Gamification: How to train oil and gas industry’s next generation

The E-Reps Forum, an exhibition and conference that puts the spotlight on the environment in the oil and gas industry, takes place at Pittodrie Stadium
The E-Reps Forum, an exhibition and conference that puts the spotlight on the environment in the oil and gas industry, takes place at Pittodrie Stadium

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By Jill Rennie, director of the E-Reps Forum

In 1912, the American Cracker Jack brand included a prize in each bag of its popcorn. This is the first documented example of ‘gamification’: the use of game mechanics in a non-game context to engage consumers. Fast forward several decades and we’ve all enjoyed the toy in a cereal packet or bought more fast food because of a game-based promotion.

Millions of active Fitbit users take this a step further, engaging in real-time competition with family, friends, even strangers. It’s human nature; we like challenges, fun and a prize at the end. The difference is, we’ve handed over our hard-earned cash. We’re surrounded by gamification and don’t even realise.

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So what does this mean to the oil and gas industry and, specifically, environmental training – my area of focus. Today, this is typically delivered through face-to-face classroom courses and traditional computer-based training packages.

Since the human brain retains only 30% of what we see and hear through reading and listening after three weeks, is this the right approach? By ‘doing’ the task and being engaged in the activity, as is the case with an immersive game, we can push this retention up to 90%.

This is because we aren’t programmed to manage large chunks of data in one session. Science tells us that learning is much more efficient when information is delivered in short, spaced-out sessions. This is based on the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve which is supported by another theory called retrieval practice.

Long-term memory is increased when some of the learning process is devoted to returning the information through testing and feedback. Sound familiar? That is because this is what is happening in game play. We play games regularly on our smart phones and tablets for short periods of time, maybe waiting for a bus or sitting on a train, and we get better each time.

Gamification expert Yu-Kai Chou explains the phenomenon of gamification through his Octalysis tool which identifies eight core drivers that make us tick in a learning context. The ‘Accomplishment’ drive feeds the personal gratification we get when we achieve: steps on a fit bit, levels on a game or a score in a training course. It’s why we like leader boards.

‘Epic Meaning and Calling’ is when participants believe that what they are doing is something greater than themselves. In an offshore training context using gamification, your decisions may influence the environmental performance of your installation. You would be doing something for the greater good.

The ‘Unpredictability and Curiosity’ drive is around wanting to know what will happen next. It is why television box sets are so popular and why we just can’t put games down. Imagine if your employees were just as keen to engage on their training regimes? It may well have saved some of the 11,913 notices issued by enforcing bodies in 2016/17 across the UK which in turn led to £69.9million being paid in fines.

By bringing these core drives in to training, users get the dopamine rush: fulfilment of the human desire for immediate feedback with rewards and competition. Learning becomes easier each time you revisit the training as you’re tapping in to the retrieval process, which is three-times more effective than a one-off training session. And 75% of regular gamers agree that playing games provides mental stimulation and education, according to the Association of UK interactive Entertainment (UKIE). We only need look at the games our children are playing to support this.  From the employers’ perspective, they can use behavioural diagnostics from the training analytics to tailor future sessions to focus on lower performing areas.

Gamification is already used by giants of the corporate world including Johnson and Johnson, Toyota and Bloomingdales. This is not just for gamers who have to go to work. This has cost effective tangible benefits.  By 2022, £8.1bn will be spent on so called ‘serious gaming’ which represents a 26% year-on -year growth – the highest in the training sector.

This is the next generation in training and workforce engagement and we must embrace the change to satisfy the next generation of millennial leaders who expect digitisation and demand to work wherever and whenever. 

Jill Rennie, is the director of the E-Reps Forum, an exhibition and conference that puts the spotlight on the environmental dimension of the oil and gas sector. The all-day event takes place at Pittodrie Stadium on Wednesday, October 3 (2018). Level Up, a new business launched by Jill and business partner Rosa Ceberio, will host a demo of its first serious game – The Rubbish Game – where users, wearing a VR headset, gain an understanding of the importance of recycling and waste segregation.

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