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How to Improve New Hire Integration and Engagement with Onboarding Gamification – Featuring 6 Examples

October 20, 2021 | By Asha Pandey


New employees in today’s hybrid work paradigm hope for purpose, involvement, and growth in their workplace – beyond salary expectations. In this article, I outline how you can successfully meet these expectations through gamified onboarding.

What Are the Challenges of Onboarding Employees in the Hybrid Workplace?

The short answer: Engagement and retention!

A hybrid workplace creates unique employee onboarding challenges. That’s because:

  • New hires are not co-located (on premises) with trainers and mentors.
  • New hires working remotely (typically, from home) may also not have access to the technology or infrastructure required to make optimal use of onboarding trainings.
  • There’s the element of help, support, and motivation that hybrid workplaces cannot provide to onboarded staff at the same level as offered to new hires working entirely on premises.

It’s no wonder that onboarding in a hybrid environment poses such a challenge for engagement and retention. Within the first 45 days of their onboarding experiences, one in five newly hired employees tend to question whether they should quit or continue attempts to fit in their new workplaces. Given that hiring and onboarding is expensive, and a time-consuming process, it’s a huge cost pressure when onboarding results in failure to integrate new inductees into the hybrid workforce.

The challenges many HR managers, and onboarding Leads, face is multidimensional, including:

  • Lack of adequate time, either online or in-person, devoted by managers to newly onboarded staff.
  • Highly compressed onboarding timeframes.
  • Onboarding a multi-generational hybrid workforce may sometimes lead to communication barriers, especially during remotely conducted sessions.
  • Conflicting messages received from virtual and in-person sources.
  • A flood of data received from online and in-person onboarding sessions cause cognitive overload.
  • Divergent expectations from supervisors, managers, and peers working in partially online and partially in-person workplaces.

So, what’s the answer to address these challenges?

Onboarding gamification is one novel way to address some of these issues.

Why Does Onboarding Gamification Work?

The diversity of today’s workforce, and a significant pivot toward a hybrid working environment, means the traditional onboarding process is no longer relevant. Gamified onboarding is an effective supplemental onboarding approach because it not only appeals to (predominantly tech-savvy) employees but also because of its ease of application in hybrid – online, virtual, and in-person – work environments.

Companies embracing onboarding gamification have experienced higher knowledge transfers, better retention rates, improved productivity, and heightened engagement. As a result, new inductees integrate quicker and in greater numbers compared to traditional onboarding approaches.

How to Gamify the Onboarding Experience?

A good gamified onboarding process requires certain mechanics. Delivering a successful gamified onboarding experience requires integrating the development process with the organization’s business objectives. Other elements that lead to onboarding success through gamification include progress tracking, clearly defining the rules of the game, a graduated scale of challenges, meaningful rewards, and a recognition of accomplishments.

These elements of a successful gamified onboarding experience must then be delivered through an appropriate gaming environment and monitored and moderated through a mechanism of frequent feedback.

What Strategies Can You Adopt to Gamify Onboarding?

Because hybrid workforces pose unique challenges, related to both virtual and in-person work environments, they require a set of carefully thought-out gamified employee onboarding strategies to improve the integration of new hires and drive engagement with the onboarding process.

Some gamified onboarding strategies to improve new hire integration include:

  1. Creating highly immersive learning experiences through VR-based gamified learning environments.
  2. Using gaming features, such as leaderboards, points tables, and badges, to motivate a spirit of competitiveness among new hires.
  3. Organizing gaming competitions and challenges among onboarding employees, with suitable rewards and incentives to motivate engagement and participation. Rewards may be honorary titles (Captain, Veteran, etc.) or limited-time special privileges (first dibs at new assignments, extra time to submit end of course projects).
  4. Building team-based gaming assignments so groups of onboarded staff cooperate and coordinate their efforts, hereby promoting better engagement and integration.
  5. Providing more engaging gaming experiences through interactive videos and gamified quizzes.
  6. Customizing your onboarding gamification experience by personalizing the gaming environment based on unique roles, responsibilities, and real-world work-unit (department, section, business unit) settings.

Note: While implementing these gamification strategies can transform onboarding processes and dramatically enhance engagement and new hire integration, we shouldn’t ignore one aspect of these processes – The human touch!

When planning their gamified onboarding, many instructional developers often focus entirely on virtual onboarding. This, effectively, further alienates new hires in a hybrid workforce. Those who primarily work remotely typically don’t experience that “human touch,” where people-to-people interaction occurs. This is a vital element in fostering a sense of integration into new teams.

One way to make hybrid workplace onboarding gamification successful is to use a blended learning environment. This model leverages the ease and benefits of ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning, using pre-recorded instructor-led content; but it also injects elements of human interaction, for instance via instructor-led chat sessions, live moderated discussion groups, and – if necessary – scheduled one-on-one instructor and learner sessions. Using this blended learning approach can supplement the online delivery component effectively.

Examples of Onboarding Gamification

There is no one-size-fits-all example of a “perfect” gamified new employee induction program.

However, here are some onboarding gamification examples that can help drive engagement and foster better integration of newly hired talent:

  1. Learning Portals: Create dedicated learning portals that new employees access during their onboarding process. By combining various elements in the portal, including gamification, microlearning, and personalization, learning portals can inject high degrees of engagement in gamified onboarding.
  2. Responsive Solutions: With millennials (and younger generations) now forming a significant number of new employees, using audience-specific onboarding techniques, such as responsive design and social learning, can significantly enhance new hire integration into the workforce. Elements, such as interactive visual features (as opposed to text and voice only) and gamified assessments, provide for greater engagement in the onboarding process.
  3. Themebased Learning Approaches: Great onboarding gamification examples include approaches such as information layering, interactive content – including interactive videos, gamified assessments, and quizzes – all focused on specific learning themes. These examples not only deliver better learner interaction but also deliver a better gamified onboarding outcome – including engagement and retention.
  4. Immersive Designs: The use of immersive techniques, to deliver onboarding experiences, is a great example of how organizations can achieve better integration outcomes, while also driving up new-hire engagement. The use of 360-degree based videos, to deliver a gamified real-world experience through virtual reality content, is one very effective immersive tactic.
  5. High-recall Visual Imagery: One way to promote engagement is to design your onboarding gamification experiences with high-impact imagery, including illustrated diagrams and infographics depicting real-life work situations. The use of such bold visual content not only helps new inductees memorize and retain learning content but also helps establish a lasting connection with the learning audience.
  6. Story-based Onboarding: Some gripping onboarding gamification examples use work-related storylines to deliver induction-oriented learning experiences in hybrid workplaces. These are supported by compelling narratives, absorbing interactivity, contemporary writing styles and approaches (tailored to a modern audience), and high-powered graphics to engage audiences and fast-track integration into the workforce.

Companies such as Deloitte, Pepsi, and PwC, among others, have adapted these, and other proprietary onboarding gamification examples, to deliver impactful and engaging employee induction programs. As a result, they’ve seen improved new hire integration, greater engagement, and higher levels of motivation among their workforce.

Parting Thoughts

If the ongoing health crisis has taught us anything, it’s that a significant number of participants in today’s workforce prefer a hybrid work arrangement – virtual, online, in-person. We’ve also experienced a paradigm shift in employee expectations – moving away from primarily a monetary one to more engagement, consultation, career progression, participation, and involvement. In such an environment, old-school onboarding and induction approaches are no longer relevant.

I hope my article provides the cues that you can use to offer gamified onboarding and deliver better new hire integration while improving employee engagement and participation in the onboarding process.

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Asha Pandey
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