Jun 16, 2011

Driving Employee Engagement using Gamification

FarmVilleImage via WikipediaOrganizations have always used internal competitions to drive employee performance and engagement. I remember, when I used to work in pharmaceutical sales (before the days of email) we would get the company newsletter in the mail, which showed which of my training batchmates were performing well and achieving how much of their sales quotas. This was a vital part of the communication that we would look forward to every month. That's because we were just 3 employees in the city and the competitive spirit made us look forward to understand how we were doing in our peer group.

Fast forward to the present day, and "game design" has become a by-word thanks to the success of online games being played by common folks (on platforms like Facebook) Social Games like Zynga's FarmVille, CityVille, Mafia Wars are addictive and tap into basic desire of humans to see how they are progressing (moving from level to level) vis a vis their peers and to publicly declare (through badges) their status.

How can this be applied to the workplace?

First, we have to understand that the benefits of gamification are most when applied to repetitive tasks that people might normally consider boring. It would however be counter productive in workplaces that focus on creativity and depth of thinking.

A reward and recognition system that uses the principles of gamification will easily help to drive employee engagement to a higher level and linking it to productivity. In my opinion it can also drive desired behaviours around sharing and knowledge facilitation without focusing on actual monetary rewards.

Came across this infographic on the case for Gamification within the workplace

Here's an interesting take on "turning work into play"

The serious guys, the military and some of the really big companies like Unilever, have created training packages for some of their employees — and this is where they’re coming from. Not necessarily just the 3-D rendering, the fancy, realistic, virtual world experiences, but also the built-in use of frustration and reward.
Training employees on a large scale, companies have often had this problem: how to standardize and roll out good training programs. So they were doing these experiments that I think were successful.
h+: I know I’d feel better about job training if it felt more like killing zombies, but how do non-gaming businesses react to the introduction of both game technology and actual games to the workplace? Is there resistance to this trend?
Helgason: I hear from people that it can be very all-over-the-map, from very positive to people not understanding what this is all about. Fear and all that.
I was on a panel a while ago, a virtual worlds forum, with a lot of people selling solutions, working with big enterprise, and they spoke of some resistance… but even on the panel, there was a sense that the resistance was going away or that there was less of it now than two years ago.
h+: In some places, you can even find the use of mass market games in corporate training or education. I know of a gaming lounge in New York that rented time on Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, a squad-shooter, to companies for team-building exercises.
Helgason: Yeah. I failed to mention this [in the gamification post], but yeah, just using traditional games for various uses, that’s obviously true as well.
They did some very large experiments teaching kids with Sim City and The Sims — just playing the games. But these games are extremely rich in knowledge and structural understanding. You can communicate an understanding of a society and how a society works. It was a research project sponsored by Electronic Arts. They rolled out these games and played them in schools, and someone ran around trying to figure out the kids’ retention and how well they could apply this knowledge afterwards. The conclusion was that they taught them really well.
In education, you have these terms. One is what you can remember in a multiple choice test right after you learn, and then how much you remember a week after, a month later, and the third is how well you can apply this knowledge in a completely different area.
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