How Gamification in Security Awareness Training Increases Engagement

How Gamification Increases Employee Engagement in Security Awareness Training

Consider this scenario. A security manager has been struggling for years to sustain a consistent security awareness program, but adoption has never taken off. She’s tried everything: shorter courses, longer compliance windows, even incentives, but nothing seems to work. Constant training reminders are eating up her time, employees are apathetic and the leadership team is on the brink of re-allocating her training budget. She’s frustrated because, while she knows that a consistent program is crucial to her company’s security, she has no idea how to get her employees engaged.

Gamification can help!

Gamification in security awareness training has gained popularity in recent years as a motivational strategy. With gamification, standard training is converted into a format that resembles –– you guessed it –– a game. Gamified courses may utilize points, leaderboards, badges, puzzles, scenarios and timing rewards. They all share a common goal: to make training more engaging and fun while simultaneously promoting learning.

How does it work?

By its design, gamification increases engagement because it feels more like playing than studying. In addition, because gamified training adds gaming elements to traditional eLearning design, most users find increased interest in the content that is being presented. In a gamified course, users must participate more actively; rather than just clicking through slides and answering periodic questions, they’re faced with interactive scenarios, clocks to beat and more sophisticated navigation. While they may not be participating in a “true” game, users often find themselves caught up in the scenarios or competition, while at the same time absorbing the information and mastering the behaviors embedded in the learning.

Benefits of gamification in security awareness training

Gamification also takes advantage of competition and rewards to motivate learners. Earning points, beating the clock, or achieving a higher score than other users releases endorphins in most users, providing immediate gratification and encouraging them to continue participating.  In a traditional course, the only “reward” might be a passing score on a quiz or a certificate of completion. With gamified training, users can feel a real sense of accomplishment and even happiness after doing well on a course in competition with their peers.

Finally, both engagement and increased motivation work together to improve content retention. This is where many traditional security awareness training programs really struggle. Even if users are required to complete mandatory training, much of that content won’t make it into long-term memory. However, with gamified training, because users are more engaged with the content, are often proud of doing well and may even be motivated to replay a game to increase their score, retention is likely to be higher. If the ultimate goal of the training program is to improve organizational security, then this increase in retention plays a crucial role.

Implementing a gamified program

Considering these benefits, it’s no wonder that many security awareness programs have migrated from “traditional” eLearning designs to gamified training. But how, exactly, should you implement gamification in your own program? The most important task is to assess your company culture. Not all gamified training is created equally. Types of gamification vary widely and are often geared to different learning styles and personalities. Consider what will best motivate your employees. Will they be excited and encouraged by speed, competition and leaderboards, or would they be more comfortable with a lower-stakes, less competitive but more mentally challenging puzzle? What are the demographics of your organization? Are your users primarily Millennials or Gen-Z, or are they in their 40s and 50s? More than half of younger people have played games either occasionally or frequently for most of their lives, and will have higher expectations for the gamification experience than their older colleagues. They’re also probably more likely to enjoy highly competitive gameplay. The key takeaway? Do your research before you start planning your security awareness training program. Making the correct decision here could make a huge difference in the success of your gamified training deployment.

Finding gamification in a security awareness program

Once you’ve done the initial research, it’s crucial to choose a security awareness training provider to support your training strategy and help you further develop and grow your overall program. Ideally, this provider should have experience with both traditional eLearning and gamification, so that they can consult with you as you decide how and when to implement gamification, as well as what style of gamification will best suit your organization’s needs. For example, it may or may not make sense to immediately convert all training to a gamified format. A qualified security awareness training provider should be able to help you decide when, how, and how much training to gamify.

Global Learning Systems has over 30 years of experience in the eLearning field, and has helped hundreds of customers choose and deploy both traditional and gamified training content. For more information on gamification and how to choose the right training for your organization, contact us today.

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