Instead of corporate training being a chore, Waterloo, Ont.-based Axonify is using gamification to not only make it fun, but help ensure that people actually retain the information imparted.
With customers such as Toys”R”Us Canada, Bloomingdale’s and Walmart, Axonify develops web-based corporate training merged with gaming designed to make learning a fun, ongoing activity for employees. Carol Leaman, Axonify’s president and CEO, said the original impetus for the company was a customer that said “we need something fresh and engaging for our employees so they actually learn the things we need them to know.”
The challenge was how do you take something that’s otherwise really boring for the employee and make it so they want to do it every day, while acquiring nuggets of information that’s useful to the employer. That was the goal of Axonify’s co-founders, two marketing professionals doing communications work for a large customer in the U.S. They were writing training materials on workplace safety and decided games may help employees retain more of the information.
Four years ago the founders hired some developers, gave them the idea and set them to work and Leaman said the resulting solution worked extremely well.
“They were able to get voluntary participation every day and changed employee behaviour in significant ways,” said Leaman. “It was a basic idea of what if we just made it fun, like a gambling game. They had no gamification expertise because it didn’t really exist then.”
With Axonify’s software, every time an employee logs into the training program they select a game to play. Designed with the science of game mechanics in mind, they select one of the many games available, such as brain teasers, arcade games, Angry Bird-style games or Jeopardy-style quiz games. Irrespective of the game choice, the content targeted to the individual is the same. It’s designed to be used for a few minutes every day.
The corporate knowledge is embedded in the game they choose, and Leaman said game mechanics are employed to increase the level of arousal in the brain and have the employee feel they’re being challenged and rewarded. They get points for games played and questions answered between games that they can redeem for tangible prizes on an eBay-style auction site. They can also see leaderboards with the performance of other employees.
“Employees love the experience because rather than just being thrown into the job being expected to know things and feel stressed that they don’t, we employ brain science in terms of memory creation,” said Leaman. “The top reason employees say they get on the game every day voluntarily is not the rewards. Consistently, they say it’s because it helps them do their job better and makes them smarter.”
By inserting corporate training and questions in small doses between the gameplay, Leaman said Axonify made a deliberate decision to avoid scenario or quest-based gaming that would require extensive development to maintain as curriculums change. Instead, the solution can easily be deployed for and maintained by different clients.
“We use games as an engagement tool and three minutes of fun for the employee. The core learning they need to know doesn’t change from person to person,” said Leaman. “That allows our customers to employ gamification in an effective way at a low cost.”
So far, successful implantations for Axonify have included the John Hancock and Ceridian in the financial services space, as well as retailer Walmart, which focused on health and safety and was able to reduce reportable events in their 120 U.S. distribution centres by 54 per cent.
“We can provide a very measurable return on investment routed on the behavioural change of the employee,” said Leaman.