What is Gamification at work?

What is gamification, is it effective for employee engagement, and should you try it?

Most people by now have heard of gamification in some form or another — basically the use of points, badges, leaderboards, or other elements of what we generally know as “games” in tasks that already exist in order to motivate participation, engagement and loyalty.

That’s pretty straightforward, right? We all have played games at some point in our lives, we all enjoy games and generally speaking we wish the rest of life could be as fun as the games we enjoy most.

But, of course, for some reason there’s this idea that “work is not supposed to be fun… if it was fun, you wouldn’t get paid to do it.” That’s simply untrue.

Combining good game mechanics with clearly defined and measurable tasks is a great way to increase awareness, activity, performance and motivation.

The following 10 game mechanics are common in gamification:

  • Fast Feedback
  • Transparency
  • Goals
  • Badges
  • Leveling Up
  • Onboarding
  • Competition
  • Collaboration
  • Community
  • Points

Gamification — a brief example

With the correct combination of leadership and a clear understanding of what key tasks or activities you want to increase performance on, it can be relatively easy to turn them into a game if some type of reward is involved.

As one example, let’s take

contacting people: customers, prospects, anyone. Let’s say you are going to contact them by phone or email. Let’s say also that you have some clear goal: generate a customer success case, qualify a lead, or simply thank someone for their business.

If you are going to repeat this task day in and day out, it will eventually get boring because as humans we just don’t care much for repetition. The first few times we do something it’s new and exciting but after that it gets routine, stale, dry, and flat out boring. So, in order to keep it fun, you decide to look at turning these tasks into a game.

Now, in order for this game to be effective, it needs to involve something that the “players” or employees will care about. Is there some reward? Is there public praise or recognition involved? Is there some celebration or other incentive for completing the task or being the first one to finish? Once a clearly defined goal is established and a meaningful reward has been set forth, the game is on. But, what does meaningful mean? It means that in order for the players/employees to strive and put forth max effort to achieve this reward it needs to be fun, interesting and fulfil some desire that they have.

As an example for meaningful rewards, let’s say I offer up a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or tickets to a sporting or movie event to the “winners”. The winners can be the first one done, everyone who accomplishes the goal in a given time frame, the top 3, and so on. But, if none of them care about movies, wine, chocolates or sports then the incentive will be ineffective because it is meaningless to them.

One general rule of thumb is that there is no one-size-fits all approach for rewards. Even if everyone in the office loves chocolate, some will like dark chocolate, some will like milk chocolate, some will want chocolate with candies in it and so on. The better you can do at providing specifically what the “winners” would like as a prize, the more effective a motivator that prize will be.

Done right (hint: just have simple conversations with your team about what they like) you can find highly effective motivators that are not expensive.


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