Achievement Unlocked: How Leaderboards Can Power Workforce Transformation

June 16, 2023 | Reskill Your Workforce | 5 min read

Leaderboards offer a simple but potent way to boost learner engagement and supercharge reskilling and upskilling efforts.

Given the choice, most of us would rather play a game than take a class. It’s not a matter of laziness or an aversion to learning. In fact, people like learning — so much so that development opportunities are among employees’ top priorities when deciding whether to stay with a company.

But playing games reduces stress, boosts motivation and creativity, and makes us feel good overall. It’s no wonder that after a long day at work, many of us would rather shoot hoops or boot up the PlayStation than crack open a book.

But what if people could get the same mood-lifting benefits from skilling as they do from a friendly round of Scrabble? Thanks to gamification, they can.

“Gamification” means adding game design elements, like competition and scoring systems, to non-game areas, like employee learning. Research shows that gamified learning environments tend to be more engaging to learners, and game-based education can lead to lasting improvements in cognitive ability.

That’s good news for executives of enterprises who are investing significant amounts of time and money into upskilling and reskilling opportunities to conquer their skills gaps. Organizations need their employee learning programs to get results, and gamification can get learners to consume more content, participate in more live skilling experiences, and retain more of what they’ve learned. In short, gamified learning helps organizations maximize their investments in skills transformation.

Of course, that raises some important questions. How exactly should organizations gamify learning? What game design elements are most effective at engaging learners?

There are many ways a company can make learning and development more like a game, such as goal-oriented challenges and points-based rewards, to name just a couple. Today, we will focus on one element of gamification that doesn’t always get as much attention as it should: leaderboards.

How Leaderboards Drive Learner Engagement and Outcomes

Put simply, a leaderboard is a visual representation of the rankings or scores of players in a game. Almost everyone has seen a leaderboard before, usually in the context of sports or competitive video games. We often think of them in purely practical terms, an easy way to track who’s winning.

But according to one study, leaderboards are more than just a way of keeping tabs on teams in a tournament. They’re one of the most effective gamification elements in learning. Leaderboards can be powerful motivators. They give learners clear goals to strive for, boosting their engagement and encouraging them to return to a skilling program. Let’s take a closer look at how.

  • Leaderboards encourage a sense of healthy competition

In a learning program, leaderboards can be used to track several things. For example, at Skillsoft, we’re rolling out two new leaderboards. One ranks learners according to how many Digital Badges they have earned, and the other ranks them based on how much content they’ve completed. (Note that the leaderboards will only track employees within a single organization — not across organizations.)

These rankings create a sense of healthy competition between learners by allowing them to track their progress. When employees see how they’re doing compared to their colleagues and teammates, they have a target they can use to guide their learning efforts going forward.

This competition can even motivate learners to reach greater heights, thanks to “the rival effect,” a well-established phenomenon in sports. It refers to the fact that competitors perform better and achieve higher scores at events where their rivals are present. In the realm of employee development, employees can use friendly rivalries as fuel to consume more content, earn more Digital Badges, and improve their skills overall.

  • Leaderboards create a sense of community

“But wait,” you might be thinking. “If employees see each other as rivals, won’t that harm team cohesion?”

In truth, it’s exactly the opposite. Friendly competition encourages a sense of camaraderie by transforming learning from an isolated activity into a shared social experience. For employees, a leaderboard is a constant reminder that they’re all in this together, learning side-by-side to sharpen their own skills and help the company succeed. When employees feel this sense of belonging at work, they tend to perform better overall.

  • Leaderboards create a sense of accomplishment

As mentioned above, leaderboards give learners an easy, visual way to track their own progress. This is powerful because it gives them solid goals to strive for, like reaching a certain rank or “besting” a rival. As we know from years of research, people are more likely to achieve goals that are clear and concrete.

Leaderboards also allow learners to reflect on their achievements and feel a sense of accomplishment. This can activate the brain’s reward centers, releasing dopamine that motivates employees to keep investing in their learning and climbing those rankings.

For added learner engagement, employees can set their own weekly learning goals in Skillsoft and achieve streaks by meeting those goals. Each learner also gets a personalized achievements page, where their accomplishments are recorded in one convenient location.

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Engaged Learners Are the Key to Skills Transformation

An enterprise-wide skills transformation is a collaborative effort. On the one hand, employers must invest in skilling opportunities to help employees cultivate the skills they need to succeed. Employees, for their part, need to actively participate in the reskilling and upskilling opportunities available to them. Engaged learners are a fundamental part of any successful transformation effort.

At Skillsoft, we know gamification helps organizations maximize their learning investments. That’s why we’re adding leaderboards to our platform. This new functionality offers two boards, one for digital badges and one for course completions. Learners will be able to see their rankings in a given month, in the context of their team, or across their organization.

Leaderboards help learners stay inspired and motivated to keep investing in their development. They give learners concrete goals to aim for, foster community, and build a sense of pride and accomplishment. That, in turn, helps your organization stay competitive and poised for innovation in a rapidly changing world.

Ready to learn more about how leaderboards can drive learner engagement and workforce transformation? Talk to your Skillsoft account team today.