Gamification Plays Well in Construction Employee Training

by: Smith and Howard

October 6, 2015

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 “Gamification” is a perhaps odd word that’s gained acceptance in business circles recently. In its most general sense, the term refers to integrating characteristics of game-playing into business-related tasks as a way to excite and engage the people involved. Does the concept have a place in the construction industry? More than likely, the answer is “yes.”

Internal focus

Sometimes gamification refers to customer interactions. For example, a retailer might award customers points for purchases that they can collect and use toward discounts. Or a company might offer product-related games or contests on its website to generate traffic and visitor engagement.

But, these days, businesses are more commonly using gamification internally. That is, they’re using it to:

  • Engage employees in training processes,
  • Promote friendly competition and camaraderie among employees, and
  • Ease the recognition and measurement of progress toward shared goals.

It’s not hard to see how creating positive experiences in these areas might improve the morale and productivity of any workplace. As a training tool, games can help employees learn more quickly and easily. Moreover, with the rise of social media, many workers are comfortable sharing with others in a competitive setting. And, from the employer’s perspective, gamification opens up all kinds of data-gathering possibilities to track training initiatives and measure employee performance.

Construction applications

In the construction business, employee training is likely your biggest opportunity to reap the benefits of gamification. Because the industry tends to attract relatively young people, at least for on-site crews, its workforce may be especially receptive to game-based learning.

For example, safety training is an area that demands constant reinforcement. But it’s also possible that workers will tune out on the topic. Framing safety updates and exercises within game scenarios, in which participants might win or lose ground by following safe or unsafe work practices, is one way to liven up the process.

Game-style simulations can also help prepare employees for project management roles. Online training simulations, set up as games, can test participants’ decision-making and problem-solving skills — and allow them to see the potential consequences of various actions before granting them such responsibilities in the field. You might also consider rewards-based games for managers based on meeting schedules, staying within budgets or preventing work-related accidents.

Operator training

Construction equipment manufacturers and contractors alike have begun employing video-game-style simulations to help train equipment operators. Young trainees who have grown up using game controllers and monitors to simulate racing cars, shoot zombies and call football plays are quickly gaining skills and confidence in these sessions.

And, by not using actual machines for initial operator training, the construction companies involved are saving money on instructor costs, fuel consumption, and wear and tear on the equipment in question.

Intended effects

Naturally, gamification has its risks. You don’t want to “force fun” or frustrate employees with unreasonably difficult games. Doing so could actually lower morale, waste time and money, and undercut training effectiveness.

To mitigate the downsides, involve management and employees in any gamification initiative to ensure you’re on the right track. Also, consider involving a professional training consultant to implement the training and your financial advisor to keep costs in line.

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