June 22, 2021

Workplace Gamification 101

Sam Caucci

Gamification isn’t anything new. It’s been around for decades; in fact it’s a highly utilized strategy in the educational sphere. Even in the business world, it’s a great way to make the boring stuff (like employee training) more interesting. These days, it seems like having fun in the workplace is something being taken pretty seriously. 

Why has gamification risen in popularity?

To put it simply, games are fun. They always have been and they always will be. As children, we used games to learn new things, to pass the time and to bond with our peers. We also use games to make boring activities more interesting and engaging. That’s why in the corporate world, gamification is being used to motivate and train new and current employees at the workplace. 

Many businesses struggle with issues like employee retention, engagement and work satisfaction. Gamification can help solve each of these problems in a short amount of time. Your employee training and development software could gain a significant boost by implementing gamification as well. 

What does gamification look like in the workplace?

A lot of companies are starting to experiment with using gamification elements. Gamification can look like assigning reward points to completing specific work-related tasks, filling up progress bars or earning other achievements like badges or prizes. Some companies implement leaderboards to increase a sense of friendly competition between co-workers. 

Often, companies do this with the help of some cleverly coded software that can track these achievements; not only that but they also serve as helpful tools to motivate employees and aid performance management. Gamification can also be implemented into employee training software, where they can earn points for completing lessons or scoring well on tests and quizzes. 

Gamification can even be used during the hiring process, where companies can use platforms like 1Huddle to evaluate candidates. Potential new hires are able to play games about the company and role to see if the opportunity is a good fit for them. On the other end, the company can review their performance to understand if the candidate would be someone they would like to pursue. 

Applications and advantages of gamification

At the workplace, continuous tasks can deprive your employees of enthusiasm toward their jobs. This can then affect business outcomes, productivity and can contribute to employee burnout. The use of gamification in organizations to introduce gaming elements like points, badges and rewards can help give employees exciting incentives and motivate them. Gamification alters the way that companies traditionally operate, bringing with it a lot of different benefits, such as:

1. Performance management in real-time

One of the biggest business building practices is setting goals and then taking measurements to see whether or not they are being achieved. The issue lies in the fact that most performance management methods involve assessments that can only look at the past, usually on a yearly basis. Yearly goals often become stale, as they rarely reflect the business’ or the employees’ reality. In addition, this approach typically focuses on ranking employee performance using scores that can be discouraging and can also foster a disconnect between an employee’s performance and their current efforts.

Gamification helps bring in a real-time dynamic into the equation. Compare it to a coach who is watching his team play a game, shouting from the sidelines so they can make changes to their performance on the spot. Using a gamified platform, you can give your employees feedback in real time by reviewing performance KPIs, benchmarks, and goals within a gamified application. Then, employees can improve right then and there rather than months later. 

2. Fair evaluations

With gamification, evaluations are more objective and fair. They rely on real-time KPIs rather than subjective forms of traditional evaluations. When employees receive consistently objective feedback on their performance it opens up a space for collaboration and positivity rather than confrontation. 

Plus, gamification allows managers and leaders to clearly recognize dips or gaps in knowledge while simultaneously closing those gaps via microlearning. This will correct the employee’s approach and improve their skills. 

3. Fosters healthy behaviors

If implemented incorrectly, competition can breed negativity in the workplace rather than encourage employees to push themselves. In some cases, having leaderboards on display to celebrate the top sellers or performers at your organization does nothing constructive for the rest of the team. Instead, it can demotivate and disengage those who are not at the top level.

By using gamification, healthy behaviours towards competition can be generated from all members of the team both collectively and individually. These behaviours can then be measured, such as sales, leads, calls and more. Individuals can be rewarded for their efforts and progress separately from the team, so that they can strengthen their performance and contribute to the whole in a positive manner. 

4. More than just a game

Gamification takes advantage of gaming mechanics like badges, completion bars and levels, to drive engagement and positive behaviors. Gamification allows employees to track their own progress and take action from their own motivations. So, gamification is not just about the game, it’s also about creating positive change in employee performance and company culture. 

Can gamification go wrong?

Gamification is not a perfect solution, and it can be a double-edged sword if used in ways that do not align with everyone involved. One of the first downsides is in regards to micromanagement, where managers use the gamification platform in order to monitor and control the activities of their team members. 

An example of inefficient use of gamification took place at the Disneyland Resort Hotel in California. The conglomerate used a traffic light-like color code to score the performance of each laundry worker. Those who were failing to reach the required targets would be flashed with a red or yellow light whenever they started to slow. Some workers started to give up their lunch breaks just to meet their targets by the deadline. The employees started to refer to the scoreboard as the “electronic whip” and instead of being used to incentivize friendly competition among employees, it was focused on increasing productivity for the sake of Disney’s bottom line. 

Another big player who didn’t learn the rules of gamification is Amazon. This is an example of retail and warehousing environments that have misused gamification in order to exploit workers. Amazon uses a gamification module on a huge screen for workers to see themselves on a leaderboard against others on shift. Their goal is 125 ‘picks’ per hour, and as workers fall behind they end up getting slack from not only their managers, but their coworkers as well. 

In conclusion, many companies tend to misuse gamification because they use it as a means to their own ends, when the entire goal of a properly implemented gaming mechanic is to help the player (worker) reach their own goals and help them develop their skills. Also, well designed gamification mechanics allow the player the autonomy to navigate the rules of the game on their own terms. 

Implementing gamification the right way

Gamification is an invaluable tool you can use to increase employee motivation and engagement at the workplace – if done correctly. 

The key is to suit each and every one of your worker’s demands and capabilities in order to create a win-win situation for everyone involved. Simply put, you should implement gamification in a way that benefits and gives all employees an equal opportunity to succeed. Look for ways in which you can blend gamification with microlearning and performance management for a wholesome and more effective way to have your employees perform at the top of their game. 

A great example of gamification implemented the right way is from Siemens, a technology company that focuses on manufacturing, infrastructure and transport. Siemens successfully put the concept of storytelling into action to help train their plant managers how to better operate their plants using a game called Plantville. In the game, players take on the role of the plant manager where they have to solve problems and run the plant on their own while performing other key tasks. Feedback on their performance in the game was instant, points were awarded for good decision-making and plant managers were engaged in their training. 

Gamification with 1Huddle

At 1Huddle, we offer cloud-based employee gamification software that can easily adapt to any employee training or gamification strategy you want to implement at your workplace. You can customize your content for a seamless experience and all of your employees will be able to access their training anywhere, anytime and at the push of a button. You can use our game platform to measure their performance and make key decisions on where you should take your gamification strategy next. 
Do you want to learn more about how 1Huddle can help you level up your own workforce? Start your free trial of 1Huddle today.

Sam Caucci, Founder & CEO at 1Huddle

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