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How gamification is changing the workforce

In the dynamic modern economy, business conditions change overnight and what worked today may not work tomorrow. That’s why it has never been more important for companies to be agile, flexible and willing to implement decisive action when required.

However, you can’t achieve that without strong employee engagement. According to Gartner, 70 per cent of business transformation efforts fail due to lack of engagement.

That’s particularly bad news for Australian companies with employee engagement rates in this country falling below the global average. Aon Hewitt’s 2017 Trends in Global Employee Engagement Study suggests that less than 63% of Australian employees feel engaged at work. That means almost 40% of your people are feeling disengaged from their jobs right now.

However, gamification may hold the solution to our poor employee engagement rates. A report by the Pew Research Centre revealed that 53% of more than 1,000 interviewed internet experts believe there will be significant advances in the usage and adoption of gamification in the workplace by 2020.

The mechanics of gamification

So what exactly is gamification? Gamification essentially applies game mechanics to existing work processes. It draws on psychological techniques that video game designers have long used to engage players and uses them in a business setting.

Such techniques include giving players – or employees – an immediate response to their actions, setting simple short-term goals or ‘missions’ that players must achieve, and providing evidence of players’ accomplishments through a scoring system that’s often linked to a rewards program.

For example, gamification app Habitica transforms the basic to-do list by giving employees the opportunity to win ‘gold’ when they complete a task. This gold can be accrued and spent on virtual reward items in the app’s gaming interface.

Gamification platforms like GamEffective take the approach a step further. This platform, for example, uses a visual dashboard to display each user’s KPIs, and provides a personalised scorecard with individualised goals. It then converts their performance into a real-time race narrative where they compete virtually against other employees. Points are awarded across a range of metrics and are displayed on a digital leaderboard where employees can compare their performance to that of their colleagues. Points may also be linked to incentives programs to ensure high performers feel recognised and rewarded.

Many of these gamification platforms also come with sophisticated analytics monitoring that makes it easy for managers to track employee performance in real time.

Combining work with play

While gamification is proving to be a powerful way to improve employee engagement, it also holds great potential in the recruitment and training fields.

Gamification can be a useful recruitment tool as businesses try to attract the next generation of talent. For example, Marriott Hotels called on gamification to solve a perceived lack of talent in the Chinese and Indian markets. The global hotel chain designed an online game similar to Farmville. The game introduced players to the world of hospitality by enabling them to run their own virtual hotel. It was particularly popular with 17 to 24 year olds – the precise demographic the company was looking to attract to staff its real-world hotels.

Likewise, gamification is being put to good use as a training tool. For example, a US defence agency used gamification to train employees in identifying procurement fraud indicators. The game presented eight different simulated situations and challenged players to engage in a virtual investigation to determine whether fraud had been committed. This is an excellent example of how gamification can be used to develop industry and company-specific micro training programs that can be directly aligned to your greater business objectives.

Mixing work with the mechanics of play brings game-design thinking into a professional environment. Gamification gives business managers another tool to recruit the next generation of talent, provide company-specific training and development, and improve employment engagement rates in order to better face the challenges of the future.

About the author

Ruth MacKay is the managing director of OURTEL Fundraising Solutions and a consultant and speaker who helps businesses leverage a mobile workforce. Her first book, The 21st Century Workforce, is available now.

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Ruth MacKay

Ruth MacKay

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