Gamification makes employee engagement fun

Various HR trend reports highlight the importance of personalisation, the use of technology and new tools when designing effective employee experiences.

It is becoming clear that employees are not aligned to the company’s goals, teams are working in silos and there is a lack of cross-functional collaboration. A big percentage of employees are disengaged and demotivated due to a lack of recognition. They feel their opinions aren’t of value. Another reality is that employees find training related to compliance boring and uninteresting.

Diverse teams are powerful, but this increases the challenge for leaders to identify the different needs and desires of the team members. There is a huge focus on developing learning organisations – the World Economic Forum indicates that 103 training days per employee is required to keep up in the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguity) world.

What is the solution?  “Out of the box” and innovative approaches are required to address these challenges. HR teams should create environments where employees feel empowered, engaged and motivated. HR can use technology as an enabler for positive impact and by using gamification as a tool, they can make initiatives fun and interactive.

Why gamification? Gamification takes a task or process and integrates game-play mechanics to motivate participation, adoption, and loyalty. Techniques like scoreboards, the achievement of badges or personalised feedback creating a unique experience. Gamification creates a sense of purpose and ownership when employees engage with these tasks. It appeals to an individual’s sense of competition and desire for recognition.

What is the link between motivation, neuroscience and gamification?

In business, we see a big focus towards the appreciation of intrinsic motivation and the understanding of the brain-body connection for high performance.

Knowledge workers thrive on autonomy, mastery and relatedness. Gamification combines intrinsic with extrinsic motivation which makes gamification as relevant as ever. The clever combination of game design, psychology, motivation theory and neurophysiology has shown benefits in surprisingly effective ways. For example: gamification included in team learning encourages bonding across multiple locations.

Neurozone, a neuroscience company, focus on unlocking high performance in individuals and teams, by optimizing the brain-body system. Dr. Etienne van der Walt, CEO of Neurozone, highlights a few important themes when considering gamification. He says: “Playing games is innate to the human condition. For example: young children learn about the big world by making it small. This innate trait of humans never goes away and should be cultivated throughout life. Adults continue to play games. We play games to understand the human condition in predictable terms, for example, we play competitive games to develop the collaboration capacity.”

Many companies are using gamification throughout the employee life cycle to increase the employee experience in talent acquisition, onboarding, talent development and evaluation. Here are a few examples in practice:

  • Talent acquisition: In PWC Hungary launched an online game called Multipoly. This lifelike business challenges gives potential candidates and colleagues an opportunity to test their skills, receive feedback and suggestions for areas of development based on their performance during the game.

The results were astounding. PWC reports that engagement with Multipoly grew the candidate pool by 190%. The interest to work for the company increased by 78% and they experienced smoother transitions into the PWC culture.

Have you ever considered a Recruitathon? If you take into account the success LinkedIn and Flipkart India had with their first Recruiting Hackathon it might be something you want to investigate. This was a fun way of getting teams together on a challenging project – chasing to fill open positions in record time. Their result was 226 candidates in less than 5 hours. Impressive!

  • Increase a specific behaviour: Google used gamification to incentivize their colleagues to promptly claim their travel expenses. Employees received an allowance for each location they visited on a work trip. Should they not spend the full allowance, Google lets employees choose between adding the remainder to their own salary or give it to charity. This is all done through gamification and within six months, Google had 100% compliance.

Accenture is using gamification to achieve knowledge management objectives. The goal was to  encourage employees to share and transfer knowledge by writing a blog or share reusable documents. Employees would earn points when completing their online profile and by sharing content.  It has evolved into a system that tracks over 30 different activities leading to increased productivity, reduced operating costs, more innovative ideas and improving employee engagement.

  • Learning & Development: Siemens introduced ‘Plantsville’, a game that puts the player in the shoes of a plant manager at Siemens. The objective was to incur interest among the youth for working with the manufacturing industry. Another benefit was an increased performance due to individuals spending hours in virtually running a factory. This, in turn, resulted in them performing better in real teams as they were already familiar with the processes.

NTT uses an internal game called ‘Samurai’ to test leadership qualities. After answering a range of questions, the participants joined a quest to show how good they are at managing others. The game helps NTT to find the good leaders within the company and gives insights on who needs more help in specifc areas.

  • Innovation initiatives: The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions, launched ‘Idea Street’, an app to get employees collaborating and sharing ideas, for greater engagement within the business and each other.

Employees can post ideas, get quick feedback and earn badges that move them up on the leaderboard. In the first 18 months, 4,000 employees generated 1,400 new ideas, leading to 63 implemented projects that improved the way the DWP works.

  • Reward and Recognition: Telstra Australia has introduced an embedded social recognition system to improve its employee engagement levels. Here, social media and smartboards were used to recognise colleagues through a gaming smartboard method which saw an increase in their engagement levels.

Tips for getting it right

Gamification should be well thought through. If you think you can quickly pull together a game by including a few badges, call it gamification and assume it will increase engagement, you are wrong.

  • Start with the end in mind and be clear of why you are doing it; tie gamification directly to your business strategy and the skills and abilities you want to develop. Define what success would look like and how you’re going to measure and track impact. For example: if gamification is used for recruitment, it should inspire candidates to engage with the business career sites or its social media profile.
  • Include colleagues in the design process and co-create the solution with them. If you want to increase engagement and make it fun, you need to understand how the colleagues will feel during and after the experience. Collaboration over competition is key, as you want colleagues to enjoy the experience and not divide the teams.
  • Make it mobile and adaptive. It should be available wherever and whenever colleagues have a minute to spare. Frame the narrative of fun to inspire participation.

This article was originally published in HR Focus Africa.

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