Can you really use gamification to increase employee motivation and engagement?
Is gamification just the latest management fad?
As organizations have become more focused on business objectives, gamification has increased because it can help the workplace become more engaging and productive.
Gamification changes the rules of engagement and inspires employees to change behaviors as a result. The prediction is that by 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform their business operations. (1)
When you make work more fun, you get more and better work. And “when you reward customers for engaging in fun, easy activities, they engage more often and more deeply,” according to Gabe Zichermann, author of the book The Gamification Revolution and founder of Dopamine, a consulting agency focused on gamified campaigns for employees and consumers. (8) No wonder 55% of Americans say they are interested in working for a company that uses gamification to increase productivity. (3)
Gamification represents the fusion of four trends:
- the explosion of social media usage
- the mobile revolution
- the rise of big data
- the emergence of wearable computing (2)
In order to understand the impact of gamification on employee engagement and motivation, we need to understand how and why it works. In addition we need to learn the keys necessary to implement gamification successfully (and authentically) in a business.
How and Why Gamification Increases Employee Engagement
Gamification has proven to be very successful in engaging people and motivating them to change behaviors, develop skills, or solve problems. Thus, gamification has been effective in increasing employee motivation and engagement. By leveraging some of the features used in real games, gamification can turn many other types of activities into games. (2) “A well-structured recognition system can create a Las Vegas-style atmosphere in a worker’s limbic system, stimulating the amygdala and conditioning the brain to pursue ever-greater acts of sales accomplishment.”(8) #neuroscience
Those who use gamification in employee motivation and engagement realize that while initial popular gamification designs often are mostly relying on simplistic reward approach, even these lead to significant improvements in short term engagement. (4)
The psychology behind gamification is that it uses regular and consistent positive feedback – points, badges, status, progression, etc. – to build up the users’ motivation. (3)
Gamification increases the perceived ability of users by making difficult tasks or challenges simpler either through practice or by lowering the activation threshold of the targeted behavior. (10) “People may be motivated by getting a gift card, but what really drives them is recognition [as well as] status, access, power, and stuff (the SAPS Model), “says Zichermann. (8)
The problem with “stuff” is that people want more and more over time. If the same stimulus is used repeatedly, employees lose interest. “Every type of reward will need to increase in intensity over time due to habituation, which is part of the behavior of economics, according to Zichermann.” (8)
“The bias that people have to win something is how achievement-oriented people tend to view the world,” says Zichermann. Employees who are achievement-oriented want some sort of pay-off or prize. However, the majority of people, according to Zichermann, are not as achievement- or winning-oriented. These employees feel rewarded when they think they control their own destiny. (8)
Status, access, and power are virtual rewards, an example of which is employee achievement. These things scale up without added expense. “That’s part of why businesses are attracted to gamification – it scales.” (8)
Another aspect of gamification is that it involves making work increasingly fun by leveraging the concepts of gamification. “It’s about figuring out ways to create alignment with incentives and motivation. You increase productivity (and) performance and you can attract a higher-quality employee, this next generation of employees or millennials generation who bring with them their increased technology skills,” says Zichermann. (8)
The Keys to Gamification to Increase Employee Motivation
Rajat Paharia, founder of Bunchball and author of the book Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Employee and Customer Engagement with Big Data and Gamification presents what he calls “The 10 Key Mechanics of Gamification”: (8)
- fast feedback
- leveling up
When you use gamification to motivate and engage your employees, you must remember to have the consent of your employees. Participation must be voluntary in order to be successful. “Mandated fun is considered no fun at all, unless employees consent to the game. Without consent, new research shows, the gamification attempt will backfire; with consent, gamification will engage employees even though the essential core task has not changed.” (5)
For gamification to increase employee motivation successfully, three employee consent factors must be present. Employees must:
- recognize that the game is being played (i.e., pay attention to the game)
- understand the rules of the game
- see the ‘game’ as fair (3)
Some additional keys to gamifying employee motivation and engagement successfully are (5):
- Availability of meaningful rewards
In order for employees to participate in gamification, the rewards provided must be meaningful.
- Provision of clear rules
Any confusion about the rules of the game will cause employees to disengage. (5)
- Full commitment of management
“Management must be committed to the change and be willing to put in the time to advance it in order for it to succeed.” (9)
In order to successfully implement gamification in the development of your employees’ engagement and motivation, it helps to look at some examples of how companies have applied gamification to increase employee motivation and engagement.
Examples of Using Gamification to Engage and Motivate Employees
Tech-savvy companies are using the principles of game mechanics to get better performance from their employees. The use of gamification involves exploring various methods, adopting those that work, and refining those that do not provide the desired results. (6) Some recent applications of gamification include the following:
- Gamification Used to Improve Performance
Gamification has been integrated into Help Desk software to improve performance. In 2012, Freshdesk, a SaaS-based customer support product, allowed their agents to earn badges based upon their performance. (4) At one point, Omnicare was experiencing long wait times at its helpdesk, even though employees were experienced and knowledgeable about the service. The company decided to gamify a solution to improve efficiency. The first thing the company did was add a leaderboard and show the representatives on the board. Additionally, employees with the fastest times were issued cash rewards. (5) However, this did not work, as employees felt like they were being watched all the time. Omnicare recognized the problem when employees began doing worse instead of better and some even left the company. Therefore, Omnicare changed the design of the system, setting a series of achievements that reps could reach by giving them a challenge to meet at the beginning of every shift. Instead of cash, successful reps are given short-term rewards that are achievement and recognition oriented. (5)
- Gamification Used to Increase Employee Productivity
Some examples of gamification management tools used to improve productivity are RedCritter Tracker, Playcall, and Arcaris. (4)
Target used gamification to improve cashier awareness of their effectiveness. Target engaged employees by encouraging them to get in the flow when checking out customers by making it more game-like. (5)
- Gamification Used to Educate Employees
Ford Motor Company in Canada worked with Bunchball when they needed their service and sales teams to become familiar with new car models, options, technologies, and financing plans. Ford’s learning portal (Learning Management System – LMS) saw a 417% increase in use. Its younger audiences were especially more engaged. The result was better customer satisfaction and more sales. (5)
Using Gamification to Increase Your Employees Engagement and Motivation
According to Kris Duggan, CEO of Badgeville, there are ten areas of business that make good starting points, enabling businesses to expand to other areas as they experience success.
#1 Training and Learning
Gamification works well for your employees when they complete learning tutorials. These guided educational experiences improve retention, time spent, and results. Gamification is not only helpful for onboarding new employees, but also as training for older employees on new products and policies.
#2 Support and Services
Gamification programs allow you, as an employer to reward the best support team members based on speed, efficiency and quality of support. If you motivate knowledge-sharing behaviors, it helps reps solve similar kinds of customer tickets more efficiently.
Although sales representatives are naturally competitive, many of the steps that lead to a deal are not rewarded; however they are statistically just as important as closing a deal. Gamification enables sales directors to reward compliant performers. It also can help increase collaboration among sales representatives.
Gamification helps your company instantly motivate employees to share, learn, and grow together across geographical locations. An example is Deloitte Consulting, which has used gamification to significantly increase collaboration amongst management consultants worldwide.
#5 Marketing and Social Advocacy
Gamification can drive your employees to share information and be advocates for the company on their social media. In addition, it can also be used to make marketing automation programs more efficient.
#6 Order Management and Warehousing
Gamification is also used to create incentives for correct processing and shipment of orders across all channels to eliminate errors and ensure operational quality.
#7 Human Resources
Gamification provides an efficient system for conducting and tracking performance reviews and providing peer recognition for professional accomplishments, providing a clear pathway for professional advancement. For recruiting, gamification can incentivize employee referrals and keep recruits engaged in the employment process from submission of their application through the final interview.
#8 Product Development
When your business integrates gamification into product tracking software, you are able to reward employees for completing projects on time, working together as a team, and launching faster, higher quality deliverables.
#9 Ideation or Innovation
You can drive innovation within your company by rewarding top ideas and innovation across all your departments.
#10 Corporate Cultures
Gamification can promote a positive company culture, rewarding your employees for cross-departmental collaboration or company-wide volunteer programs. Use a gamified platform to track available opportunities, make them transparent to your employees, and provide a history of employee engagement in the programs.
If you plan to utilize gamification to increase your employees’ motivation and engagement, consider the following:
- Delegate a point person for advancing the gamification idea by being an internal advocate (8)
- Have someone certified in gamification design to provide the basic framework to get started
- Identify where the engagement issues are with your employees
- Use your gamification framework and methodology to address whatever engagement issues your company faces
Conclusion on gamification for employee engagement
One of the most important implications of gamification is that it offers employers a new avenue for motivating or compensating employees without changing the fundamental nature of the task itself. In other words, gamification, when well designed, will enhance productivity and worker feelings about the workplace without additional compensation or resources. (5)
“There’s no question that it (gamification) works,” says Michael Fauscette, who leads research firm IDC’s Software Business Solutions Group. In his June 2013 study of gamification in the workplace, Fauscette found overwhelming evidence that the practice drives employee engagement. He presented the example of Deloitte Learning Academy, which used gamification to boost participation in its professional development programs. Deloitte added a series of fun “missions” to the program, in which employees who participated earned points and unlocked shareable achievements as they studied. Deloitte managed to get busy executives to spend more time engaged in the professional development programs. In a summary of his report, Fauscette said, “Return rates increased to >46% daily and >36% weekly. Active users unlocked an average of 3 achievements and some of the top users exceeded 30 achievements.” (6)
Employers are using gamification — the introduction of games in the workplace — to make work more enjoyable and ‘fun’, and (hopefully) improve employee engagement and motivation. (5) Try using gamification – either the simple application of leaderboards and rewards or more sophisticated gamification application – in your business to increase your employees’ engagement and motivation.
- Burke, Brian, “The Gamification of Business.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/gartnergroup/2013/01/21/the-gamification-of-business/
- Workman, Brandon, “Gamification: Companies Of All Sizes Are Using This Strategy To Win Customers And Pummel Competitors.” http://www.businessinsider.com/the-growing-gamification-market-2013-
- Laja, Peep, “How to Use Gamification for Better Business Results.”
- “Gamification and Games at Work that Work.” https://www.ideasforleaders.com/ideas/gamification-and-games-at-work-that-work
- Strohmeyer, Robert, “Gamification: Using Play To Motivate Employees And Engage Customers.” http://www.pcworld.com/article/2047564/gamification-using-play-to-motivate-employees-and-engage-customers.html
- Smith, Andrew, “How to Use Gamification to Grow Your Business and Engage Your Employees.” http://www.brazencareerist.com/blog/2014/10/07/use-gamification-grow-business-engage-employees/
- Hein, Rich, “How to Use Gamification to Engage Employees.” http://www.cio.com/article/2453330/careers-staffing/how-to-use-gamification-to-engage-employees.html
- Delgado, Rick, “Gamification: The New Tool for Employee Engagement” http://www.alleywatch.com/2014/03/gamification-the-new-tool-for-employee-engagement/
- Duggan, Kris, “Gamification: The Secret Weapon of Employee Engagement.” http://www.cmswire.com/cms/social-business/gamification-the-secret-weapon-of-employee-engagement-020079.php?pageNum=2
Are you using gamification to increase employee engagement? How I would love to hear your views and experiences