Gamification Can Help Employees Find New Meaning in Work And Can Drive Productivity in the Process

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Gamification Can Help Employees Find New Meaning in Work And Can Drive Productivity in the Process

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  December 14, 2015

Finding meaning in life and interacting with others are two keys to a happy and healthy existence both at home and at work. This is a message best-selling author and speaker Shawn Achor communicated in a recent HBO State of Play program. It would also seem to apply to the use of gamification to better engage employees and, in the process, improve workplace productivity.

Gamification aims to change behaviors, develop skills, and can be used to drive innovation and productivity by instilling a level of fun and competition into what might otherwise be viewed as run-of-the-mill activities.

As Steve Brubaker (News - Alert) and Chris Vignali of InfoCision Management Corp. explain, it does that by applying game-design models to scenarios that are not traditionally game-based so people become more engaged in activities that help companies more efficiently meet performance goals. By focusing on fun, and creating an environment of healthy competition, employees often find new meaning in specific activities and find the drive to push themselves a little further than they might otherwise, says Vignali, the director of performance analytics at InfoCision.

“Gamification speaks to companies that really want to try new things to engage their workforces,” adds Brubaker, InfoCision’s chief of staff.

Increasing competitive pressures on today’s businesses, the influx of millennials, the battle for talent, the imperative to get products and services to market more quickly, and the battle for consumers remind organizations of the need to manage change effectively – and gamification can help with that, Maggie Buggie, a vice president of Capgemini Consulting, notes in a January 2015 video.

“Enterprise gamification puts the employee at the heart of the business transformation through its focus on behavior,” says Buggie.

“When we talk about customer experience, we must also talk about employee experience,” she adds. “They are two sides to the same coin.”

While gamification sometimes involves monetary awards like gift cards or online badges, it is different from things like rewards programs and video games because it engages players at an emotional as opposed to a transactional level, Gartner (News - Alert) analyst Brian Burke suggests in his book “Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things”.

“People find inspiration in many different ways,” notes Burke. “One way to motivate people is to present them with practical challenges, encourage them as they progress through levels, and get them emotionally engaged to achieve their very best.

“Gamification does just that,” Burke continues. “At its core, gamification is about engaging people on an emotional level and motivating them to achieve their goals.”

In his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” Daniel Pink talks about how external rewards are not sufficient to sustain engagement. In fact, he says, they sometimes have the opposite effect. However, as he also notes, gamification uses primarily intrinsic rewards, which engage people at the emotional level.

Real-world implementations of gamification – several of them at major brands – are easy to find.

Leading consumer electronics company Samsung (News - Alert) was an early adopter of gamification related to CRM. CIO magazine in March of 2015 reported that Allstate, Hyatt Hotels, and Xerox all use gamification to train employees, improve productivity, and increase sales. Arizona State University recently instituted a new effort to use gamification to teach its Environmental Sciences students. A children’s hospital known as SickKids has developed a game-based app called Pain Squad to encourage its young patients to more accurately and consistently report their pain levels. Automotive giant Ford (News - Alert) leverages gamification in its work with its parts, sales, and service teams. And well-known cosmetics company L’Oreal uses gamification in recruitment.

“Gamification tools deployed by us call for solutions to real-life challenges,” L’Oreal’s Human Resources Director Mohit James commented late last year. “It helps us screen the applicant’s analytical skills, which may not be possible via traditional hiring means. We attempt to recruit 20 percent of the company’s managerial cadre through gaming channels.”

SAP (News - Alert) is another example of a company enjoying the benefits of gamification. In fact, it has been using gamification for about decade. The German enterprise software company ranks the top contributors to its SAP Community Network. Users get points when they contribute to forums or their content is liked.

“Rankings are visible on a global leaderboard, which is then used in employee performance reviews and when managers are searching for domain specialists when forming project teams,” a recent Fast Company article explains. “Users have even begun including SCN ranking on resumes and employers are asking for them on job applications. What was intended as a purely internal metric to encourage community participation has become a valuable credential in the real world.”

For gamification to realize its promise, Brubaker notes that these initiatives must match up with the organization’s culture, and company leaders should encourage feedback and be willing tweak their solutions to keep employees engaged and more effectively meet their own key performance indicators.

Organizations need to do more than slap awards, badges, and point systems onto any work process, note Nir Eyal and Stuart Luman, the authors of the Fast Company article referenced above. Formulating a gamification strategy, they say, should involve “creating thoughtful experiences that balance competition and collaboration” and offer participation as an option rather than a requirement. Organizations also need to remember that after awhile, any kind of game or activity can become tiresome, they say, so it’s important to keep it fresh and fun.

Taking these steps can drive employee engagement and, in turn, enhance productivity. That’s important because, as Brubaker of InfoCision notes, productivity is a central tenet – perhaps the central tenet – of business success.

“Productivity, for many businesses, is everything,” says Vignali. “A company tries to keep people busy, and all that is quantifiable. Efficiencies are also quantifiable. Quality, in the sense of customer service, is quantifiable, although different businesses measure quality in different ways. As long as it is quantifiable, it’s a candidate for gamification.”

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere
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