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Using gamification for employee engagement

07.02.2013
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Games are undoubtably one of the more addictive elements of modern life, and their use in the workplace is growing.  Research suggests that the gamification market will be worth over $5 billion in the next few years.

The allure is easy to understand.  Companies around the world are suffering with falling employee engagement, whilst at the same time having to come to terms with the financial restraints enforced by the global recession.  So having something that both makes work more fun, whilst also giving employees non-monetary incentives sure is enticing.  That the use of games can often increase productivity as well makes it even more attractive.

There are numerous examples of gamification in the workplace that is achieving real results.  At Target for instance, they have made the checkout process more like a game.  Each time cashiers check someone out, they're playing a game.  A red light tells them they were too slow to scan an item, a green light shows they were bang on.  They're then provided with a real time score to reflect how they're doing.

Or take pharmacy software company Omnicare.  They were seeing long queues for helpdesk queries from pharmacists, so they decided to gamify the process.  The first step was to create a leaderboard for the best customer service reps.  This was followed by awarding cash rewards for the best performers.  These are the kind of things we can often, wrongly, associate with games, but they had an adverse effect on performance at Omnicare.  Staff felt like they were being spied on, so Omnicare re-designed the system so the achievements were things that the support staff cared about.  They were then challenged at the stat of each shift, with rewards given for successful achievements.

Wharton management professor Kevin Werbach recently outlined 8 key components of a gamification program in his Coursera module on the topic.

8 keys to workplace gamification

  1. Problem solving. We’re hard-wired to enjoy a challenge, and it is often the routine and un-challenging nature of work that makes it dull.  Stretching yourself however can be incredibly rewarding.
  2. Exploration.  This desire to solve problems often leads us to attempt new things and requires us to learn new skills in order to solve each problem.  This sense of exploration is an inherently rewarding experience.
  3. Teamwork. The massive multiplayer environments of modern games should show managers how much people like working together to crack a problem.  We are often natural collaborators, so you should use all the tools at your disposal to encourage this.
  4. Recognition. Research a few years ago showed that people value recognition and appreciation more than sex.  A simple thank you can raise employee engagement by as much as 30%.
  5. Success. Back in 2011 Harvard academic Teresa Amabile released The Progress Principle.  The book charts the importance of achieving success, or at least making progress, and its impact on our happiness in life and at work.
  6. Surprise and novelty.  Relationship gurus the world over trumpet the virtue of keeping things fresh in a relationship.  Novelty is kinda taken for granted in the social world because it moves so quickly, but introducing fresh things should be a key part of your working life.
  7. Creativity. How often do you get to come up with great ideas at work?  I suspect when you think of those times, it was generally accompanied by a happy feeling.  Just as challenging work is exciting, so is trying new ways of succeeding at work.
  8. Knowledge sharing. If you’re regarded as an expert in your field, it does wonders for your ego.  The culture of hoarding knowledge and using that power to climb the greasy pole is hopefully slowly fading out, so get out there and show off your knowledge internally.  There are lots of collaboration tools available now that encourage internal knowledge sharing.  The chances are your organisation has one in place, so get out there and make use of it.

They provide you with an excellent framework within which to apply your own gamification ideas.

Have you implemented games in your own workplace?  If so, I'd love to hear from you how you went about it and the results you've seen.

Republished with permission

Published at DZone with permission of its author, David Austin.

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