Working extra hours on the project gets 50 points per hour. Finishing the task before the deadline gets bonus points for extra time. Convincing the client about your product gets 250 points (because that is the expert level). The team member who completes the maximum number of goals gets the golden badge for the best team player. I am not talking about an extended version of The Sims but an adaptation of gaming attributes in the real world, a trend which is now popularly known as Gamification.
In its simplest sense, Gamification is the implementation of game design techniques, game mechanics and/or game style into various aspects of real life, especially into the dull and boring tasks to make it creative and exciting. For example: Target, the multi chain retail company, recently introduced Gamification to their overcast workplace. They altered their checkout process and developed it into a game. Whenever a cashier checks someone out, they are introduced to a gameplay. While scanning, a red light tells them they were too slow to scan an item while a green light is bang on. They were even provided with a real time score to analyze their achievement. It is needless to say that this small process had a far reaching effect on increasing and maintaining the interest and engagement of their employees.
Growing in its popularity since 2010, Gamification is now applied into training and education, customer engagement, employee performance, personal development and various other aspects of day-to-day life. In a scenario where it is properly implemented, Gamification engages people and motivates them to solve problems, cultivate skills and alter behaviors. The practice is highly innovative and is being implemented successfully by many major companies across the world.
The 2011 campaign by Volkwagen Group in China saw one of the early successes of Gamification. They invited participants to develop a new ‘people’s car’. They were given a tool to easily design their new vehicle and to post their designs for others to view. They could pick their favorites and the results were tracked on leaderboards for contestants and the public to see how competing designs were faring. At least 33 million people visited the site by the end of the campaign’s first year and 3 winning concepts were selected. Now that being an early example, Gamification is increasingly used in work environments today, where employee retention is a major pain point addressed by the management.
Companies are coming up with various options of infusing game mechanics and other gaming attributes and then molding it to suit their work environment. It makes the goals clearer, feedback timely, rules transparent and flow of information balanced. The best part is that, failures which were forbidden, punished and not talked about become expected, encouraged, spectacular and bragged about. It helps the employees understand the relationship between the job and the organization’s mission.
Gamification basically works on three different levels in employees. It gives a sense of autonomy, were you feel in charge of your goals which in turn motivates you to stick to them longer. It adds value to your task and there is always a better chance of you completing the goal for its value. It gives an inconspicuous sense of competence. When you know that you are really getting onto something and it takes hard work rather than in-built talent, you will keep trying. According to Brain Burke of Gartner Inc., 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use Gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations by 2015.
So how can you establish a simple yet feasible Gamification strategy to help you stabilize your receding employee engagement? Introduce a puzzle or a challenging problem. A sense of problem solving makes your un-challenging work environment to a proactive game zone for your employees. It is the age of multi-player games and what better way to improve your team’s performance than introducing tasks as challenging problems that can be only cracked by team effort. The best part of gaming is the thrill to explore new entities. Provide your employees with problems that will insist them to attempt new things and learn new skills. The best part of any game is the awards/honors you receive towards the end. Recognize your employee efforts with points, badges or creative medallions so that they feel rewarded for the challenges they took up. A game without tips is just as boring as an unguided work environment. Share valuable guidelines and innovative tips to various work-related challenges with your employees so that they feel guided at various levels of work. This will also help you gather valuable employee feedback.
While Gamification is an intriguing concept, it also comes with pros and cons. If not implemented with a proper vision, it can result in unintended results. While many companies are positive about the long term effects of Gamification, its short term results are not so positively quantified. Though the strategy has seen good responses in employee performance enhancement, it has quite a backlash in maintaining customer relations. When a game based structure is introduced into selling, the sophistication and risks get high as the players will forget they are playing with real time resources and not Monopoly money. But since the trend is still at its infancy, you can always start at the foundation and slowly adapt to its contingencies.
So, are you game?