Prerna Lal explores gamification and its role in employee engagement
Engaged, as opposed to happy employees, are the biggest asset an organisation can have. These employees are the ones who speak positively about the organisation, have an intense sense of belonging and exert effort in their job responsibilities for their own and their organisation’s success. In the highly competitive business landscape that currently prevails, committed and motivated employees can give the organisation an edge over rivals. According to the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2014 report, 79 per cent of business leaders consider employee retention and engagement as a crucial issue1.
Though organisations have recognised the significance of employee engagement in increasing organisational profitability and trying to incorporate many methods to achieve good results, engaging people is always a challenge for organisations. Showing appreciation by giving cash rewards, gifts, a big holiday bonus, throwing parties or even being named as Employee of the Month will not ensure improvement in the engagement levels of employees. There may be different explanations of employees becoming less engaged. Failure to get proper recognition for work from managers and peers is considered as one of the prime reasons for the same. Studies suggest that once basic needs are met, monetary rewards do not help to motivate and engage employees. This is where gamification can help organisations.
Gamification involves the application of game design techniques in workplace settings to make workplace roles and job functions more engaging for employees. One of the core premises of gamification is to increase productivity. It has always been acknowledged that games have engaging and sticky devices that make them addictive. Their use at the workplace has been increasing for some time. Estimates are that the gamification market will exceed $5 billion by 20182. Global corporations and businesses of all kinds – from oil, retail, transnational accounting and consulting firms, medical and healthcare to big technology firms – have been investing significantly in gamification systems to engage with employees and address productivity.
At its core, gamification is an innovation paradigm that leverages techniques to make games engaging and addictive and apply them to everyday business scenarios and operational processes (e.g. training, marketing campaigns and customer service). When used in a business context, gamification provides a workable and actionable strategy to analyse the behaviour of employees as well as customers and then devise initiatives to change their behaviour. In essence, it enables a framework and the means to provide rewards and recognitions and also reinforce positive behaviours among targeted audiences or groups. Desired actions could include influencing usage of enterprise applications and encouraging adoption of business processes and tools. On the whole, gamification if adopted properly can drive user engagement, employee productivity and customer loyalty.
Why do we need it?
Gamification involves business strategy, including the application of game design techniques to non-game experiences. User behaviour is sought to be influenced. Techniques are used in a non-gaming context to engage employees, customers and related audiences to analyse, change behaviours and also attempt to develop skills to drive innovation. Several underlying techniques such as game dynamics, game design and game mechanics are employed. The endeavour is to derive business benefits. The creation of ‘competition’ as a by-product through gamification makes associated tasks more engrossing. In many ways, gamification impacts the way people respond to specific scenarios or situations and people can be inspired to act productively. Indeed, corporations and businesses use gamification to increase learning management, social collaboration and adoption of enterprise applications. The process of adding game mechanics holistically to business critical processes and training activities rather than in an ad-hoc manner has seen to improve employee engagement on all levels and to boost overall productivity.
Gamification is one of the many emerging technologies used by organisations to engage employees and is now gaining adoption momentum in a number of businesses and sectors. Many such organisations are involving employees in the gamification strategies to draw better ideas for organisational adoption at all levels. Many employees see the chance to simplify their workflows and become more productive as the reasons for their self-driven participation in such gamification strategy initiatives. Over time and with the proper execution of gamification initiatives, positive outcomes in certain business areas are possible. These include employee management, change management, employee training and learning and process efficiency.
Game mechanics: rewarding employees
In gamification, business processes are designed in such a way that employees are rewarded for their activities and participation through components such as: leaderboards, points, badges, levels and challenges. The desire to gain points, badges, or reach to the highest levels in challenges and leaderboards drives employees to engage intensely in the tasks and roles allocated.
Leaderboards are an effective approach to display to a user quickly where he currently stands within a gamified system relative to his peers. The aim of escalating in the leaderboard serves as a powerful motivator and will encourage employees to stay engaged in the game to achieve high positions or levels in the leaderboard.
Points are generally seen as powerful user motivators. Psychologically, people love gaining and earning points for earmarked programmes or initiatives if the realised or gained points result in rewards or some sort of recognition. Gamification types deployed in enterprise initiatives can be fruitful depending on the depth of gamification.
People are generally keen to display an earned proficiency in any discipline or activity recognised by peers and networks. In gamification, levels generally convey the digital equivalent of a rank in the Armed Forces, a belt in martial or fighting arts. People have a natural predisposition to display an earned proficiency.
Badges are the most visible elements of gamification. They can be used either to show progress of the employee in a business process, or they can be used to show the level of expertise he or she has. For example, badges can display employees who are experts or star performers in their domains or chosen fields. Awarding badges to display proficiency does lead to higher employee engagement.
Challenges and the art of accepting challenges to realise goals and agendas in a corporate environment have their own charm for professionals and workers. In a work environment and with peers and colleagues involved, often challenges bring out the will to compete and engage users, and digital badges and trophies awarded for achievements have positive value.
Engaging employees through gamification
Organisations use gamification to drive engagement and compliance. An organisation engages its employees, its processes and converts them into a competition. It is quite evident through various examples that when designed correctly, gamification can engage people and motivate them to develop skills, solve problems, change behaviours and accept challenges.
People and especially those in a corporate or enterprise setting are hardwired to accept and enjoy challenges. While routine work can be unchallenging and dull, problem-solving through accepting of challenges can energise the work environment and be incredibly rewarding when the goals materialise.
There is always the desire to solve problems and tackle them head-on in challenging work environments. The innate desire to seek problems, analyse them and solve them leads us to attempt new things and innovate. The quest is to learn and develop new skills to solve problems as they develop. Exploration thus becomes an inherently rewarding experience.
Teamwork is a given in any workplace or organisational settings. Teamwork is the bedrock of employees accepting organisational challenges and realising goals. Modern games have shown managers and executives how people like to get involved and collaborate to solve or crack a problem. Personnel and employees in any division of an organisation are natural collaborators and methods and approaches should be adopted to always encourage that. Gamification fosters collaboration and this acts as binding glue for employees across widely dispersed geographic locations. Gamification enables employees and workforce personnel to share, learn and collaborate across locations.
Creativity is the leitmotif of great work. Great ideas at work by all employees should be encouraged. Challenging work can often be exciting. Trying new ways of succeeding at work can also be fun and engaging. Gamification drives innovation within the company by rewarding top ideas and innovation across all departments.
Knowledge sharing among employees is the key to keeping organisations abreast of fast-developing business environment changes. Being regarded as an expert in any domain or field is a major confidence boost and sharing that knowledge readily to help others to execute their tasks or do their jobs better helps organisations to innovate and grow. Multifarious tools can be used to facilitate internal knowledge sharing.
What can be gamified?
Gamification is now integral to the operational side of businesses. Almost all business operations in an enterprise can use gamification to stimulate employee engagement and performance on all levels. Many such organisations are recognising that gamification has inherent values which can create a holistic reputation system for employees and across all organisational levels at various touch points. The key to a successful gamification strategy and enterprise wide adoption is to gauge which areas of the business will be more amenable to gamification design and rollout. Such starting points give great indicators for expansion to other areas as rewards programmes are realised and employee engagement is addressed.
Let’s go through some key business processes where gamification can be implemented.
- Training and development – The essential characteristics of gamification programmes make them a natural fit for various enterprise and corporate training initiatives. The system of rewarding employees for completing numerous learning and/or tutorial sessions is one such initiative. Handholding and mentoring employees by achievers and superiors can also be tracked and benchmarked. There is better retention of employees, time is well spent and results are almost instantaneous. Such activities are helpful for training interns and new employees and also training existing or long-serving employees on various new products and policies.
- Customer support and services – Support and services team members are critical cogs of any enterprise and keep the wheels of the enterprise greased. Gamification programmes deployed well can reward high performance support teams based on parameters such as efficiency, speed and quality of support. Knowledge sharing behaviours galvanise support staff to resolve customer problems more efficiently.
- Sales – Sales representatives are the lifeblood of an organisation and are key to the success of an organisation. Sales representatives are by nature competitive and always look to close deals for the organisation. Many steps leading up to a deal are not always rewarded while being equally important. Here gamification helps sales directors to track all such steps and reward compliant performers while also fostering collaboration among sales representatives.
- Managing human resources – Human capital management and gamification are a strategic fit. Gamification provides the HR function with an employee-monitoring system, helping with performance reviews and boosting peer recognition via visible rewards and incentives. This can be interlinked with an advanced tracking programme which provides a clear path to employees for taking on the next level of roles and responsibilities in the organisation. Gamification is also extremely effective in recruiting, both in incentivising employee referrals and keeping recruits engaged in the process from submitting their applications through to the final interview.
- New product development – Product development is vital to sustaining the long-term prospects of an organisation. New product development initiatives keep an organisation ahead of competitors and integrating gamification into product tracking software enables a faster execution of specific tasks and executing projects on time. Launch to market of products is also accelerated.
The trend of gamification and using tools and methods of gamification is now an accepted part of organisational operating procedures. Gamification has proven to be highly metrics-oriented and affects behavioural changes in the people involved. Enterprises and businesses across sectors and industries now channel gamification to bring about significant changes on vendor, employee and customer experience and on many parameters and levels. Several leading-edge and emerging technologies such as augmented reality, gesture control and hybrid artificial intelligence will mature and will become integral to organisational gamification processes. Gamification will be used in many domains and seamlessly integrate new and pioneering technologies and innovations into our daily lives. All trends indicate that gamification is here to stay.
1 Deloitte (2014). Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21stcentury workforce. Deloitte. Available at http://bit.ly/1vjHnd6