Gamification: Not Just Fun, but a Serious HR Tool. McDonald’s and E.on’s Experience
Gamification: Not Just Fun, but a Serious HR Tool. McDonald’s and E.on’s Experience

Gamification: Not Just Fun, but a Serious HR Tool. McDonald’s and E.on’s Experience

Learning has been going through some exciting changes over the last two decades. We have seen the development of e-learning, MOOCs, Learning Apps and organisations are now looking into haptic technologies in order to develop vocational skills of the future.

Giles O’Halloran – freelance HR Professional & Digital HR Strategist, freelance HR consultant at go2-work, a freelance associate at CIPD.  You can contact Giles via e-mail or his LinkedIn page.

Technology has played a huge part in changing the way we develop and deliver learning, but the behaviours and ways in which people learn have also had to adapt.  We understand more about the way we think, learn, interact etc. than ever before and this is why we are looking at more self-directed and interactive learning techniques such as gamification in order to encourage, reinforce or activate learning.

I must admit, I am fascinated by the concept of gamification and hence why I chose to focus on this and digital learning as key subject matters at the recent CIPD L&D conference at Olympia. So let me share a few learns with you from the gamification session.

Gamification. Some central concepts

Gamification is not just about making learning fun. Gamification is a great way to help people subconsciously re-evaluate their behaviours as well as develop competencies through an engaging and interactive learning environment.

Gamification is for Gen Z. Wrong! Recent statistics prove that 60% of all UK gamers are over 25. Gaming as an interest or past time is now a multigenerational and pervasive practice. This is why it can be a very useful addition to the learning portfolio.

Gamification needs to be pragmatic. It is imperative that the gamification of learning is practical and appropriate to the learner and the organisation. It shouldn’t just be done because “it’s fun” – it should be a part of a blended approach and it has to focus on addressing learning needs.

Gamification will not solve every learning need. As with all learning, there are different styles and preferences – so gamification should be used to compliment the learning portfolio, but it should not be treated as a panacea. It will engage and drive some, but not everyone in the organisation.


Gamification = drives concepts + capabilities + communication

We were very lucky to be able to see how gamification has been implemented by two organisations – McDonald’s and E.on. Each organisation developed a different strategy and a way of doing things that were tailored to the specific needs of their audiences:

McDonald’s – proved how a till training app had not only improved staff capability and confidence, but it actually went viral!  They also demonstrated a new, 3D restaurant manager training game (launching in September of this year) that had been developed to help train the next generation of managers through a more decentralised, interactive and personalised learning framework.


E.on has created a complete, interactive, township learning environment called “Eon-ville” that helps train staff to understand different functions and work carried out by the organisation. The game has increased the awareness and the value of work done at different levels by colleagues across the organisation. It has also helped develop a more holistic approach to customer servicing (internally and externally).

Lessons learned:

Both organisations used gamification to create opportunities for their employees to learn new skills, knowledge and behaviours that apply to the work they do, but in a way that helps them understand their role in the wider context. The learning was engaging and ensured those participating enjoyed the whole experience, often allowing for collaboration and knowledge sharing whilst playing. However, what mattered most was that each app could be tailored to meet the learning needs of the individual and in alignment with the organisation’s learning strategy.

What to consider when using Gamification

The organisations profiled above looked at different things that were relevant to them and their learning communities when considering gamification. This is a key point to be thought through – the game needs make sense and be applicable to the organisation and the learner.

So let’s look at a few ideas that might help you.

McDonalds looked at three key design elements taken from Dan Pink’s “Drive” – the motivational trifecta:

  • Autonomy – allow the learner to be in control of the learning experience;
  • Mastery – the game experience needs to improve capability, confidence and awareness; and
  • Purpose – it needs to teach knowledge or behaviours that matter to the role and the organisation.

Whereas E.on looked at the following aspects when designing “Eon-ville”:

  • Impact – the experience had to make a difference to behaviours or capabilities;
  • Understand Consequences – the game needed to teach the learner what could or would happen if things did not work and what the impact could be;
  • Realistic – the more realistic and applicable the learning experience, the more people were likely to learn effective work lessons through playing;
  • Thought Provoking – it made the learner/player think about realistic situations and scenarios in order to develop the right solutions, mindsets, and capabilities to make their work more effective;
  • Engaging – it needed to be able to “pull” the learner into the game and maintain the learning experience;
  • Cross Cultural – they had to be mindful of concepts and design to ensure the game experience would appeal to a diverse population; and
  • Scenarios – it had to build in likely or probable scenarios that the learner could or would experience as part of their role.

So as you can see, each organisation had to consider the aspects that were relevant to the aims of their learning experiences. However, hopefully they might provide you with some useful pointers if you are considering gamification going forward.


A final point – It’s not just about tech!

When people think about gamification, they imagine apps and games on mobile devices to support learning. However, in reality for years we have used methods like role playing to gamify and realise the learning experience. McDonald’s has even gone so far as to create a board game to help train staff – a new concept to some of their staff but one that has gained traction. The simple fact is that you don’t need to rely on tech to make gamification happen.

Technology is just one tool or way of distributing the learning experience, and there are other ways that may better suit your organisation, culture and capabilities. However, you need to consider the learning styles and mindset of your staff to craft the most engaging and appropriate learning solutions.

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