Engaging Employees with Gamification

By September 22, 2014Blog

Employee Engagement with Gamification

Employee engagement has been monitored by the Gallup Institute for several decades in dozens of countries by periodically asking hundreds of thousands of employees a couple of questions about their engagement levels. And the results are pretty shocking. Only 16% or employees in Switzerland are engaged. Unengaged employees cost the economy several billion Swiss Francs every year. And the outcomes matter for each of us. Dealing with a disengaged supermarket cashier, support center agent, bank clerk, or colleague frustrate all of us.

Now think of players playing video games. Maybe you play games yourself, or your children. Then you will know what real engagement means. Players can spend hours very focused on achieving their goals. And this often includes many failures, but still players are trying to tackle again the obstacles.

Research shows when people are engaged they are more productive. That’s why gamification has caught on in the corporate world. The clever combination of fields such as game design, psychology, motivation theory, neurophysiology, and behaviorism has been shown to benefit stakeholders in surprisingly effective ways.

Gamification is the use of game design elements in a non-game context. You may already have interacted with gamified systems without realizing. LinkedIn, Amazon, or any loyalty program is a gamified system. Gamification does not mean a game is created and we waste our time in playing. Gamification aims at changing behaviors to engage, measure, teach, and entertain players. With a player-centric design gamification designers are looking at what motivates and interests people. If the players are happy, they will go the extra-mile, for the benefit of themselves, the customers, the colleagues, and the company.

But there are a number of other important reasons why you should own the gamification strategy. Well-done gamification creates happy employees. And the results from a survey conducted by the research institute iOpener Institute for People and Performance show that happy employees

  • are twice as productive,
  • stay five times longer in their jobs,
  • are six times more energized,
  • take ten times less sick leave.
  • Happier workers also help their colleagues 33% more than their least happy colleagues. They raise issues that affect performance 46% more, and they achieve their goals 31% more often and are 36% more motivated.

Another reason is something that you may have been already grappling with: the millennial generation is arriving in the workforce in large numbers. And video games are part of their life. When they enter their twenties, they have played 10,000+ hours of videogames. This not only means they are experts, but they are also familiar with the game design elements and game language, and that they expect an experience that games provide. And that means immediate feedback, the opportunity to learn, and a safe way to take risks and fail. These expectations can create challenges for their managers, who may label millennials as high maintenance employees. But if you cannot give them this experience, then they will leave. Worse, you may not even get millennials into your workforce, because an engaging experience starts with the recruitment process.

Gamification will also change the way you evaluate your employees. Games need to track players’ activities to reward them, to level them up, to help them. For HR practitioners gamification suddenly becomes a treasure trove of data on employees. You know right away how everyone is doing. Managers turn from motivators carrying the stick and carrots, and evaluators to coaches. The need for performance reviews – that anyway are giving employees information about their performance too late, too little, and often wrong – disappears.

Gamification is not a fad, it is here to stay. And it will fundamentally change the way we engage employees.

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