The proper use of gamified cyber security training can make a huge impact on the safety of your business. But, that’s the key: Using it properly. Many organizations think gamified learning is just about “fun and games”. When really, gamification is a way to create psychological drivers that encourage your employees to be motivated to complete their training.

Focusing on gamification as a tool for your program, rather than just a fun feature, can ensure it has the positive impact you need. In today’s blog we’ll be sharing what to do and not to do in your gamified cyber security training. 

Why gamified training?

Gamified training leverages the natural human instinct for play and competition to create a positive learning experience. By transforming mundane training sessions into interactive and enjoyable activities, employees are more likely to engage with the material, retain information, and complete the training. Key benefits include:

  • Increased Engagement: If your employee enjoys the training they are doing, they are less likely to multitask or lose focus while completing it. The more engaged the employees, the stronger they will be to fight off real threats. 
Unmotivated employee

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

"It’s been a “super-fantastic” experience to see people learning and talking about security threats."

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  • Better Retention: Interactive and positive activities enhance memory and understanding. Your employees will be more likely to remember their learnings after having a chance to practice their skills. 
  • Higher Completion Rates: Enjoyable training leads to higher participation and completion rates. Employees may even talk positively about the training, encouraging others to complete their own. 

Increased engagement, retention, and completion rates are all incredible factors that affect the strength of your business’s cyber security. By improving these three things, you are less likely to have breaches as a result of a human vulnerability. 

Now, that we’ve covered the why behind gamified training, let’s get into the do’s and don’ts. 

Do: Include engaging elements 

Include elements in your gamified training that are interesting and exciting to your employees. Without these features, you are less likely to see increased engagement and positive attitudes towards the training. Here are some ideas:

  • Avatar and name customization: Employees may spend extra time creating their avatars and using silly names. This will encourage them to use the platform and mention it to others.
  • Leaderboards: Employees will show their competitive sides if a leaderboard is created for your team. It will encourage employees to try their best at the training – and maybe even do it a second time to get a better score. 

Don’t: Make it the same for everyone

A one-size-fits-all approach can be detrimental to employee engagement. Employees have different roles, skill levels, and learning preferences. Providing the same training experience for everyone can lead to lower completion rates, especially for those who don’t find it relevant or find it too difficult. 

For example, if someone who never attends trade shows is being trained on social engineering at trade shows, they are less likely to think the scenario applies to them. When they don’t believe it’s applicable, then they become disengaged. 

Instead, customize your training by creating different training groups. Have groups based on departments, skill level, and security level. 

Do: Make it easy to update and change

Flexibility is key. Your gamified security training should never be a one-and-done project. Threats and vulnerabilities are constantly changing – your games should be, too. Set a recurring schedule for your security awareness team to evaluate new threats and create new training based on their findings. 

For example, a gamified program launched five years ago may not have any information on AI, which is now one of the biggest impending threats. Updating content ensures relevance for different departments and the changing needs of your team members. 

Don’t: Force competition 

The truth is, not all employees are gamers. They might not enjoy a gamified version of training, and while a little healthy competition can be motivating, forced or excessive competition can create a negative atmosphere for these employees. 

By forcing them to display names on leaderboards or compete head-to-head, they may succumb to stress or pressure and avoid the training altogether. Instead, allow employees to opt out of the leaderboard or use aliases. 

Do: Include simulations

Having simulations that represent real-world risks is one of the most important benefits of gamified learning. Even having faced a threat just once in a realistic training scenario can make an employee feel more confident in spotting everyday threats. 

The bonus to a gamified learning environment is that employees will likely repeat the scenarios they got wrong multiple times to achieve more points, strengthening their proficiency, which is the ultimate goal.

Don’t: Make training too long or detailed 

Training sessions that are overly lengthy or detailed can overwhelm employees. Gamified training should aim to keep things concise and focused. We keep our training modules to only a few minutes per day, making it easier to digest for employees. 

Long sessions or detailed formats like virtual escape rooms can lead to fatigue and reduced retention, defeating the purpose of gamification

Do: Recognize achievements 

Recognition and rewards are crucial for employee motivation. Acknowledge employee achievements through badges, rewards certificates, or public recognition. Converse with your employees to find out what matters most to them, you might be surprised by what answers you discover. 

In our latest blog, we talked about encouraging participation through group achievements. By using one of two strategies: teams work toward a common goal or teams compete for a common goal, employee motivation could also increase because of the motivation from their team members. In this scenario, dish out rewards or public recognition on a group basis rather than individually. 

Celebrating milestones fosters a sense of accomplishment and encourages continued participation. 

Gamified cybersecurity training offers a dynamic and effective way to engage employees, enhance learning retention, and foster a positive security culture. However, it is essential to implement gamified training thoughtfully to avoid common pitfalls. By including engaging elements, ensuring customization, incorporating simulations, promoting social interaction, and recognizing achievements, organizations can create a gamified training program that not only educates but also motivates employees. Ultimately, a well-executed gamified training program can significantly strengthen an organization’s cybersecurity defences by turning learning into a rewarding and enjoyable experience.