Humans love to play and compete. While measuring your self-worth against your peers isn’t always a healthy habit, competition allows people to satisfy their need to win and stand out. It motivates them to put greater effort into achieving peak levels of performance, often in exchange for rewards.

Workplace gamification is all about leveraging healthy competition to improve employee engagement. Gamification involves the use of game mechanics such as rewards, recognition, role-playing, challenges, leaderboards and badges to give employees a greater incentive to hit individual and company goals.

Often used by sales managers for motivating reps to hit their quarterly targets, gamification is also an especially useful strategy for cybersecurity teams to bolster company-wide defenses.

Given that 82% of data breaches involve a human element, and that cybersecurity is often deemed unexciting and overlooked by busy employees, using gamification in cybersecurity training can make all the difference in safeguarding company data.

Let’s explore four great ways cybersecurity teams can implement gamification to make training programs more effective and engaging.

Use AI-based Phishing Simulations

Phishing and social engineering are two of the most common types of cyberattacks. And with the increasing sophistication of such attacks, there’s no software solution capable of filtering them all out.

Ultimately, your organization’s defense against these dark arts is only as strong as your employees’ phishing awareness. All it takes is one uninformed employee to unwittingly respond to a phishing email that appears legit, and all your cybersecurity investments are rendered futile.

So, effective employee education is pivotal to successfully combat phishing threats.

Typically, cybersecurity teams use simulated phishing emails to train employees on how to spot the subtle signs of a potential attack. While these are effective, such generalized training doesn’t differentiate between less and more experienced employees. This often leads to experienced employees becoming discouraged by the beginner-level details, while the inexperienced bunch risk getting overwhelmed by exercises that are beyond their current competence.

That’s where using an AI-powered phishing simulation tool can help.

For example, Hoxhunt uses cognitive automation to boost phishing awareness with gamification features. The platform uses people-first algorithms that continuously adapt the training content to each employee’s skill level and send targeted phishing simulation emails to each individual.

Its personalized dashboard encourages employees to continually advance their cybersecurity skills by offering gamified tasks and challenges. When employees successfully identify threats, the platform rewards them and displays their progress on a company-wide leaderboard that cultivates an atmosphere of friendly rivalry.

All in all, leveraging such an AI-based enterprise gamification platform to provide and reinforce phishing awareness training can save you millions of dollars down the road.

Incentivize Cybersecurity Course Completion With a Leaderboard

Besides phishing simulations, the training program must also include a comprehensive course on enterprise cybersecurity, with its content being frequently updated with the latest best practices.

Now, if employees can see how they’re leveling up against their peers while learning about cybersecurity, they’re more likely to complete the course faster and with greater enthusiasm.

A score-based internal leaderboard can serve as tangible achievements for learners as they tackle quizzes, gain points and progress through the course.

To implement this, consider using a learning management system (LMS) that lets you create interactive courses and quizzes with points, badges and leaderboards. This way, you can upload your existing course material (presentations, PDFs, videos, etc.), invite employees to the LMS, and assign courses to specific teams or individuals.

A word of caution: leaderboard-based competition can be counterproductive for employees who don’t advance quickly. People learn at different paces, so make sure the leaderboard displays and rewards the top 20 or 50 instead of the top five, otherwise many employees won’t care.

Also, have the leaderboard reset on a regular (say, bi-weekly or monthly) basis to give learners more opportunities to rank at the top. Record the history of top performers in a “hall of fame,” or “victory lane,” along with badges on employees’ profiles. Incentivize engagement with a points-based rewards system or, depending on your industry, even consider tying human resources (HR) initiatives like appraisal processes and leadership planning to the leaderboard.

Set Up Rewards for Continuous Upskilling

To your learners, the most important element of any game is the prize or the reward. Put simply, the success of your gamified cybersecurity program depends on how well you answer the biggest employee question: “What’s in it for me?”

Even with hands-on, real-world AI-powered phishing simulations and riveting leaderboards, the effectiveness and engagement levels of your cybersecurity training can gradually fade away.

That is if they aren’t rewarding enough.

Given that new types of cyber threats and phishing attacks emerge each year, it’s important for your workforce to continually upskill themselves — and for that, you can set up a compelling internal rewards program.

Certain employee engagement platforms allow you to applaud enthusiastic employee performance with regular rewards and recognition. For example, employees who demonstrate proactiveness in learning and/or good performance on cybersecurity quizzes may be rewarded with points that they can redeem to shop for Amazon products.

Some platforms also offer employee discounts and gift cards for things like groceries, dining, wellness and travel. This helps extend their disposable income, showing meaningful appreciation for their efforts to keep learning.

Closing Thoughts

Gamification drives gratification, something your younger staff can’t do without.

With a gamified cybersecurity program, your employees are more likely to not just complete the training, but also retain their learnings and apply them when the time comes.

So, implement these tips and tools to make your workforce vigilant to the ever-growing threat of cyberattacks, and guard your organization for good.