critical thinking. It should feel challenging. Whether it’s a scenario with an enraged customer and your manager is called in, a machine that has multiple issues with malfunctioning, or a restaurant order that is large and complex. The more challenging the scenario, the more rewarding it will be to the user.


Another great motivator is leaderboards. When gamifying a presentation in the past, I saw stoic industry professionals with doctorates in their field jumping out of their seat to see their name made it up on the leaderboard. It creates a social aspect to the game, and a bit of bragging rights, for a user to see that they performed so well.

Leaderboards can be done anonymously or with the user-typed name provided. Additionally, leaderboards can be set up to say “You scored in the Top X-Amount of employees!” or to show an actual leaderboard where the names of other course takers will appear by rank. It adds a competitive edge that most training courses would otherwise not have.

The Next Steps

Now, that you know some of the many mechanics for adding gamification to your training courses it may be a good time to go back to the drawing board and ask yourself or your team how you can implement these into your next course or your existing courses.  Gamification is an incredibly powerful tool that can text any training from being a chore to being memorable and effective.  If you have any questions about gamifying a new or existing course, feel free to reach out to us at Allegro Media Design!