Gamification - An evolving alternative to drive business success
When Nick Pelling coined the word “gamification” way back in 2002, little would he have realized the significant role it would play in transforming organizations and in driving key business imperatives. Gamification is a key business transformation lever which uses gaming mechanics, game design principles and practices to unlock employee potential, while making them productive and engaged to drive business momentum. It is also a process of harnessing the potent ability of gaming to involve and fascinate users, while enabling them to internalize change, drive performance and sustain growth. Gamification is also emerging as an agent of change and has found a key place in change management, performance management, process excellence, and service delivery.
Design and Governance matters
Successful gamification design is an important facet while trying to transform employee psyche and making it easier for them to engage in real life tasks. Some of key design principles include incorporating a goal driven approach, measuring progress, ensuring dynamic feedback, bringing in the element of uncertainty (usually found in all games), triggering/prompting users to return and “play”, motivating users to collaborate and engaging with other users. Governance is also a critical component of gamification and is vital to sustain the motivation of the employee. The important constructs involve:
- Objectives: Well defined goals to reach the required milestones
- Guidelines: Actionable set of rules meant to define the limits
- Metrics: To measure progress and provide feedback
- Recognition: Points to reward users while exhibiting acceptable behaviors
- Levels & Challenges: Introduce challenges in areas being monitored, sustain and elevate employees with more points and enhance their motivation
- Scoreboards: To drive healthy competition, track and analyze individual performances
Driving the initiative with a purpose
Once the governance model is in place, project teams should have a definite framework which can be operationalized to drive the process of gamification. A well-defined problem statement, along with a clear road-map to encourage players (employees) and motivate them to move through different levels, while sustaining their commitment is vital for the success of any gamified initiative. To avoid any slippages during implementation, it is important to have a complete grasp of the problem to be solved, the employee profile, to train employees on how to play the game and have goals tightly aligned to business objectives.
Key business benefits include:
- Upgrading employee skills: Employees can have a fun time while mastering new skills along with the processes. It can also be a key driver of product and process innovation, while enabling the evolution of subject matter experts and in the creation of new knowledge
- Ensure employee participation & involvement: A gamified environment between contesting teams is ideal for talent identification and acts as a great leveler by connecting cross-functional teams and business units
- Monitor employee progress: Gamification enables instant feedback, which is critical to quickly fix any performance gaps and to maximize employee outcomes and keep them focused on business goals
- Boost productivity: Capable of closely monitoring employee performance and mapping it with set standards, and taking relevant steps to improve productivity
- Drive customer satisfaction: Ensure workforce is focused on collaboration, capable of delivering predictable results, and focused on driving better customer experiences
Stabilizing the impact
For gamification to work at the optimum, there should be total employee involvement and complete backing from leadership teams. With gamification soon becoming a rule, rather than an exception for engagement, it is important to have a top-down evolution model which will accelerate the journey towards performance optimization, process maturity, and enhancing business value.
The evolution model
- Strategic enablement: Design gamification strategy for the enterprise by identifying short term and long term strategic goals, build a org wide gamification platform aligned to these goals, cascade the vision across hierarchies, establish a self-improvement culture driven by gamification methods and focused on enhancing delivery, drive accountability among mid-management to drive gamified initiatives
- Service excellence: Identify areas of competency building among teams, build relevant metrics (find the adoption rate, number of employees engaged, their ability to solve challenges, collaborate, and lead), enable process management (define, optimize and monitor processes to drive performance), improve delivery (enhance SLA & quality, improve product knowledge), and nurture high performance teams (foster creativity among teams to solve challenges, resolve conflicts & build trust, work on shared goals, learn faster decision making and flexible leadership styles)
- Foundational growth: Choose the right gamification methodology in alignment with the delivery objectives and align individual and team goals, build individual specific coaching programs to maximize employee involvement and identify members needing improvement, the program should focus on best practices which should be followed, along with roles & responsibilities of each member
As a concept, gamification brings individual people together to focus their capabilities together for a common purpose with a set goal as an outcome. This produces tangibility and motivation to continue. Applied within an enterprise setting, gamification refers to work situations where "game thinking and game-based tools are used in a strategic manner to integrate with existing business processes or information systems" resulting in positive employee and organizational outcomes.
Gamification – in use
Social media applications have used gamification to generate more interest and stickiness to their brands. By gifting users points/access privileges for actions they perform, it incentivizes them to perform more, be creative and think out of the box. Similarly, by awarding different profile privileges for employees when they achieve a rating or a level within their company, it offers them a stepping stone and preps them up for much higher and bigger achievements. It is this aspect of collective collaboration that makes gamification a success and becomes the very reason to use this in a IT services/support environment or any environment where team work is important. By imbibing gamification concepts to an enterprise scenario, a team leader can break down the task into bits, assign employees to complete them and incentivizing them as they complete. This brings healthy competition, achieving targets empathetically and encourages a never give up attitude. Gamification on a longer period attracts employees as they begin to understand how it works. It keeps people on their toes, rather than the monotonous style of working for years together.
By applying gamification principles to daily tasks, employees will be motivated to follow agile practices diligently. This will in turn create a positive impact on project deliverables. Leaderboards with rewards will contribute to healthy competition. Employees will monitor their own progress and strive to do their best in their day-to-day activities.
A game changer for sure
Gamification is ideal to solve employee or delivery challenges which are difficult to solve, and can be a melting pot of ideas to improve operational excellence. The behavioral impact is tangible, and by bringing in an effective mix of technology, sociology, and psychology, gamification can bring in contextually relevant experiences which can motivate and engage users to achieve personal and business goals. It also provides a different vantage point for organizations to shift workforce mind-shifts and create an environment which is fun to use and flexible to change, while facilitating a value centric mindset across the employee ecosystem.