If you’ve ever used a leaderboard to track your employees’ progress, or given a reward to the top-performing team member, then you’ve used gamification.
Gamification is pretty self-explanatory. It refers to the practice of taking game elements (winners, scores, competition, prizes, and so on) and using them at work.
Some people believe gamification is the key to employee engagement. Others believe it encourages unhealthy competition and rivalries.
Here’s what you should know before you pick a side.
Gamification Can Be Motivating
Only 30% of American employees are engaged in their jobs—resulting in billions of dollars in lost productivity.
Gamification help engage employees who might normally be checked out. For example, after Deloitte introduced gamification into its Deloitte Leadership Academy, the number of people taking classes each week jumped by 37%.
Lawley Insurance also used gamification to motivate its team. Its salespeople needed to “clean up” their Salesforce pipelines, so the firm introduced a data clean-up contest. People won points for calling prospects, setting up meetings, moving closer to a sale, and so on.
In two weeks, the employees were 257% as productive as they’d been in the last seven and a half months.
Gamification Can Serve as Validation
Getting consistent recognition also plays a huge role in employee engagement. And good news: Gamification gives you an opportunity to highlight great work beyond traditional methods like quarterly reviews and feedback sessions.
For proof, look at the United Kingdom’s Department of Work and Pensions experiment. The organization implemented an idea-development platform to encourage employees to share their ideas and collaborate.
The satisfaction of instant feedback, clear goals and rules, and badges and leaderboards drove 4,000 employees to sign up in 18 months. They generated more than 1,4000 ideas, 63 of which have actually been applied.
In an ideal world, managers would have the time and the energy to make sure their reports are rewarded for every achievement. But they don’t—which makes gamification as an extremely useful tool for validation.
Gamification Can Breed Competition
One of gamification’s drawbacks: When your employees are working against each other, they’re not going to work with each other.
Let’s say you start using an online dashboard that tracks each salesperson’s monthly success. If one sales representative accidentally gets a lead meant for another representative, will she do the right thing and pass it on? Maybe yes, maybe no. But if she wasn’t directly competing with her coworker, then that question would be much easier to answer.
Gamification Can Lower Morale
Sometimes, gamification can even make employees less likely to complete a task. As Farhood Manjoo writes in The Wall Street Journal, “What worries me is the potential for stifling creativity and flexibility in the workplace, and the growing sensation of being watched, and measured, in everything we do.”
Manjoo’s fears came to life at Omnicare, a company that provides pharmacy management software. Omnicare’s leadership wanted to decrease wait times for its help desk, so they introduced a leaderboard and cash prizes for those who resolved issues the fastest.
And the results were terrible. Wait times immediately went up, employee retention went down, and customer satisfaction plunged. The help desk workers resented the leaderboard, comparing it to Big Brother.
For gamification to work, you must incorporate what really matters to your employees. In every successful example of gamification, the leadership tailored their program to the unique personalities and culture of their workplace.
Let’s go back to the United Kingdom’s Department of Work and Pensions. That campaign worked because it gave employees a public way to share their ideas and find collaborators—which employees valued.
Omnicare’s initial gamification efforts didn’t work because the company misjudged its employees. They didn’t want badges for faster calls; they genuinely wanted to help customers. When Omnicare changed the system so that employees received rewards for completing specific challenges, such as, “Help three customers with a billings-related concern,” overall wait time went down by 50%, employee turnover was reduced, and customer satisfaction went up.
So before gamifying your culture, spend some time identifying what already drives your team.
Will you be implementing gamification? Let us know on Twitter!
About the Author
Aja Frost is a freelance writer who covers career, lifestyle, current events, and social justice. Say hi to her on Twitter.
Tags: employee competition, Gamification, leaderboard