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There are basic human motivators that encourage us to perform all tasks, every single day. Humans either want to feel smart, successful, and socially valued, or want to be the best at what they do and change the world. The most successful products are developed with these common motivators in mind. A company’s management team should constantly research to understand what could improve their engagement (their relationship with community and staff.) Unless a company has been living under a rock for the last few years, they will know gamification strategies are skyrocketing in the business world and can certainly benefit employee relations as well as customer engagement.
Gamification is a speedy, effective, and fun way to train and motivate employees.
What is Gamification?
Gamification is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. Catherine Clifford, Entrepreneur Staff, declares that gamification is the business equivalent of “mixing broccoli into mac and cheese. It’s a way of making predictable, boring workplace tasks more engaging for employees and customers.”
It’s more than just awarding badges and leaderboard placement; it requires a company to thoughtfully understand motivation and tactics. With video games remaining popular even as technology evolves, businesses realize they can be utilized as powerful tools for motivating behavior, tracking demographics, and increasing social sales. Effective games influence both psychology and skill in ways that can leave an impression on the external environment. Organizations apply it in areas such as marketing, human resources, productivity enhancement, sustainability, training, health and wellness, innovation, and customer engagement.
Gamification and Employees
In its relatively short existence, gamification has proven itself to be a successful tool in improving companies’ employee engagement. According to Gallup Employee Engagement Index, the average 1,000 agent contact center loses $2 million per year due to disengaged employees. Businesses who have made an effort to reverse that statistic with the use of gamification have had great success. Companies that use gamification have reduced on-boarding or training time up to 90%, increased employee skills by more than 70%, and retained their top talent by 78%. If businesses aren’t yet convinced that gamification is worth the hassle, here are five more reasons gamification is sure to improve employee engagement.
Growing Their Expertise
Humans have functions in the brain that freely work toward problem solving. Gaming takes this natural process and makes it fun and rewarding. Games normally require the player to retain information, rules, and procedures as well as make judgments and work toward certain outcomes. Knowledge retention is a big part of an employee’s daily life, especially while dealing with customers, so implementing the most effective methods of learning isn’t just important for the employee, it’s essential to an organization’s success. Jeanne Meister, author of Corporate Universities, states that “interactive learning games can increase long-term retention rates by up to 10 times—a significant statistic when considering knowledge retention.” Retaining information is a skill that is obtained with practice. With gamification, practicing is a fun and enjoyable way to broaden an employee’s knowledge base.
Actively Gauging Performance
Annual evaluations are an essential way for employees to discover what areas they need to improve and help managers understand what aspects of the job their employees struggle with. Leaders increasingly find that employees perform better, learn more quickly, and resolve their incorrect behaviors when they receive immediate, real-time feedback. Gaming offers an instant cause and effect as well as a real-time report of accomplishments or defeats. If an employee makes a wrong choice in a game, the individual will be immediately corrected before being able to move forward. If the employee makes a deliberate, smart move, he or she will receive immediate positive reinforcement in the form of badges, points, leveling up, or unlocking certain achievements.
It fosters transparent information regarding employees’ performance. Imagine if all businesses used gamification to streamline that information so employees could know exactly how their skills are advancing or diminishing instead of wondering where they really stand. In 2007, IBM generated a game for their employees called Innov8. It gave IT and business players a better understanding of how their success in their specific line of work could impact their entire business ecosystem. At its core, Innov8 was created to help people work smarter so they can help build a smarter planet. Because Innov8 is a real-time game, employees quickly saw how their personal practical process improvements can help meet profitability, customer satisfaction, and environmental goals while addressing real problems businesses face.
Companies spend thousands of dollars annually sending their employees to seminars, conferences, and targeted development sessions. Displaying accomplishments of a business’ employees can go further than certificates, learning achievement plagues, and LinkedIn accounts. People enjoy competition. And they like to win and receive validation regarding their skill. Competition is prevalent, especially in the workplace. Competition for a promotion, a raise, and a sale are just a few examples of competition that can get out of hand and nasty in a hurry. These situations may also lead to a hostile work environment and disengaged employees. That’s why a controlled competitive game can be so useful in the workplace.
A game where employees feel they are learning, being awarded for doing the right things, and being noticed for their hard work is a prime example of friendly and healthy competition. There’s little to no room for employees to be angry over a game in which they can easily put forth more effort. In addition to encouraging a climate of entertaining, laidback improvement, allowing employees to become skilled in their particular roles at a business, and openly recognizing their accomplishments will facilitate even more development and ultimately help a business meet its goals.
Connecting with Others
Most people appreciate a sense of community and social interaction in the workplace. Team building doesn’t always have to be getting together after work to go to happy hour, playing kickball, or going to a karaoke bar on the weekend. People want to feel connected to their co-workers. They want to be able to count on them as well as help them through problems of their own instead of feeling detached. What drives loyalty and comradery is not giving away free stuff, but status and recognition. Gamification creates a virtual world where employees can be productive and still have a good time, side-by-side. Incorporating fun into the workplace makes for a thriving business because it fosters productivity, thus creating an enhanced work environment.
Many companies are beginning to embrace gamification as a way to encourage innovation and inspire new ideas among their employees. At a 2012 Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise conference, Zichermann described the crowd-sourcing game Foldit, developed by the University of Washington. In 2011, the structure of a key protein that scientists believe may help cure HIV was discovered. Scientists had been working on the problem for 15 years and in just 10 days, 46,000 people using Foldit discovered a possible solution.3 Many companies may not be trying to cure a deadly disease, but nurturing innovation in the workplace can mean life or death in today’s marketplace.3 Highlighting all kinds of progress within a business fosters a productive work environment, improves knowledge, and keeps a company in business. Times are changing and if businesses aren’t willing to adapt to the constantly changing needs of the market, they won’t last, especially if their top competitors quickly adjust to consumers’ preferences.
In all cases, gamification seems to be working. By taking business processes such as compliance training and converting it into participatory, competitive games, employees tend to be more receptive to tasks that need to be done anyway. If businesses are committed to rewarding employees for a job well done, employees start getting better at their jobs. It’s as simple as that.