Designing game-based training programs can be difficult. It’s easy to fixate on your training objectives and forget to make your training fun. You can also spend too much time making the program enjoyable and end up with a game that doesn’t really teach anything.

Even if you do find the right balance between fun and educational, you still might end up with a training program that doesn’t work. Your employees might think that it’s boring or doesn’t apply to them.

It can sound overwhelming, but here are a few planning tips that can make it easier to design a successful game-based training program.

1) Focus on Motivation

The first step to driving repeat plays is to understand what motivates your employees. Then you can design training games that appeal to those motivations and maximize engagement.

For example, sales teams are typically motivated by competition. Effective sales training games for this audience could include features that drive friendly competition, like leaderboards. These features keep salespeople coming back to try to work their way up the leaderboard and beat their colleagues.

Employees aren’t all going to have the same motivators, but you should design your training program with a general understanding of your employees’ motivations in mind. This focus will help you make the game addictive, drive ongoing engagement, educate employees and improve retention.

2) Make it Challenging

When things are too easy or dull, people grow bored and annoyed. When things are too hard, people become overwhelmed and frustrated. The key to keeping engagement rates high is starting them at a level that is just right.

Begin with an aptitude test, like a quiz or a quick scenario game. Then start players at different levels based on their prior knowledge so they can learn at their own speed.

No one’s left behind if they don’t understand. No one’s too nervous to admit they don’t understand. And no one’s bored and thinking, “This is so easy; why are we still talking about it?”

3) Put Your Employees at the Center

If people don’t understand why they should care, they tune out.

It’s why no one paid attention in calculus.

For employees to buy into training, they need to understand what’s in it for them. How does this training apply to their day-to-day routines? Why should they care?

Unfortunately, simply explaining these reasons isn’t going to help.

The best way to increase buy-in is to follow the old “show, don’t tell” mantra. Don’t lecture your employees about why they should care. Let them figure it out themselves.

Scenarios and simulations are the best ways to help them understand. They bridge the gap between training and application, so it’s easy for employees to understand why the training is important.

4) Reward Them for Learning

Reward your employees for reaching certain milestones in your training games. Rewards give people a sense of accomplishment that makes them want to keep playing.

Rewards could be simple, like getting to play a quick non-educational game when they complete a training module. They could be tied to the main training game, much like in a video game, where you receive better equipment or resources as you progress. They could even be an extrinsic reward, like a chance to win an extra day of vacation.

Regardless of what you choose as a reward, make sure it fits with what you identified as the primary motivator for your team. If your employees don’t care about it, they won’t work to achieve it.

Designing effective game-based training programs can be challenging. It’s easy to get off track early in the planning process and make decisions that negatively impact the results of your program.

That’s why it’s important to find out what motivates your employees, build a challenging game that puts them at the center and reward them for learning.

Don’t just jump into game-based training. Give yourself the time you need to ensure that your program will be both entertaining and effective.