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Peter Grant



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Is Gamification HR’s New Best Friend?


This article was written by Peter Grant, CEO of CloudApps.

Gone are the days of passive employee engagement techniques, such as coffee room poster campaigns and intranet information sites. They are simply no longer able to hold the attention of employees long enough to make any impact other than to waste HR budgets. The posters have become wallpaper and digital tumbleweed blows through rarely visited or used sites.

This is symptomatic of industrial-age top-down, hierarchical and, often, siloed management approaches. They are failing to provide the structure or cohesion that allows organisations to gain the most from their employees and deliver corporate goals. In contrast, in new, vibrant `bottom up` digital-age `socially-connected` businesses, networking is both encouraged and enabled, and flexible, cross-departmental teamwork is the norm. These organisations are now consistently able to demonstrate business success and out-perform the old guard.

Ensuring effective and efficient teamwork in this new world relies on encouraging and enabling individuals to interact across departmental boundaries; to take ownership of corporate challenges and be recognised and rewarded for their innovation and behaviour. Making corporate goals and employee rewards transparent to the entire organisation breeds the levels of engagement and innovation that not only create opportunities, but also delivers the potential to bring fresh thinking to rapidly solve problems across the corporation and its supplier and customer base.

But the reality is what individuals expect from their organisations is shifting rapidly. The entrance of Generation Y into the workforce is fundamentally changing the way that organisations have to operate. Concepts of rights and responsibilities evolve as the once hard boundary between what was once considered work and leisure time blurs. Company technology infrastructures are having to adapt as employees want the same devices in the workplace as they have in their home – they want mobility and they want apps. This is the age of BYOD – bring your own device.

The good news is that using such pervasive technologies in a way that people appreciate, organisations can continually engage employees and at the same time create real and measurable behavioural change that, in turn, generates significant business value. The key to this is another concept that has migrated from the home into the workplace – gamification.

The most important question to address is how businesses can take advantage of gamification, what is arguably a dreadful buzzword but, in reality, a compelling tool that can help drive business performance by allowing and encouraging ‘intrapreneurship’ at all levels of the organisation.

Gamification is defined simply as the application of game theory concepts and techniques to non-game activities, or expressed another way, the art of bringing the same dynamics of collaborative problem-solving found in games to business applications.

This is important as gamification can be a key component in harnessing the natural competitiveness of human beings and the desire to be recognised to improve processes, enhance efficiency and deliver greater work satisfaction. The evidence is clear, people of all ages working collaboratively to solve challenges in a virtual world is something we demonstrably enjoy – last year we humans collectively played more than three billion hours of games every week.

Such is gamification’s effectiveness in enhancing the world of work that leading industry analyst, Gartner, has predicted that by 2014, more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organisations will have at least one ‘gamified’ application being used by employees.  [Gamification at Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit, March 12-14, 2012 in Orlando, Florida]

This may involve deploying mechanisms such as challenges, rewards, levels and leader boards. By creating a game environment among employees, they have been shown to be more productive, more aligned with corporate goals and more creative. Driving innovation and intrapreneurship throughout the business using technology to deploy games mobile technology and apps allows these mechanics to be distributed to employees no matter where they are based or their manner of working.

Revolutionary though it may sound, elements of this brave new world already exist. Traditional sales leader boards and employee-of-the-month schemes, being but two examples that have been around in isolation for some time in an attempt to achieve the same outcomes, encourage individuals to embrace challenges and collaborate to drive specific goals, both personally and for the business.

One of our clients wanted to align employees to its sustainability goals, and ultimately the operating costs of its business. By engaging its 8,000 employees through the use of game mechanics it saw a nine per cent reduction in overall annual travel expense costs, which equates to £1.35m saved a year.

In addition to the bottom line savings, the business also saw a 27,000 hour efficiency gain driven by the employees finding an alternative to business travel. In total, this equated to a 10 percent reduction in the company’s annual carbon footprint, the target set by shareholders.

So, gamification allows organisations to drive constant improvement in performance through the application of intuitive, social and mobile applications that enable, enhance and measure the impact of employee behavioural change.

Combining game mechanics with technology advances and mobility allows businesses to align employees behind corporate goals, enable cross-departmental collaboration, promote competition, ensure compliance and allocate compensation.

Every department can benefit from the use of game mechanics: for example, by encouraging sales and call centre staff to return customer calls and solve issues faster through by gamifying the customer relationship management process.

As well as ensuring gamification is used to improve the quality and impact of employees’ worklives, HR departments too can use the same systems to ensure that HR personnel are rewarded and recognised for innovations, such as new training schemes developed or improved induction techniques leading to a faster time-to-productivity for new employees.

7 Responses

  1. Technology alone cannot enhance the working environment

     Ian makes an excellent point that technology alone cannot enhance the working environment and that `quality of the interactions is what’s most important whether we’re learning, working or just having fun`.  In doing so, he encapsulates the CloudApps approach which is entirely dedicated to providing an easy- and attractive-to-use mechanism – delivered on the mobile devices that people prefer to use – that employees quickly recognise as enhancing the relationships that are crucial in increasing their own and their organisation’s overall performance.

  2. The application of gamification within an organisation is no exc

     As the first commentator notes, it has always been the case that if you apply information technology to a challenge in isolation it is `garbage in, garbage out` – the application of gamification within an organisation is no exception.  But as for his contention of gamification remaining `just a ‘buzz word’ for as long as companies remain unprepared to follow the rules and invest time and effort to provide live data feeds` perhaps Motiv8 is speaking to the wrong companies?  CloudApps is working with over 200 organisations worldwide that have already integrated CloudApps’ games mechanics into their operations to deliver increased business performance by enabling employee change.

  3. Girls and boys come out to play

    An interesting point Anna.

    As I mention above "gamification" should be seen as the application of "game" thinking to people engagement (customers, employees etc). That’s much broader than simply applied technology with which the terms is fast becoming synonymous.

    If you apply the "true" definition then the term covers:

    – corporate role playing

    – scenario-based workshop interventions

    – strategic "envisioning" exercises

    – storytelling

    and a whole host of other applications that don’t need "tech" to work and which are as attractive to women as they are to men.

    That being said, while I don’t have the stats to hand, there’s little doubt that women embrace so-called social media as readily as their male counterparts (Twitter/facebook/Linkedin/Mummsnet etc being examples) and I’m sure are becoming an ever growing % of the game market via apps etc especially.

    It is interesting that your comment implies that this could potentially alienate women and therefore reinforce barriers preventing workplace equality.

    But shouldn’t the question be, why, when so much of technology-led gaming is Gen Y led and therefore is post the alleged sexism of Gen X etc, haven’t more female-centric alternatives to this type of "gaming"evolved naturally as I’m sure they haven’t been intentionally alienated, if indeed they are at all?


  4. Is it just for the boys?

    I’m watching discussions about gamification and HR with interest. My own observation is that the vast majority of online gamers are teenage boys and young men and I would be curious to know how many women participate. Is there a risk that men will enter the workforce more prepared for this type of collaboration (having already set the ground rules through online gaming) and that once more we will have an inherent bias working against women?

  5. …there is more gamification than just the technology – have a

    Interesting post and comments!

    I’ve done a lot of working setting up programmes with Computer Game design degree courses and elearning. The technology is an important but its not the only part of the success. There are some excellent techniques from game design such as recovery, level design, hub design, interface design and character co-operation that can be incorporated into the elearning designer tool kit without it being a 100% gamificiation project, game based learning resource or needing live data.

    Can you remember playing Pacman? You had 3 lives and a few 10 pence pieces to put in the machine! Most modern games now used the concept of recuperation and learning to prolong the game experience – can you apply this to your elearning course? Instead of locking people out of tests and courses can you apply this similar game theory? How about exploration in your course – can you use this in your own courses? You can use game theory and game techniques in your elearning design to improve and enhanace your courses as well as creating a game based learning resource.

    There are some amazing live game based resources available with the Simprenstis OilSim being just one example. If you are interested to see how you can build learning experiences using ARG’s and games have a look at Alternate Reality Games and the work of Jane McGonigal. The games that she creates are incredible tackling real-world problems from world without oil, superbetter to Top Secret Dance Off.

    Last month I’d wrote an article called Game Based Learning it’s not all leader boards, badges and points where I gave some pointers on how you use gamification in your courses and elearning design. Thanks for sharing your project success and interesting that you’ve used game mechanics in your project align with business performance.






  6. Gamification – it’s not all about the technology!

    Surely at least one of the aims of any learning intervention has to be pursuit of smarter decisions driven by improved skills and levels of understanding. Part of the process has to involve face to face interactions between people to develop empathy, understanding and cultivate emotional intelligence.

    While welcoming the benefits of so-called cosial media and technology solutions to communication, I’ve long held the view that the term is a misnomer! "Social" should embrace the full gamut of interactions, both technology linked and eyeball to eyeball, with the emphasis very much on the latter. Consequently, so-called "gamification", a rather clunky US term for increasing stakeholder engagement and loyalty through gaming, or internally, "playing games at work in order to learn", should embrace more than technology delivered "faster, better, instantly, yesterday" etc. It should include scenario planning and strategic role playing that is informed by and not dominated by technology like, you know, real business is!

    One of the biggest issues we currently face at work and in society is the myth that technology is the route to more effective communication, forgetting that communication isn’t about "pushing" messages, it’s a two-way process which should result in some sort of understanding and consequent action.

    The best "games" are those that blend technology with real play with real people. If you’re in any doubt, watch how much fun your kids can have with a couple of sticks and an old blanket and compare that to their Playstation time!

    The quality of the interactions is what’s most important whether we’re learning, working or just having fun!

  7. Gamification maybe HR’s new best friend but only if technology a

    Speaking as gamification experts, we know gamification works and we know more and more companies are investingating how they can harness the power of gamifciation to drive human performance improvement.

    BUT, the sad reality is that in order to take advantage of gamification, you need data feeds, live ones, from the employers operating systems and this will cause most companies to consign gamification to the too difficult box or to attempt some poorly designed, post event arrangement, that will have limited or even negative results.  The simple fact is few companies are sufficnetly convinced to re-schedule the endless IT priority list to ensure that these feeds are available.

    For any reward (and gamification is a reward) to change behaviour it needs to occur as close to the ‘event’ as possible, ideally immediately.  E.g. If you are seeking to gamify the behaviour of collections agents and reward them when they achieve some designated hurdle rate, this must be instant.  The longer the gap between the event (achieving the hurdle rate) and the game event, the weaker the behaviour shift.

    ALL of the really effective gamification studies are conducted using live data feeds where employees are instantly rewarded following the achievement of a given event/task.

    At Motiv8 we use live data feeds, sometimes hourly batched, to drive significant performance enhancements in the contact centre arena.  Our clients understand the need for instant recognition and have made the investments to achieve this. 

    Gamification is hugely effcetive but largely untapped technique and is likely to remain just a ‘buzz word’ for as long as companies remain unprepared to follow the rules and invest time and effort to provide live data feeds.  Like most things, there is a correlation between effort and reward!





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