Gamification has long been used to boost teaching programs. First used in schools to make lessons more engaging, gamification has since spread to the corporate world and is making a mark in upskilling programs and team motivation models.
Cybersecurity is the latest to receive a gamified boost. While this trend is still nascent, the potential benefits on offer are huge. Greater engagement with security training programs will lead to fewer data breaches, saving companies millions every year.
However, gamification might be ineffective if companies make the following five mistakes.
Gamification is exciting – both for the participating employees and the program designer. How can you formulate engaging quests? What kinds of challenges will you introduce? A gaming platform offers unlimited possibilities, but that also makes it easy to lose sight of the big picture.
Your efforts must lead to lasting changes in employee behaviour for security awareness gamification to be effective. For instance, creating an engaging or highly challenging questline is irrelevant if the task does not educate and modify employee responses to issues.
Listing security training objectives and quantifying progress towards goals are good ways for companies to ensure they maintain a strategic view of platform design.
The best gamified platforms strike a balance between sophistication and ease of use. Engagement and value come from the user receiving a sense of satisfaction at having overcome a challenge. In the case of a security training platform, the idea is often to stretch a user’s ability just enough to teach them to recognize new types of phishing threats.
Scoring ties directly with engagement, since it’s an easy metric to use for measuring performance. However, adding too many elements to the scoring system makes it impossible to track. Some platforms use scoring elements to give users a chance to explore more of the platform. For instance, scores could be based on performance in a few key modules.
If a user’s score in a module is low, this is a signal for them to explore that part of the platform more. However, if there is no clear link between the low module score and the need to engage with a module more, users will be left in the dark. Thus, complexity in scoring can be a good thing. Companies must tie actions related to scoring elements to drive desired results.
One of the advantages of gamification is it gives rise to a user’s competitive elements. Employees at a workplace will compete with each other to score higher, thereby learning new skills in the process. Some companies might think the key is to therefore let the competition run forever.
However, this is a mistake. A game that constantly expands with no end in sight will leave employees tired of it. They will seek a change and in the absence of one, will treat their tasks on the platform as a chore. Uncapped competition is also an issue when designing the platform.
In such scenarios, the most engaged user pulls far ahead of the rest, leaving them demoralized. This is hardly the outcome a company wants. Instead, the best way forward is to customize learning paths, mark where they end, and move on to the next mini-contest.
Changing employee behavior when they experience a potential security breach might be your training program’s ultimate goal. However, tie this goal to poor visuals, and you can forget about employees engaging with the program.
Human beings learn more from images than from walls of text. To this end, game graphics and visuals are extremely important when designing a platform. Enterprises do not need the most advanced graphics or deep storylines. However, they do need to put some effort into their training software’s interface.
A big factor that helps make gamification so effective is the dopamine rush people feel when they accomplish a task, and associating that rush with related on-screen visuals helps to reinforce the learning. What’s more, a platform that looks like it was designed by an amateur is likely to be perceived as buggy, even if it isn’t. It’s best to invest resources into creating a visually rich platform that keeps users engaged.
Gamification is just one piece of the security training puzzle. Some companies expect it to solve every issue overnight, but gamification is not going to magically render phishing ineffective overnight. Nor will it stop malicious insider attacks.
Good security is a combination of several things: culture, communication, technical tools, leadership and processes. Gamification boosts security training engagement and helps companies reinforce the right behaviors into their employees. Malicious actors always change their approaches, and security training platforms must evolve to keep pace with them. Thus, while gamification might be present at all times, refreshing the content of the training program is critical.
Companies must also invest in technical resources that will augment security training. They must continue to conduct penetration tests and install continuous security monitoring. All of these measures must be backed by a risk-based security response process that categorizes threats and then alerts the right people when a potential breach is underway. Ultimately, training, whether it’s gamified or not, is only one piece of the puzzle.
Gamification is the best way for companies to boost engagement in their security awareness training programs. However, these efforts might be wasted if companies make the mistakes listed in this article. Striking a balance between challenges and rewards is the key to realizing the best results.