In learning gamification we often receive the request to create engagement for the existing content. Either hosted on a learning management system, a website, SharePoint, or other content management systems. The missing information typically is, why are your people not using it? Here are the steps I recommend before even entering into any gamification design work.
Is it their objective?
In the corporate world, a lot of focus is put on achieving job objectives or key result, key performance indicators. Very rarely do they include, consume existing learning content. Nor would that actually make a lot of sense if the content is not specifically addressing performance outcomes the individual has to deliver on for their day job.
In most companies, you have a spread of individuals are at different stages of their development and for some, the existing content is not actually relevant or helpful. And for some individuals, it isn’t clear that a certain piece of content may address their performance issue.
In our work with larger organisations, we often find that this mismatch in objectives is at the core of content not being used. People just want to keep their head down and get their day job done. It is only when they are truly stuck and nobody is around that searching for content becomes a must do. Very likely their first port of call is not internal but rather a search engine online.
Can they find it with their search terms?
When the learning and development team is closely aligned with the business and working to provide specific support to create business outcomes, the problem is often findability. How learning describes a solution, may not be the way an employee searches for it and hence never finds. I personally feel there is a case to be made for find optimisation of internal content libraries, in a similar way how websites use search engine optimisation to be found for relevant content.
Social media platforms are training us to add in hashtags for findability. Most search engine tools have ways of identifying the most frequently sought after keywords, how about the same for internal searches?
When we do user surveys, I am often fascinated by how little the L&D team is aware of the search terms or way in which people in their companies consume content. Add to that the type of format people want the content in. It all relates to truly understanding your existing customers. You may have more than one user persona, either way, you need to know which persona they are, what their likely search terms are and their preferences in terms of content consumption.
If one nugget answers my question, why would I want to take a whole course?
Most learning teams by the very nature of how work is structured want to create wholesome packages. It is often how learning work is sourced with e-learning outsourced providers. Key learning objectives, length of content and then followed by iterations of a high-level concept into a storyboard and then it ends up in production. At this point, the original question and reason for the creation of the course may well be far lost in translation.
When the end-product is then uploaded in the content management system and presented back to the users, the response if often… Oh but that’s not what I was looking for. Sometimes a quick answer to a specific question is more useful than a whole course on a related topic.
If one first search, the end-user finds the exact answer to their problem. The chances of them coming back are not high unless they spotted something useful for later. Think about it in the same way as the Amazon recommendation system, where if you bought one specific book you may also want to consider a range of others. To me recommendations based on existing searches are a must have architecture in today’s content management systems.
Either way don’t assume that if they found the answer they are bought into coming back. And if they didn’t find the answer in your systems, they will be even less likely to come looking there next time.
What is engagement?
When we get asked about making our existing content more engaging, we need to understand what engagement actually means in the client’s eyes. We also need to know what it means in the eyes of the end-user. They may be totally different concepts. As a gamification company, we don’t always suggest gamification as the only solution and if there is a better other one way then that will form part of our recommendations.
Let’s assume for this purpose that engagement does equate to adding gamification into the mix. Then my first question is still “why does your learner learn?” followed by “how does your learner learn best?”. Most of the time this becomes a user research piece.
Gamification as a way to increase engagement can only work if the content is relevant and presented in a way that appeals and fits the learner. A rating mechanic for content may help you get the answers to what people find relevant and useful a lot quicker. Creating pathways with game elements thrown in can prove very effective if the learner has the time and space to follow this, if they are out for a quick fix, gamification may just frustrate them.
Engagement, as well as gamification design, require a solid approach. Finding out what is truly troubling your learner and their lack of interest or time should always be the starting point. Their performance indicators for their job matter more and if learning doesn’t support the performance indicators they will not go there voluntarily.
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