A new imperative for work and technology

Timely: Psychology Research During COVID-19
Richard Landers

Industrial-organizational psychologist Richard Landers, PhD, examines how technology influences workplace behavior. Landers’ research has gained significant urgency in this era of social distancing as we become increasingly dependent on technology to engage in our work.

An important domain of Landers’ work focuses on using technology for training, typically over the internet and via social media. For example, Landers is interested in how gamification—the incorporation of game-design elements—can improve outcomes of web-based training. His findings in one study showed that competition within a gamification framework can change performance, regardless of an individual’s intrinsic motivation or level of personal competitiveness. Leaderboards can be particularly effective in influencing performance on tasks with well-defined parameters, such as sales goals. The effectiveness of gamification, however, is mitigated by the extent to which employees value the goals of the game and by extension, the idea of gamification itself in the workplace. Landers argues that the simple inclusion of game elements in web-based training alone will be ineffective unless paired with well-considered instructional design principles. Both the quality of the training and the quality of the game matter.

Given the imperative that we work and learn from home—and use technology to do so—web-based training will become even more ubiquitous. Landers can tell us how to up our game in this familiar but newly important space. Soon he will be able to tell us even more. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he just launched a major research project to explore how the sudden requirement for much of the workforce to work via the internet is changing our relationship with our work and influencing our performance. 

Richard N. Landers, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and holds the John P. Campbell Distinguished Professorship of Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Minnesota. He is also the director of the Testing New Technologies in Learning, Assessment, and Behavior (TNTLAB). Landers’ research concerns the use of innovative technologies in assessment, employee selection, adult learning, and research methods. 


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