BearBuild Industries hired 50 campus recruits. After four days of onboarding, the new recruits, all millennials, had the following thoughts:

“Did I make the right choice joining BearBuild?”

“I thought the work would be exciting, but if the training is this boring, I dread to think what the actual work will be like.”

“Should I take out my resume again?”

“What good are these safety rules to our daily work? Why spook us in the first week by talking about rare accidents?”

Within one month, 10 of the new employees suffered minor injuries, and two of them had near-fatal accidents.

One reason some training programs are ineffective is that there is a gap between the actual work and what the training covers. Especially in an industry like construction, where health and safety are of utmost importance, a traditional training approach is bound to have limitations, because it does not replicate the dangers and risks involved in the work.

Self-paced courses have inadequacies, too. An online video or course on health and safety is often designed for recall, when it should focus on application. Simply put, in an industry where on-the job “learning by doing” is the key to success, the construction industry is still focused on old training methods, where an instructor unleashes a lot of information on workers and expects them to understand all of it in their first week on the job.

As learning professionals, the question we must ask ourselves is whether we can make learning interesting and relevant, so that learners look forward to applying it at work.

In 2007, a North Carolina resident named Paxton Galvanek claimed that playing the video game “America’s Army” helped him provide critical medical aid to the injured victims of a car accident. One of the people he helped had lost his fingers.

“I have received no prior medical training and can honestly say that because of the training and presentations within America’s Army, I was able to help and possibly save the injured men,” Galvanek said.

It isn’t difficult to bring this type of impactful training to the construction industry. We just need to commit to creating engaging, informative and immersive safety training. Developing such training may raise training costs a bit, but if you look at injury- and attrition-related costs, you will see how you can save money by adding game elements to training. Here’s how:

Make It Fun? Scratch That; Make It Challenging

Gamified training programs are often focused at engagement and fun. In reality, however, the more challenging a training is, the more invested the learners would be. Game mechanics can help bridge this gap. Consider the following elements to make your training more challenging:

Mission

Setting a target makes learners willing to go the extra mile to complete the training. Build your training around a realistic mission, like saving co-workers from a boulder that is about to crush them.

Competition

A healthy competition keeps the learners hooked. Add elements such as leaderboards and the ability for learners to challenge their colleagues. The corporate world is full of competition; the same can be true of training.

Extrinsic Motivation

Entice learners stay continue in the training program by giving them external rewards, such as coins for completing missions, challenging co-workers and winning, or even logging in every day. You can also make the coins redeemable for monetary or other rewards.

Video games often use experience points (XPs) to reward progress. In training, XPs might show how many missions a learner has completed or how many times a learner has passed a test with his or her first attempt.

Collaborative Learning

Workers in the construction industry have two safety objectives: their own safety and the safety of their co-workers. Create group missions where learners must help each other and where everyone pays the price if one learner fails.

Experiencing the World

Gamification can also involve exploring the “real world” in a virtual context.

Augmented Reality (AR)

It used AR. Augmented reality superimposes digital images onto real-world surroundings (think Pokémon Go). It is becoming more common in training; for example, in the medical field, learners can use AR to explore the human body. This technology can be used to train learners in the construction industry, too; for example, with AR, learners can experience each step in building a specific type of structure.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality presents an artificial environment in such a way that the user suspends disbelief and experiences it almost as if it were real. VR can help train construction workers about the impact of a mistake. Once they put on their VR headsets, they are immersed in a construction site, where they can spot potential accidents.

Adding game elements to training can motivate workers to learn and help them understand how to avoid and respond to mistakes. Training should not undermine the consequences of a mistake, but it should give workers a safe zone where they can make as many mistakes as they can and learn from them. After all, once they’re on a real site, there aren’t any safe zones.

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