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SAP GAMIFICATION - How to successfully bind our young and powerful generation to us as a company

SAP SE, Isa Sammet, April 2017

Gamification is becoming more and more popular. But were you wondering what exactly “Gamification” means in a company context? Is it just about games? Is it just about fun? Is it just about points & badges? What is the value of “Gamification”? While listening to experts talking on gamification think by yourself on how important GAMIFICATION will become to bind our young and powerful generation successfully to our companies. Imagine this: In times where successful companies highly depend on attracting and binding young talents to survive the hard competition of being always on top ranking of innovative companies, it becomes more and more important to find useful and attractive ways to motivate workforce to educate on a regular basis. Gamification is one of the key methods to educate people using different intrinsic engagement elements. This is what we have done in SAP! We developed our own GAMIFICATION PLATFORM called “G-learning” (IGP). G-learning tells a travel story around SAP and its various global and diverse subsidiaries. Focusing on gamification elements, team-work, live progression, networking, and mixing online and live exercises, G-learning has become a frontrunner of attractive learning and networking methods at SAP. Watch these 2 around “G-learning” here and here.

SAP has got an extensive gamification initiative in their “Development Learning” organization, focusing on learning and networking topics on the one hand, but also running other successful initiatives like their own newsletter, security campaigns, etc. We do not stop. We innovate. Continuously.

What is G-learning?

G-learning is a gamified online open training platform

(Externally probably to be called IGP = Innovative Gamification Platform) for learning and networking topics dedicated to specific target groups. G-learning describes a virtual world journey where the learner/player has to solve different missions by visiting virtual SAP locations which display videos, exercises and quizzes on parts of the overall topic. By learning all topics in different (virtual) locations, learners/players acquire long-term knowledge of different chapters of one specific topic, allowing him or her to start as a “beginner” and finalize as an “expert” of the topic.

Motivation to develop a gamified online platform

An innovative gamified online Platform (IGP) in comparison with linear online courses and classroom offerings:

The new generation X/Y is no longer used to consume learning content in a one-way conversation (teacher in front) only. Team-learning groups and additional online consumption is a natural way to go for our younger generation which we want to bind to SAP. Not to lose young talents is one of the major challenges in successful companies who are fighting against not being attractive enough. On top, young generations feel attracted by games and their power. It would be a waste not to use the techniques behind games and bring them into a work-place environment.

We also need to consider that the attention span of learners is getting smaller and smaller and cannot be compared to the generation 20 years ago. Listening for a big part of 5 days in a classroom trainings becomes more and more impossible for the new generation who has got totally different skills than the ones we were used to.

Also, looking at the different skill levels and prior knowledge of participants, and also at time constraints and location dependencies, classroom trainings become less attractive than they were around 10 years ago. On the other hand, accessing specific knowledge just in small pieces, like YouTube videos may be inefficient as the learner won’t be aware of all knowledge dependencies. A combination of listening, exercising, grabbing small pieces of information fast is therefore necessary. Engaging a participant to consume intensive learning in groups and still be independent on time and location was one of the major priorities to develop our G-learning.

Our experiences show that traditional learning methods like intensive full-day classroom offerings did not always help the employees to retain their knowledge. Surveys and statistics showed that learners retained only 10% of their new acquired knowledge when they returned to their daily business and forgot another 50% of that one not using the acquired knowledge after 4 weeks. And this, even if the course contained one way conversation mixed with exercises.

Comparing G-learning to regular linear e-learnings the most visible difference is that learners do not keep engaged for a longer period of time due to the lack of bringing participants together and the missing engagement elements.

Very important for any type of education in a company is the fact that all employees cannot focus on learning solely for a longer period of time. They have got a job to do and it is important that while learning, they don’t have the feeling that coming back to their job will mean to them to get stuck into a work overload just because the fact that they spent some time on learning.

That is why it will become more and more essential that we find learning methods that contain: small pieces, allow collaboration, avoid long one-way conversation and listening and methods that cannot be consumed anywhere the user wants to learn (location-independent, mobile, offline) and possibly offer learning rooms that allow lonesome silent, concentrated and team learning. And on top, to make learning attractive it should contain elements that make fun and do not lead to the feeling that the employee merges into a complete overload of work afterwards just because he took time on learning. We should then not forget to motivate the learner constantly allowing him or her to fail as often as he or she needs to and give a good feeling doing that.

A gamified learning approach like our G-learning tries to cover all important aspects in a single learning format like: true autonomy in learning for the learner: online, location independent, deciding on how long, how intensive and with whom to learn (team aspect), covering all learning, success, and social aspects in one platform.


G-learning tries to collect all relevant aspects around the topic avoiding that users need to harvest important information in other channels, like internal communities or external video channels. While this can be done for some of the topics, it is nearly not doable for other ones. One of the biggest challenges is to impress the user on the topic intensity. Trying on the one hand to cover all important aspects, but on the other hand not overwhelming the user with things that need to be learnt, but be focusing on some of the aspects instead.

Another big challenge we see in running G-learnings is that learning has never a top priority. Though we try to motivate learners continuously, some of them will give up because of too many things that need to be done on the job. This could be avoided in the future if a strategic direction of the company clearly stating official learning days or periods where anybody could be able to focus on learning and exchanging with others in the same period. It must become a top priority to educate workforce. Innovation and dealing with changes is only possible if the workforce is well educated continuously. We should focus on strategic topics on the one hand, but give also freedom to the learner on what he or she wants to learn additionally. Learn and fail as often as needed is one of the key aspects to foster innovation in a company.

Structure of G-learning

The world journey is open 24/7 and the learning path is not specified. While linear learning often fails due to lacking autonomy feeling of the learner, G-learning gives only suggestions on where to travel choosing all relevant chapters for the learner. The total learning equivalents at least a five-day full time training. The G-learning player normally learns for one hour a day, learning for about 6 or 8 weeks or for a much longer duration according to the learner’s needs. The learning path (opting daily for a city of his/her choice) is absolutely autonomous. A fixed frame (like often offered in MOOCs/ massive online open courses) unfortunately often does not help the user/player/learner to force discipline while job priorities were and always will be there. Therefore G-learning has got a completely free to choose learning path. While motivation can normally fall down in online offerings after registration and first attempts, we offer the learner several techniques to avoid stopping of learning but be motivated for a longer duration instead.

Comparing G-learning to classroom trainings where users are exposed to one-way conversation for a very long period of time and remember only about 10% of their acquired knowledge after 4 weeks, G-learning helps to constantly learn and retain knowledge by motivating players with different gamification elements and techniques and also support by experts when needed.

Topic intensity:

A G-learning can have between 5 and around 90 different cities with chapters on the overall topic. Meaning that a course with around 40 cities will have around 150 missions that need to be solved, as a city contains different formats of learning. This clear structure helps learners not to be overwhelmed with content that is suitable for beginners to advanced learners. On top, the videos are also small chunks that last only between 2-12 minutes to keep the attention until the end. The mandatory quizzes on content for a mission have got multiple positive and negative answers to avoid just clicking on the right answer. The level of expertise of the chapters are displayed by different colors of the city markers.

The feeling of freedom and the risks:

To avoid being lost with this new autonomy of defining the own learning path, we offer “get ready” pages as preparation to consume the coming content. Sometimes the get ready pages offer content that is a pre-requisite to understand the following one, sometimes it is a link to some other areas that need to be understood first, or, a third case, sometimes also some technical first settings that need to be done (like useful installations, etc.). These get ready pages are offered before they enter the world journey, but can also be accessed afterwards if information needs to be consumed again. The content experts are named and can be contacted by the users. Additionally the players have got the chance to exercise and present in front of peers and experts, which is presented in a later stage.

The goal of G-learning:

The aim of G-learning is to educate in a best way. Better educated and inspired employees, customers, partners become themselves more innovative, build better products and help to save the whole productivity process of a company. The strong focus on social “learning together” on top helps players/learners to even build better working relationships besides the one of learning. A cultural change takes place because the learner feels the autonomy, the pride and the assurance of being on the right track to become an expert in what he/she is doing.

The learner is the owner of his learning path. He decides about and profits from
When (24/7) he/she learns

How long (we suggest one hour a day),

With whom: a learner can learn alone but is suggested to travel in a team he decides on him or herself

In which pace (fast, slow), with only positive feedback (leaderboard, points, badges),

How much and What to learn: It is up to the learner to decide on how many different cities (chapters) he wants to travel to (according to his/ her needs)

Learn in small pieces: short videos, and each city has got another topic

The chance to be entertained on top: additional surprises make the learning journey interesting (hidden entertainment videos, cultural quizzes and motivating quotes to acquire more points).

The comparison to others and other teams (leaderboard) with only positive feedback (you got the mission) – no failure is being displayed and funny badges that can be acquired collated to the overall topic of a world journey

Have a visual live progression: individual progress is shown in differently colored lines – visible to everybody by clicking different filters and team bubbles live progression showing when a team has conquered a city

Unlock chapters to acquire further knowledge

Acquire levels of learning and Unlock chapters according to the levels of the content

Be surprised by announcements and new cities arising that have not been displayed before

Privacy protection and expert engagement:

Besides all gamification elements we are including in our gameful environment, we use known gamification techniques like having the possibility to travel anonymously by using avatars and fake names.

Motivate 4 different type of learners and satisfy curiosity and entertainment:

We are focusing on the fact that most learners are socializers (around 80%) and don’t want to learn alone for a longer period of time (example of lack of motivation: consuming long-lasting, exhausting e-learnings) and other learners count to the group of “explorers” (around 10%) who want to discover something on top. For this group we offer cultural quizzes to learn about other locations and the colleagues and hidden entertainment videos to be not purely focused on serious learning topics. Tackle unnecessary and not content-related obstacles give learners positive emotions. Positive emotions are being rewarded by a special badge.

Focus on intrinsic motivation:

A playful environment (like the world journey), accompanied with different surprises helps the player to activate the “intrinsic” motivation, which is crucial for learning. While “extrinsic” motivation (like prizes, points, badges, money, etc) helps to start or end a gamification cycle, and with this a gamified learning process, intrinsic motivation (like fun, belongingness, autonomy, power, mastery, self-knowledge, etc etc) helps the user to feel as owner of the learning. Feeling this intrinsic motivation will help the learner wanting to learn continuously.

Having fun is one of the intrinsic motivators that we adore from childhood. Levels like starting as a backpacker, going up to a caravaner and finally staying at a 5 star hotel, as well as funny badges motivate the players to connect their individual success with the story around it. City quizzes to focus on the cultural aspect of SAP and their big diversity helps to welcome anybody who takes part and is just an addition to fun and nothing to do with the learning, which is still in the focus, but is accompanied by other aspects.

G-learning forces high interactivity while providing a real-time feedback to a user. Successes are being shared among participants and are being encouraged. Examples are the feeds of an explorer finding hidden entertainment. That player’s live progression is displayed in colored lines from one city to another showing to which city they travelled and others travelled to supports the aspect of seeing real-time progresses and avoiding the feeling of failure. Progression is also one of the intrinsic motivators.

On top, fortune cookies, new cities appearing by chance, and the already described hidden entertainment are engaging elements.


Foster team collaboration while learning and the chance to solve a problem:

While many gamification projects focus on individual competition, G-learning mostly focuses on team learning and virtual collaborative motivation to finish as much of the world journey as possible. For this, adding much more points for “team journeys” than “individual travel” is one aspect, but offering “live challenges” on top is another one and one of our key success secrets of G-learning. These live challenges are exercises, riddles, challenges we give in form of an email or an announcement in G-learning and in collaboration rooms to teams who want to participate. These voluntary teams have got a time period of 1-2 weeks to solve the task and present it in front of peers (g-learners) and a jury (content providers, G-learning owners, managers) in a joint global call. This method helps learners to find out if the acquired knowledge can be proven by themselves. The pride participants feel in this call, while presenting their results to their peers and the jury, makes them willing to learn further and motivate others. A healthy loop starts where the learner is in the middle of the event and evolves to an expert teaching others. Additional points and badges are also being displayed to other in the live leaderboard of G-learning. With this concept we foster a team blended learning concept.

Our experiences showed that though we also allow lonely travelling on request, those users give up much earlier than they would with a team. Until now, almost every lonely traveler gave up and had other more important priorities than learning. G-learning shows that about 80% of teams stay until the end of the content consumption.

On top of all gamification elements we are using, we take into consideration that well working/learning teams impact their working style afterwards. For this, we offer teams the chance to conquer cities online in their world journey. By conquering cities, they do not only get special city badges and additional points, but can be part of the learning cycle. After conquering a city, the team needs to provide 3 new questions on the content by themselves and act as “teachers” to other teams who want to conquer the city after them. To conquer a city they have to prove strong team commitment, as one player alone technically won’t be able to solve 3 different riddles to conquer the city. Additionally, we help them to network outside their normal reaching points. Teams can be global and virtual and often help people to collaborate on the job afterwards and collaborate with people they did not know before. Team invites can be sent by the players themselves to join or form a team with a creative team name. The teams which conquer cities get visual big bubbles in their team color on the cities to show to anybody else their success.

The content providers are named in their city-videos. With this, learners have the possibility to contact experts with any questions they might have. And adding their own content when conquering cities they evolve from learner to the new group of experts. With these 2 team features (conquering cities and adding own content) and being able to present their exercise in front of peers we combine head with heart to achieve best results of people. And touching not only the brain, but also the heart is what makes memories unforgettable.

Learning, point hunt and 2 more type of learners:

To avoid “point” and “leaderboard” hunting which seems to be fun to players who are called “killers” but might de-motivate other players, we have included a time-rule in the lectures/cities. With this time rule we assure that the content is really being consumed rather than focusing of acquiring points. Nevertheless, we do not de-motivate the “killers” nor the “achievers” either, but motivate all 4 types of learners (socializers, explorers, killers and achievers). Or the target group “achievers” and “killers”, other than the 2 target group we explained before (socializers and explorers), we have included special rules to reach a city as “first” player. A first player gets more points, assuming that he or she really consumed the content and learnt.

Conclusion and further findings with regard to our G-learning:

Diversity is one of the key successes at SAP:

Our primary target group when testing G-learning internally, were developers with a majority belonging to the male category. Among our diversity aims at SAP, one key factor is to bind woman to technical professions and also foster women among leadership. To integrate this aim into our G-learning we have integrated a special “woman power badge” which is being granted to those teams who count at least one woman among their team-peers. Additionally, focusing on general diversity and cross collaboration, our employees in G-learning have the chance to form global diverse teams, independent from their working location, their project related activities or any kind of skill level or personality differences. Any age, gender, skill experience is welcome in our G-learnings and profit from the different levels of people in the small G-learning teams, which from our point of view should be composed of 3-5 people each.

Different possible business cases for G-learning:

Apart from the business case we are outlining before, G-learning can also serve as pure networking platform instead of a learning platform. The virtual locations can help to introduce people and teams and be displayed to other colleagues in their organizations. We used G-learning internally to introduce colleagues in teams virtually to each other before meeting for a live “summit” in a specific (non-virtual) location. Probably, G-learning will also be used in future for totally different topics other than learning and networking, that could be business operations, change of behavior, or marketing.

Learning should be accessible for everybody/ & include all single employees in one joint global topic training:

With G-learning we have proven that we can reach all those employees in (real) SAP locations which were not part of the learning cycles before. We have got small locations in SAP with single employees who are distributed all over the world. They could never profit from learning offerings, as no classroom trainings were offered for single persons or small teams, but were only offered in big locations instead. With G-learning we could reach people from 80 different global locations in one single training. Some of the employees never felt as part of the “big” company, nor the learning community either. With G-learning, they get to know people who are interested in the same topic and feel as part of a team.

Higher brain activity while having fun:

Also, different studies show that team motivation, the live progression and the fun aspects increase the activity of the brain while learning, let players keep their knowledge longer and avoid giving up very early. In trainings we offered for mobile developers, we had a rate of about 80% of all players who finished all content. While normal online offerings cover only 10%-20% of the people who registered at the beginning, but did not learn further nor finish the complete learning offer.

Bind generation X/Y to companies:

On top, with our innovative concept and platform we did not miss the point that the younger generation is used to consume content online and in team discussions. The plans for school education will focus more and more to go away from one way consumption (teachers in front), but focus on collaboration and exchange between the students. We in a company surrounded by adults should not miss the chance to change before it is too late to keep younger well educated employees in our companies.


While our G-learning platform is probably one of the most innovative SAP concepts connecting gamification motivational aspects with team work, and internally developed without any dependencies on outside companies, we need to find out in the future if G-learning can also be used for totally different use cases than learning.

Our aim is to develop additionally other topics than a “world journey” with the same technical foundation. Furthermore, the aspect of integrating further crowdsourcing (the players as provider of information and learning options) is one of the visions we still have.

Challenges remain like having good developers around and management supporting that the employees have got freedom in choosing what and how they need to learn, from which a company always profits. The lack of time was always a major constraint for our players and colleagues.

 G-learning Architecture:

The initial version of “G-learning” was a full custom development project, as neither internal nor external solutions were able to support our requirements or could not be used in a corporate network.

While G-learning is currently mainly used for learning and networking methods, we want to give other internal course owners, teachers, managers inside and outside the company to use our G-learning as a service without having the need to know about all technical dependencies and just using a template and changing this template according to their needs. This is what we will focus on in 2017.

G-learning is a combination of several distinct applications, arranged on a single Hana Cloud account. We use the SAP Workforce Performance Builder for learning content management and the Gamification Service on Hany Cloud Platform for advanced game mechanics. Everything else (here marked in blue) is G-learning itself, connected to the 2 systems just mentioned. The software is roughly distributed into the classical three layers of Data Storage, Backend Services and Frontend Applications. G-learning is built to serve four distinct actors: A Player, a Content Author, and a Course Admin as well as a Master Admin.

  • BLUE are all the systems that belong directly to G-learning

  • YELLOW are services on the Hana cloud platform

  • ORANGE are third party systems (Workforce Performance) that are deployed alongside G-learning.

Videos on G-learning: ,