Mcdonalds Application of Gamification for Training Employees

Gamification is “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goal. ” Gamification has become popular amongst organisations in order to train up new employees in what is becoming an unengaged workforce. Employers find it difficult to keep their staff committed to training. As the manager of innovation at Deloitte stated “Let’s face it, for most people, on a typical Sunday morning, if given the choice between ‘Am I gonna watch ESPN, or am I gonna do some training?’ training will not win out. ” As a result of this, many organisations, such as Deloitte and McDonalds, are now turning to e-learning through gamification in order to keep their employees immersed. The case study I have chosen focuses on McDonalds’ application of gamification to train their employees on a new till system. The game not only showed real-life results but also saved the company a lot of money and it still remains McDonald’s most popular employee portal page yet. This is an example of where gamification was executed well, it gave its users feedback, it enhanced learning and acted as a long term fix for problems with training in the workforce.


The aim of McDonalds’ Crew Challenge was to find a new and exciting way of training their employees on a new till system that they were introducing. Instead of having their employees learn as they go in the workplace, they decided they wanted to introduce gamified learning into their careers portal. This worked extremely well as it meant that the workers could practice on the new tills with virtual customers, rather than making mistakes with real customers. “For me the most powerful way to learn is by doing and making mistakes” (Milne 2016) This quote from Mark Reilly the UK head of corporate training shows the importance of learning by doing in a virtual environment. This was incredibly important to them as the company serves over three million customers a day, meaning staff would have to be proficient on the new interface in order for the company to run smoothly. McDonalds’ goal was to improve its employees accuracy on tills, lessen waiting times for customers and to earn more money.


Gamification relies on the idea that we can change and motivate people’s behaviours through positive reinforcement. Workplaces nowadays look for creativity and innovation in their employees, in order to find such things, corporations must change how they educate their workforce. Training generally consists of one on one guidance which is paid for by the corporation, this training can be seen as monotonous and banal by employees. Gamification, on the other hand, is done at the employees convenience and they are incentivised to complete the training or quizzes through a rewards system. “Control leads to compliance, autonomy leads to engagement”. This quote from Daniel H. Pink describes how the old way of doing things has become too mundane and leads to a bored workforce.

McDonalds combatted this by creating a game which their employees found fun and addictive. It simulated real life work experience on a new till system that was being introduced by assessing the workers ability to take orders and answer questions in relation to these orders. The system then rewarded the employee when they achieved customer satisfaction. The reason McDonalds chose a gaming approach was not only because it was engaging but also because the majority (85%) of their employees are of the ‘Net Generation. ’ The game was created by Kineo, an eLearning company that create digital learning courses, pick learning management systems for companies and create L&D strategies for companies. Kineo have not only created Crew Challenge for McDonalds but have also created eLearning courses for other large companies such as; Levi’s, Bridgestone, Pizza Express, EasyJet and M&S. Kineo believe that education in the workplace does not need to be boring, instead, by introducing new training aspects, a companies employees will be more inspired to do a greater job.

Operational Mode

Crew Challenge operates as a game available for McDonalds staff on their career portal. In the game, the user serves customers for 20 minutes and as the user progresses through the time allocated the game gets more difficult. Not only is it challenging, but there is also a rewards system which includes; lifelines, bonuses and panel elements. These reward elements are employed in gamified training to encourage competitiveness and are then carried into the user’s life to motivate them to achieve their career goals and improve performance.

As seen in figure 1. 1 this is the first screen the viewer sees as they enter the game. They are given instructions and told about the lifelines usable to them. The user is also made aware of the bonuses available. Users can reach ‘perfection’ by getting their orders right, ‘three on the bounce,’ by getting three orders right in a row, ‘beat the clock,’ by finishing the challenge with time remaining, ‘happy camper,’ by keeping customers happy and ‘time to spare,’ by completing an order with extra time leftover.

As seen in figure 1. 2, the user is looking at a virtual till in which they will input the order given to them at the top of the screen. The user is dealing with many customers at a time whose orders frequently change. Their score is shown on the bottom left hand side of the screen, as is the time remaining. A level is also included which consists of four stars and in order to complete the game, the user must turn all the stars yellow.

Not only must the user operate the till but they are also scored on their customer service skills, as seen in figure 1. 3. Through these aspects of the game, the user is quizzed thoroughly on their knowledge of the industry and their communication skills. By way of a points system, the user can feel satisfaction through the numbers they earn and feel more motivated to earn more in order to move through the levels. These addictive elements of the game are what makes it so successful.

Social Outcome(s)

Crew Challenge was quietly uploaded onto the portal page of McDonalds’ careers system and quickly gained traction without any member of staff even being told that it had been put up. The game was not mandatory but still had 145,000 visits after the first year of it being implemented. It was clear to Mark Reilly the UK head of corporate training that the game was a success with the workers, as 85% of staff agreed that the game helped their understanding of the new till system. The news of the game travelled by word of mouth within friends and also through Twitter, staff became competitive and wanted to beat their work colleagues’ scores. McDonalds spent £40,000 on the system which saved them roughly £1/2 million in training costs. Not only did McDonalds save greatly on training costs, the game also reduced each till service by 7. 9 seconds. They also increased their earnings by 15p per receipt which totalled to an increase of £18,000 per restaurant and £23,700,000 for the entirety of the UK. The game was so successful that it achieved silver at the LPI learning awards in 2014 and gold at the 2014 eLearning Awards. This shows that through the use of gamification, McDonalds’ staff not only felt comfortable in using the till system but also become faster at using it and as a result, this generated higher revenue for the company.

How Crew Challenge fits within the patterns of interaction and expectations of Gamification

The main pattern of interaction in gamification is mastery and ones progression towards it. Mastery is not about winning which focuses on achieving a goal. Mastery is about acquiring knowledge and demonstrating control, it is a continuous improvement process rather than a destination. It is more difficult for people to win, which is why gamification focuses on mastery, meaning, it gives employees the potential to progress and be happier without becoming frustrated by not winning. In order to progress the user must have a desire to reach mastery through different markers in the game. They must be given an incentive through a points system. A challenge to complete to hold interest, each challenge becoming more difficult. A reward, a bonus for example, for completing the challenge and then sufficient feed back. Once these steps have been completed, the user will achieve mastery. If all these steps are included in a game the corporation has created a great game which should increase performance. Crew Challenge achieves all characteristics of mastery through its levels, points system, challenges and rewards. Its players feel as though the game becomes more important as it progresses.

Another good example of mastery is that of the Deloitte Leadership Academy. In comparison to Crew Challenge Deloitte implemented a more advanced rewards system in which its users could move up a leaderboard and earn badges. This created a sense of competition amongst its employees as friends wanted to do better than each other. This is something that I think was lacking in Crew Challenge as employees could only converse about how many points they had earned. I think that by implementing a leader board there would have been a higher play rate of the game. Despite this Crew Challenge still retained its addictiveness amongst its users.

The expectations of gamification are all reached within Crew Challenge. As expected the game allowed crew members to learn the new till system efficiently and effectively. It enhanced its users learning experience and motivated them to do better by tapping into their competitive streak.

Through gamification, the users experience is enhanced, in a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on IT, learning through computers is progressively becoming popular. Millennials, generation X and generation Y were born in a digital world and will take up 75% of the workplace by 2025. It is becoming more and more important to provide different variations of media based training for generations to come, who, unlike earlier generations, find it difficult listening to someone teaching them without any visuals. However, there are flaws involved in gamification, Mark Reilly, the UK head of corporate training at McDonalds, warned that it can be easy to not use gamification for the right reasons, it should aid learning and should not all be about fun. McDonalds’ Crew Challenge is an excellent example of gamification as it was a fun and addictive game which displayed positive learning results and saved millions on training.

10 December 2020
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