Gamification: Making the complex simple, the boring exciting & rewarding

Have you noticed how an infant who has started to walk on his or her feet runs around the house and makes his mother appreciate the concept of games? To influence her behaviour, she needs to bring in elements of game right from brushing her hair, washing her face, eating, and what not. Cut to adulthood, we can see application of game-design elements in almost all spheres of today’s workplace.

The fundamental need hasn’t changed i.e. to engage, hold attention, elicit participation and accomplish a desired task. However, the techniques we use to get this done can vary depending upon your audience and the outcome you desire.

Let’s take another example.

Scene 1: Two kids are passing a football.

Scene 2: Two kids are passing a football, and there are two goalposts behind each of them. The one who kicks the ball into the others post first gets a chocolate.

What happened in scene 2 – gamification! Let’s break it down.

Two kids are passing a football (activity), and with introduction of goalposts behind each of them a mere activity turns into a game and competitive. The one who kicks the ball into the others post first (rules of play / competition) gets a chocolate (reward).

So the passion of any organisation should be about making the complex simple. Seemingly, gamification does that effortlessly, making it fun with rewards too!

What is so special about it and why is it relevant?

The fact that this technique embraces the basic human instinct and addresses one of the most wretched challenge’s today – user retention – is what makes it so unabashedly relevant. Gamification techniques are intended to leverage people’s natural desires for creative expression, curious outlook, need to socialise, learn, master, compete, or simply trigger their response to the framing of a situation as game or play.

Application in the workplace

Business transformations are happening at “blink and you miss it” speed. Several disruptive forces are in the mix, like rapidly changing technologies, globalisation, automation, new business models, digitisation, etc. that are redefining how businesses are generating and delivering value to their customers. These disruptions should not be treated as a challenge alone but also as an opportunity to positively engage your people who might feel they are being constantly required to adjust and adapt, and then readjust. Simple techniques or tools of communication and engagement won’t be enough. You need something that gets everyone going so they don’t just play ball, they own the game.

Gamification is a technique that can get your employees around the globe together – quickly, digitally – with instant feedback and transparency (a key misgiving of the digital age) – topped with a sense of control and competition. What you’ve got yourself is a concoction that directly satiates the top three needs in Maslow’s need hierarchy theory.

When does it work best?

The best fit scenarios are those where outputs can be easily measured – your typical performance measures like on-time delivery, productivity and efficiency measure, issues/bugs fixed, or people served. But it is where you don’t have the luxury of pre-defined outcomes or end-results, where gamification sweeps in brilliantly, because it prompts you to tinker and take a second look into the depths of those corners in your brain – especially on our right side – that can trigger measures where measures didn’t exist before.

Let’s take training for instance. Interactive training methods have long existed, but building that into your company gene where each time your system interacts with the employee, the element is tailor-made to not only your training objectives but also to your employees. Say you need to reinforce company policies and culture – it won’t be just achieving a 100 percent completion of annual compliance trainings but also rewarding for adherence, making them more relevant, and yes, measurable.

Innovation is another area we can consider. For the longest time, we have seen Innovation challenges or Hack-days as a 1-2-day affair, cordoning off people into a dedicated space to just brainstorm and hack a business problem. Then we saw an influx of in-house innovation/R&D teams that would be equipped as the “source” of innovation. But it can’t be just that anymore. It must be something that’s company-wide and continual. A whole community can be built using gamification recognising contributions across areas, enabling visibility across the wide network of offices, and most importantly triggering collaborative behaviour. This can be implemented and is applicable even for the way a company shares knowledge and manages it. The key to any successful implementation of a KM programme is the ability to engage your employees. Getting employees to willingly contribute and collaborate in the knowledge sharing process can be not only challenging but time consuming. Gamification can be the answer there too!

Personalised gamification

Over the years, gamification strategies have evolved and matured. They go beyond the badges and leader boards, community set-up and points system, and leverage on other approaches like personalisation, micro-learning, social learning and mobile apps. Of these, personalisation is going to be the key. Just like the real-time feeds and ads posted by social media apps or e-commerce players that fine-tune their offerings with recommendation engines based on your previous activity or purchase – imagine if your employees get real-time prompts for an article published on your intranet which is based on their areas of interest or sphere of work; training alerts based on their completed learning courses and their personal/career development plans; compliance adherence or breaches; performance objectives accomplished – the situations are limitless!

The entire world’s a stage

You would be surprised by the extent that game mechanics are intertwined with your daily life. From grabbing your coffee on the way to work (Starbucks rewards programme) to going for a run (Nike’s fitness tracker), Gamification is everywhere. Gamification exists in places without knowing it. Remember the last time you shopped online, and a prompt triggered you to add another purchase to increase your shopping cart value and get an additional 5 percent discount? That’s also gamification.

The question then is finding the right balance. How much is too much – to avoid running the risk of stressing or overwhelming the gamification experience, especially when it comes to its application at workplace. This is where having a strong company culture with a welcoming attitude to transformation can really help. Tech won’t and can’t replace the ingenuity of human touch, specifically when it comes to leadership and inspiration. That’s what makes it sticky! Combine the two – the cool tool (gamification) and the warm hands (culture and leaders) and see magic unfold! Though it’s easier said than done, the outcome once you achieve it will surely be rewarding.

Authored by Archana V, business partner, communications & engagement, dunnhumby India.

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