Blog: Gamification - Ignore it at your own peril

Learning & Development

Gamification - Ignore it at your own peril

Gamification is the new corporate buzzword promising to entrench itself in many HR processes. Ignore it at your own peril
Gamification - Ignore it at your own peril

Inside every one of us is a child who always wants to play games, even at work. Except at work it is called Gamification, which brings the concepts of play into the more serious business of managing people.

Employee engagement levels are low. While all the old sinners may well be reasons (job clarity, leader effectiveness, compensation etc), overwhelming connectivity is the biggest culprit! How on earth can anyone do a serious body of work today? With constant bombardment from instant messages, Facebook updates, ‘urgent’ emails, Whats Apps, Tweets… And, oh yes, phone calls from those pesky customers!

No policy, or punishment, can fully ban these ‘distractions’. The simple reason: Most of today’s networks of knowledge and business reside in this space. People demand this connectivity 24x7. So, if you can’t beat them, join them!

Gamification uses the four fundamental tenets that online games have benefited from:

  1. Learning: The human aspiration to acquire knowledge
  2. Earning: Benefit from knowledge
  3. Sharing: Spread knowledge and its benefits to people who matter
  4. Building a social reputation: Consequently grow in social stature

This is a simple and a hugely successful formula. Gamification entices people in the workplace to stay engaged and motivated enough to come back and play, again and again, so the organization wins.

We are all familiar with online games like Farmville. Games that are age, gender, profession, geography and platform agnostic, yet have an almost cult following! Interestingly, no one is wondering why. Everyone’s too busy playing!

Gamification applications are starting to ride similar waves of success in business environments. Additionally, satisfying business demands for results and returns quantifiable in financial terms. One finds applications customized to every sector, every business unit and every company. For talent attraction, learning and development, engagement, wellness…the list is endless.

Badgeville, Bunchball and Bigdoor are some companies already on the gamification bandwagon in the global market. While our own homegrown Ripplehire’s gamification platform promises solid results in the hiring (Employee Referral) space.

Gamification applications need to have at least five corporate chromosomes in their DNA for best results:

  1. Compatibility with the IT infrastructure: Personally, I consider this of paramount importance. Any solution is a non-starter if users have to struggle to use it. Many organizations have already subscribed to programs like Gamification usually has synergies with these, so integration needs to be seamless – plug, play and platform agnostic. So IT heads, please quiz the service provider mercilessly.
  2. An umbilical connectivity with the company: Any gamification application needs to be fully integrated with the organization’s culture, values and business goals even to the granular extent of using internal jargon and acronyms. Players should feel the same sense of corporate citizenship online as they do when working on a regular project.
  3. Fun, engrossing and challenging: We all show signs of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)! The ability to concentrate being compromised every minute of the day. To stay alive and engrossing, gamification needs to be fun and challenge users at the same time. This means constantly updating content and rewards to engage people. Service providers must have 4-6 months of challenging content, approved in advance, to keep the game moving.
  4. Instant, meaningful and UNCONDITIONAL rewards: For rewards to deliver an adrenalin rush, they must be instant and meaningful: They could range from smileys and badges that build social reputation to points that can be accumulated in real time and redeemed at will. And please: no ‘black-outs’ or that ridiculous ‘conditions apply’ clause that marketers use to get away from having to think through their offering.
  5. C-Suite Sponsorship: Employee engagement should now be on the CEO’s agenda (if it isn’t, then make it. TODAY!) in terms of budgets, communications and defence against cynics, detractors and ‘old-school’ thinkers. C-Suite: Support your teams personally – you have to be in it to win it!

Gartner predicts that by 2014, over 70 per cent of the Forbes Global 2000 companies will have at least one gamified application in their environments. Others guess the potential for gamification products to be in the vicinity of $5 billion before this decade ends.

Gamification providers already display an enviable client credential list. So it’s clearly not just another fad du jour of some enlightened business leader. Gamification is a serious leadership tool and should be used as such if everyone is to benefit!

Would gamification still be a corporate term in 2020? Would it have delivered the predicted revenues? Well, the jury is out. Planning models can only predict, but never know for sure, what the corporate playfield will look like in 2020, 2030 or 2050.

What will remain, for sure, is the child within us. The child who wants to play…

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Topics: Learning & Development, Employee Engagement

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