The gaming generation at work: Why gamification makes sense

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Gamification has always been a divisive topic in business. Articles declaring the death of gamification are regularly followed by articles proclaiming it has magical powers. As always, the truth is somewhere in-between. For businesses with a large portion of millennial staff in the workforce, gamification remains an incredibly powerful tool when correctly employed.

The average millennial spends 10,000 hours gaming by the time they turn 21; game-like processes and applications are second nature for this younger generation. The aim of gamification is to improve the way employees complete core business processes. When correctly done, staff feel more engaged with traditional processes, since gamification draws out the “fun” factor in the application, service or process.

Gamification without strategy is useless

Many companies may have seen gamification fail and then turned away from the idea completely. It’s important to remember that gamification isn’t a silver bullet – it must be built on a logical strategy, which aims to solve specific business problems. A gamification strategy must involve more than just badges and points, indeed, Gartner predicts that 80% of gamification projects fail due to bad design. However, if there is a clear vision of the objective, that fail-rate can be reduced effectively. For example, if the aim is to get employees more engaged with appraisals, connecting game mechanics like ranks and achievements with appraisal performance can drive employee engagement, which then returns higher value for the company.

Secondly, many companies make the mistake of underestimating the vital role that organisational culture plays in gamification projects, especially if the enterprise is hostile to social networking. A robust change in management processes is essential to lay the foundations for any good gamification project. Given the high risk of a gamification project failing, any first attempt should be started in a new or non-core area, application or process to minimise the potential fallout from a failed project.

Designing an effective gamification platform

Gamification is about completion and competition. While identifying the top performers is generally the primary objective of the gamification product or service, it’s also important to provide some kind of a consolation to all who play. Like the Foursquare ‘newbie badge’ which was awarded to those who joined, enterprise software should also reward small achievements to encourage hope in the mind of the other team members who are not yet superstar performers. Additionally, social elements which bring concepts like ‘Sharing’, ‘Likes’, and ‘Friends’ are also important so that the users of the gamification platform can always compare their achievements with each other.

Secondly, companies should always seek to gain the maximum utility from any gamification platform by employing data analysis to derive insight about employee performance and team dynamics. Big data can help make more accurate predictions and help the business to achieve targets based on its user activities. Furthermore, this becomes more effective the more that the platform is used so a company with an effective gamification strategy and platform can extract invaluable business intelligence from employees.

Ensuring gamification success

An example of a successful gamification strategy might be a sales reps game which tracks personal sales records, the pace of wining deals and what type of activities has helped the particular individual to win deals – and then provide the sales rep with personalised feedback. This provides a clear business case, i.e. that the sales rep can now use these intelligent actions to perform better in his or her next deal. Then, once the gamification platform and reward strategy are in place, the next step should be to create new challenges to let users progress without making them either bored or frustrated. A successful strategy involves the user’s improving skill levels to keep the challenges much more advanced, so that the user keeps progressing with improved challenges over the time.

Crucially, companies should ensure that the strategy evolves with user input. It’s not recommended to have either very high or very low percentages of users meeting the target. Rather, a strong platform should create levels or stages to identify the different levels of skills that employees showcase. The right measurements of such systems comes though the actual user inputs after running the system for a while. Hence it’s important to analyse data before defining the measurements.

Gamification: Levelling up businesses

Companies have traditionally been put off gamification projects due to the high failure rate, but as more and more millennials enter the workforce, the concept is becoming a powerful tool for promoting productivity. However, without significant amounts of preparation and forethought, there is no way to design a successful gamification project with significant buy-in from employees and that remains effective over the long term. Similarly, once a company implements a platform, it must be evolved using feedback from employees. Gamification isn’t a silver bullet or always easy to maintain, but for all the voices denouncing gamification, it remains an immensely effective option when used correctly.

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mherger
25 Apr 2015, 5:08 a.m.

Nice article, but I am not sure where you get the failure numbers. Gartner has been talking about 80% failure rates, but they do also use the very same numbers for every other technology and concept. Just research their numbers on CRM, Mobile, Cloud, Social Media etc.

So I would ignore those numbers, as they are less a sign of a failed concept, but rather of people not being trained on it r having wrong expectations. Rather look at some facts & figures from examples like these: http://www.enterprise-gamification.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=Facts_&_Figures

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