Should You Gamify Your Company?
Should you gamify your company? The word “gamification” was coined back in 2002 to describe the process of turning a difficult or tedious task into a game. It took a while to take off, but now the concept has been applied to everything from household chores to social networking (the highly successful Foursquare application).
Business News Daily even dubbed 2013 “The Year of Gamification”. And with good reason: gamification is being widely used by companies not only to lure customers, but also to motivate and engage their employees.
In fact, Brian Burke of Gartner predicts that by 2015, 40% of Global 1,000 organizations will use gamification to motivate employees and change employee behaviors. So, if you aren’t yet employing a gamification strategy in your company, now is the time to consider it.
But what does gamification involve exactly?
In most gamification campaigns, employees gain points and levels as they finish tasks. The idea is that many employees spend their extra money and free time playing games (video games, smartphone games, etc.), so they are likely to be motivated by a job that is structured similarly.
For example, Salesforce Motivation gamifies sales departments with an interface that displays the user’s points (based on their sales performance) alongside the points of the top performing employees. So employees are motivated not only by real-time visibility into their own performance but also the performance of their co-workers.
But does gamification work? Gabe Zichermann, founder and chief executive at Dopamine Inc., found that gamification helps employees increase their ability to learn new skills by 40%. He also found that gamification can increase not only engagement but also collaboration, as employees are pushed to interact with each other through the competitive gaming structure.
However, there has been some recent pushback against gamification. Foursquare announced that they are phasing out gamification, because those elements have become superfluous, stating that customers enjoy the app without them. Additionally, Gartner “predicts that by 2014, 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily because of poor design.”
So does this mean that gamification isn’t a good investment? No, it just means that gamification should be developed and implemented carefully.
How and When to Gamify
Burke says that “when designed correctly, gamification has proven to be very successful in engaging people.” So when should you use gamification?
Burke identifies 3 key areas that can be improved through gamifying your company: behavior, training, and education. So gamification can be used as a one-off way to train your employees on a new task or technology, or it can be a behavior-modeling fixture of your organization.
But regardless of how you decide to employ gamification, be sure to tie it into your core objectives. Many gamification campaigns fail because companies don’t have a clear idea of what they want to change; they just gamify their organization and hope that something improves. The best campaigns set up specific metrics to measure how gamification does (or doesn’t) improve employee engagement and performance.
Gamification should always take the user into account. People enjoy video games because it gives them intrinsic pleasure; they aren’t rewarded outside of the joys of the game itself. Similarly, employees are more engaged when they are driven by intrinsic motivations (the joys of their job) rather than extrinsic ones (rewards and money).
You may decide to offer incentives as part of your gamification campaign, but the games themselves should be inherently fun and motivating for your employees.
If done correctly, gamification is a great way to get employees engaged in their jobs (which, as Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace study shows, is no small feat). So evaluate the needs of your company and consider gamifying today.