How to Make Onboarding Training Fun & Exciting for New Employees

You’ve just spent weeks (maybe months) looking for the perfect new candidate.

You’re excited. They’re excited.

You’re both hoping this is the perfect fit. 

Then you hand them a printed worksheet, an LMS course, or worse — send them to a full day instructor led session for onboarding training.

Your new employee went from excited to bored in a snap.

Not great, right?

Organizations have been stepping up their game when it comes to orientation, giving employees cool swag, team parties, and onboarding buddies — but the training part of the onboarding process is often forgotten.

Your onboarding training is an important part of your new employees’ first impression. And outdated courses that overwhelm employees with too much information all at once don’t create a great impression of your organization’s investment in employee growth. 

That’s why many organizations are turning to a game-based approach to onboarding training.

Why Use Game-Based Training for Onboarding?

First of all, there’s no getting around that full day classroom sessions and LMS courses aren’t the most engaging kind of training.

In fact, most employees would call them boring.

The point of onboarding training is to quickly get new hires up-to-speed so they become productive faster. But you also want to make sure you’re making a good impression with new employees (so they stick around).

Game-based training helps you achieve both of those goals by making your training fun — and more manageable for new employees.

Most game-based training is broken up into smaller bite-sized sessions. This makes it easier for new employees to learn and retain your onboarding content. Instead of blasting them with full day sessions, content is prioritized and structured so they learn the basics then expand on those over time. 

Game-based training also uses best practices from cognitive psychology to make sure your employees learn, remember, and apply more of the information provided in training. The microlearning structure also helps new hires learn faster — getting them job-ready quicker. 

Plus, game-based training makes your onboarding programs engaging and modern. Which is definitely a better first impression than a boring LMS course.

3 Expert Tips for Effective Game-Based Onboarding Training

Game-based training can be a great way to make your onboarding training more engaging and effective — but only if it’s applied correctly.

You can’t just add points and badges and expect miracles. 

With that in mind, here are 3 pro tips to help you build an effective game-based onboarding course.

1) Make Sure You Use Game-Based Training Not Gamification

There is a difference between game-based training and gamification. Make sure you are using the right one (hint: it’s game-based training). 

Gamification is just adding game elements onto existing content. And I think we can all agree that giving new employees points for reading a PDF isn’t a great way to get them engaged with the training content — especially when those points have no context or value in the real-world.

Game-based training on the other hand transforms that PDF content into a game, so employees learn as they play. It’s a more active style of learning, and this helps improve learning outcomes and increase employee engagement. 

2) Match Your Content to Your Game-Type

Not all games are made equally, so when you are designing your game-based courses it’s important to consider the content you want employees to learn and select an appropriate game style.

For example, if you are creating a course on customer service skills, you probably don’t want to use a lot of quiz format games. Instead you’d use game modules like role-play scenarios that let you simulate consumer interactions. The format of the role-play game is better suited to the content in this case because it’s soft-skill based. It’s easier to develop your customer service skills by practicing interacting with customers than by taking quizzes on appropriate responses.

On the flip side, if you are creating a course on information security policies, you probably want to use more of the quiz format games than the role-play scenarios, since the goal of the course is more knowledge based than soft-skill based. There’s an absolute correct answer in many cases, which suits the style of a quiz game better than something that allows for more nuance (like a role-play scenario).

3) Align Game Narratives with Company Culture

Beyond aligning content to game style, you also want to align your game narrative to your company culture.

Ideally, your onboarding training will help new hires understand and buy-into company goals and values. An easy way to accomplish this is by nesting company ideals into relevant game narratives so as employees play and progress they are exposed to the values and goals of your company.

For example, if you are a financial institution you’d maybe build a game that challenges employees to level up a virtual bank by adding digital products. As they add digital products to their virtual bank, employees would see it grow and improve. This helps subtly impart the goals of the financial institution (transitioning to digital banking transactions) to new hires.

The Bottom Line

Game-based training can help improve your onboarding training by making it more engaging and fun for new hires — improving their first impression of your company. Game-based training also helps get new hires productive faster; using best practices from cognitive psychology to speed up learning and improve retention of training content.

Just remember, game-based training isn’t a miracle fix. It’s a strategy.

Select appropriate game-modules for the content you need to teach, create relevant game narratives for your organization, and make sure you are transforming your content into games — not just adding unrelated points, badges and leaderboards to your existing content.