Defining competencies via Gamification

• 5 min read

Defining Competencies via GamificationBuild out Learning Competencies through a Gamification Strategy – something simple and something that works!

Competency development is one of the most foundational and tricky areas of learning. Building out good competencies- which map to good learning, that map to good assessment- allows for a full feedback model that you can use to track learner development and understand and address knowledge gaps.

The challenge with delivering training on a competency model after it is built out is that often times it is presented in a way that is much too formal for the average learner to get much use out of.

Many times you have built excellent terminal and enabling objectives, fantastic performance objectives and have spent a good deal of time mapping everything to a learning plan with assessments and gap assessment models built in. When it is presented to your learners they fail to see the blood, sweat and tears that went into this plan and many times just don’t see the beauty of your hard work. Learners most of the time just want to know what training they have to take and how long it will take them.

A strategy that I really like and have implemented in the past is to build out a Gamification model that maps competencies into tangible elements. Using leaderboards, badges, points, a little bit of your travel budget, and some departmental good will, you can build a full competency management program that can motivate your learners just an extra bit and may even be some fun. I like to use this model because you can talk to your learners about tangible things that they can accomplish through the program in a more fun and engaging manner rather than mandatory learning that has to be completed by X day. It creates a positive feedback loop that rewards your learners for doing what they need to, and rewards even further the ones that make the extra effort.

Define your competencies as Badges:

Rather than doing the traditional Interpersonal Communication competency, have a badge for Interpersonal Communication. Jazz it up, make it fun and more importantly, let your learners show it off! Everyone in learning knows that competencies are important however your learners typically are not as interested in them as you may be. They want something tangible. Of course they will get the certificates they can put on the wall but adding a badge (especially combined with the following steps) allows for a more concrete reward and can help in the spirit of friendly competition.

Assign Points:

Badges are great however on their own they don’t mean much.  Assigning a point value to a badge helps signify the value of the task at hand.  A new employee induction training – while mandatory that all employees take it – probably should not be assigned the same point value as a voluntary technical training course, or even more so, a required safety course.

When you are dealing with more technical training material and less general knowledge base or soft skill training material you may want to include a higher value for the learning based upon the requirements of the course curriculum. Badges are still assigned however when you combine the badges with points you deepen the value of the badge.  Having 100 or 200 badges (competencies) worth 5 points is great but not compared to 5 badges worth 400 points each. Points and totals should be displayed on a leader board (as well as being able to be run on a report) to show the top scores for each department/company.

Leader Boards:

These can be great motivators for the competitive members of any team. It clearly shows how everyone is doing and how you rank against the top performing learners. It can be a great way to motivate learners who like to compete, however take into account the fact that it can be demotivating those who are not motivated by how they stack up against others. When used correctly leader boards are a great way to show both team competencies and how the different teams compare across departments. It quickly allows you to see the learning health of your departments and allows for some friendly competition.

Build out a Rewards system based on points:

This whole exercise falls apart if this part isn’t well thought out and implemented. Digital rewards such as badges and points are great however without something more tangible that you can “use or purchase” with these points, or something interesting you can do with these badges (competencies), nothing much has been accomplished.  Imagine that you went to an amusement park and were playing one of the games there. Typically if you do well at one of these games you win a prize – same concept applies here.

Build out your prizes so that everyone has a chance to win something.  Have interesting prizes for competencies that don’t break the bank but are still nice. Even for the non-competitive within the organization it is nice to earn a prize for completing a task (competency).  I often like to create an environment in which there is no ceiling for achievement and you have one prize that is great but requires some solid work. Keep your team motivated but understand that your top engineers will obviously have to take more advanced professional development (from a technical point) then a entry level engineer, however if you incentivize your learning in a way that everyone has the chance to compete and win based on how fast and well they learn and successfully complete training (try to include an application of knowledge element here as well), not only do the more motivated learners get more of the better prizes they also complete more of the competencies allowing them to be eligible for promotion sooner (at the end of the day we want more talented team members).

Make ‘Getting Competencies’ Interesting:

While these are just some thoughts based on some great experiences I have had in the past it is not a ‘one size fits all’ and each organization is different. I have found that many learners do prefer to get recognition, points, and rewards more so than the traditional certificate of completion that is stored in your “file”.  Just be sure that you make it meaningful and well thought out, as well as within your budget for prizes. I like to work with other managers and give Paid Time Off (PTO) for big prizes, or coming in an hour or two late, or leaving early for smaller ones.

While we don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence by attempting overt bribery we do want to make sure that we reward good work. The Learning team of any organization struggles daily with a variety of issues, so focus on making the ‘getting of learning competencies’ completed by teams more enjoyable.

These are just some of my thoughts and I would welcome any feedback or similar positive or negative experiences attempting something like this. Learning happens both ways and feedback is essential for growth!



Josh SquiresJosh Squires is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer of Docebo EMEA.  Josh has spent the past 15 years researching and implementing creative learning solutions within corporate and higher education environments. With clients ranging from Motorola to Disney, he has been on the designing and implementing stage of a wide range of learning scenarios with customers spanning the globe. Josh has also taught Instructional Technology theory and tools as a consultant and faculty member for over 8 years in both Corporate and Higher Education environments.

You can contact him directly via email or connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on twitter at: squires_j