How gamification can help your business achieve better results with happier employees.
Gamification, maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t but it’s not just a fad, gamification actually works.1 While not a new concept as it actually predates when “gamification” joined our lexicon back in 2008, it has steadily grown in popularity over the last decade. Gamification is when game mechanics are incorporated into things other than games, and it has become a popular strategy when it comes to turning menial tasks in an employee’s day into something enjoyable, something they strive to excel at rather than something to mindlessly get through. This concept may or may not seem strange at first, it may even seem impossible to turn the mundane into a fun activity, but it’s exactly what successful video games do. Todd Howard, winner of five consecutive game of the year awards and AIAS’s Best Game Director of 2012, said in an interview, “Take a repetitive action and make it simple and fun,”2. Of course, video games are, by their very nature, games and work is – well work. That said, my mother once told me that “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I remember it, because she told me that every time I complained over a homework assignment. While the saying may be trite by now, it doesn’t mean there isn’t truth to it. There is more to gamification, however, then Mrs. Conley’s cliché wisdom and why you should be adopting it.
One, you’re tapping into basic human behavior. We love competition and collaboration, so why not leverage that? It’s also no secret that we enjoy rewards and recognition, it’s something that’s already ingrained into our business culture, so why not create a more enjoyable system to give it? A system that is a prevalent part of everyday, rather than something only done once a year, or once a quarter. By setting goals and creating a system of rewards around those goals and the tasks associated with those goals, you help your employees focus on their work daily, improving overall job performance.
Two, loss aversion theory suggests that losing is twice as motivational as winning, therefore employees who don’t “win” your games are now far more motivated to do better the next time around, which is a far better way of motivating then having them do just enough not to get fired.3 Gamification gives your workplace a context where employees find themselves consistently self-motivated, which is exactly what managers are looking to do.
Finally, you foster a sense of community and encourage more peer to peer interactions which creates a lively and positive work environment. In turn, happier employees will mean happier clients as their interactions with your organization improve.
It can be a daunting task, creating a gamified system for your company that works. How can you make it fun and engaging? How do you know if your colleagues are taking it seriously? What if your attempts to gamify KPIs fall flat? There is plenty to concern yourself with, and if you’ve never been exposed to successfully gamified business units, it’s nearly impossible to know where to begin. Well I am here to help with that. You can start by building a program around these ten core game mechanics that have proven themselves in companies around the world over the last decade:
- Points: It is in our nature to want to grow our balance and creating a cumulative point system does just that. Often this is tied to the next mechanic.
- Levels: There are so many ways to create levels for your employees to reach. From cumulative KPIs to continuing education, levels give you a way to incentivize professional progress.
- Missions: These can be projects, or periodic goals. Having missions for teams but also individuals help your employees feel a higher degree of agency in their work and break down your organization’s loftier goals into bite sized chunks for your employees.
- Badges: When employees meet goals, hand out recognition in the form of badges, allowing them to review and reflect on their accomplishments.
- Leaderboards: Have both individual and team leaderboards on critical KPIs to drive competition and encourage excellence.
- Unlocks: This is one of my favorites, personally. It is the oft overlooked mechanic in the gamified workplace. These generally occur at important milestones set ahead of the game.
- Virtual Goods: Anything non-physical that employees can buy in game, from accessories for their avatar to special ‘unlocks’ within the game.
- Notifications: Make your games transparent, otherwise people will stop playing along. Notifying participants of their achievements and those of their peers help keep them focused.
- Quiz: Make on boarding fun and competitive while also making sure your employees are staying up to speed on their internal knowledge.
- Visual Progress: Seeing is believing and making sure your employees can see their progress is critical, otherwise this is all just a waste of time.
Now trying to build out all mechanics at once often results in an incoherent mess. My advice? Start with Points, Levels, and Leaderboards. Figure out all the ways people can accumulate points, assign a value to them, and then you can start assigning levels to point accrual. Level 2 should be easy to get to, and each level after that should require 10-30% more points than the level before it, depending on how quickly it takes employees to ‘level up’. Leaderboards are easy, you just create tables showing employees and business units in order points or other KPIs for your organization. Once you have these mechanics in place you can start expanding on them.
Badges, for instance, are an easy way to reward employees and teams for hitting milestones. Vail Resorts does this with visitors to their resorts every day. Ride a lift 20 times in one day? Receive a pin. Ski 10,000 vertical feet? Receive a pin. Ski multiple mountains in one day? Receive a pin. Ski one mountain 10 times in a season? Earn a pin. You get the point. Now you just have to figure out how that applies to your business. Make X number of calls in a day? Earn a badge. Close X number of tickets in a day? Earn a badge. Get a perfect score on 10 consecutive customer surveys? Earn a badge. See the pattern here? As human beings we have a competitive streak. We like being successful. All you have to do is reward that success and give it the recognition it deserves.
A flexible operational intelligence solution, like eMite, helps you make all of this happen. It’s visual, it’s flexible, and highly configurable. It’s built on HTML 5, but the WYSIWYG interface, and user-friendly interface means you can customize the dashboards to your liking. The real kicker, though, is eMite’s growing library of data connectors means that you can gamify your entire organization in one central place – or break it up by department with separate wallboards adding transparency into how the “game” is playing out.
While gamification is an effective tool in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of your people, it is no substitute for good leadership. That said, it is awfully powerful and there really isn’t a reason not to do it when both the bottom line and your colleagues’ well being stand to benefit. If you’re looking to learn more about gamification and how eMite can get you started, why don’t you reach out because we’d love to hear from you!
1 Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., & Sarsa, H. (2014, January). Does Gamification Work? Retrieved February, 2019, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256743509_Does_Gamification_Work_-_A_Literature_Review_of_Empirical_Studies_on_Gamification
2 Skyrim Creator Todd Howard Shares Secrets Of Video Game Design Dean Takahashi – https://venturebeat.com/2012/02/08/skyrim-creator-todd-howard-shares-secrets-of-video-game-design/
3 Loss Aversion https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/resources/mini-encyclopedia-of-be/loss-aversion/