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Gamification: How Businesses Are Winning at Work

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Gamification: How to Win at Work

Everyone wants work to be fun. Even your boss or client or customer would rather that you enjoy your work. No one wants to be around unhappy people, regardless of how productive they are.

But what if you could change your business so that workers got more done because they were having fun?

Enter the world of gamification.

It may just sound like the newest business buzzword, but gamification allows businesses to take standard parts of the work day and turn them into games. This makes for happier, more engaged workers. And that leads to greater quality and higher productivity — a classic win-win situation.

You might think that this is the kind of thing that only high tech companies could do. But that's not true. In fact, in its most fundamental form, gamification has long been part of the way businesses are run. Sales bonuses are a kind of game. They aren't usually presented that way, of course. But sometimes they are, complete with leader boards and different "prize" levels.

A good example of how gamification is being used by a regular company can be seen at the automotive retailer Pep Boys. They have a program called Axonify where employees play a quiz game that deals with inventory management and accident prevention. When employees do well on the game, they can win prizes. When they don't, they get a quick refresher on the issues being quizzed.

Big companies like Pep Boys aren't investing resources into gamification because it is a fad; they are investing in it because it works. One of the biggest problems facing companies is the lack of employee engagement. And a surprisingly large number of workers are actively disengaged. These workers often do great harm to company morale and ultimate the bottom line.

Of course, gamification isn't as simple as deciding that you are going to have a "fun" workplace. In the following infographic, we look at all aspects of gamification: how companies are using it, what it could do for your company, and how you can implement your own system. You have only grumpy employees and low productivity to lose.

Achievement Unlocked: How to Win at Work With Gamification

Achievement Unlocked: How to Win at Work With Gamification

Gamification involves making mundane tasks, like filling out expense reports, more like playing a game. Frequent flyer programs are a common example of gamification programs designed to improve customer loyalty. But customer programs aren't the only way that businesses are using gamification. They are using it to make their own workers happier and more productive. Companies as diverse as Pep Boys, Google, and Bluewolf are taking advantage of people's innate love of fun and games to influence their behavior. Here's how.

Companies and Their Programs

  • Google - search engine giant

    • What it's called: Travel Expense System
    • What it does: Improve Travel System Efficiency
    • How it works:

      • Employees who spend more than the set amounts on travel are simply paid
      • Employees who spend less are allowed a choice of having the savings:

        • Applied to their next paycheck
        • Put toward a future business trip
        • Donated to a charity of their choice
  • Pep Boys - automotive retailer

    • What it's called: Axonify
    • What it does: Reduces inventory losses and workplace accidents
    • How it works:

      • Employees play daily quiz games on safety and loss prevention

        • Those who answer incorrectly get a quick refresher on the topic
        • Those who answer correctly have a chance to play a slot-machine game with a chance to win cash
      • Daily reminders of safety and loss prevention lessons help employees remember those lessons, and the potential cash prizes motivates them to interact with the quizzes
  • Bluewo - business consulting firm

    • What it's called: #GoingSocial
    • What it does: Improve employee engagement and motivation
    • How it works:

      • Employees get points for

        • Collaborative projects inside and outside the company
        • Writing blog posts
        • Other achievements that reach out to the wider community
      • Also creates better branding for the company
  • NTT Data - IT services company

    • What it's called: Ignite Leadership Game
    • What it does: Teaches the following five leadership skills through exercises, feedback and collaboration:

      • Negotiation
      • Communication
      • Time management
      • Change management
      • Problem solving
    • After completing the program, NTT Data saw:

      • 50% more employees taking on leadership roles
      • New leaders developed 220 new ideas that:

        • generated $1 million in revenue and saved clients money
        • led to a 40 percent increase in worker satisfaction
        • lowered attrition by 30 percent

Benefits of Gamification

  • Increases engagement and productivity

    • A 2014 Gallup Poll about engagement at work shows that

      • 51% were "not engaged" - put in time at work, but not energy or passion
      • 17.5% were "actively disengaged" - acted out and undermined fellow workers
    • Companies with gamified systems report higher levels of employee productivity

      • According to another study, organizations that use gamified systems increase employee engagement by 48%
      • LiveOps, which manages call center agents, found that rewarding their employees with points for completing training and call conversions:

        • Drastically reduced new employee training times from 160 to just 14 hours
        • Increased customer satisfaction 9%
        • Reduced average call time by 23%
  • Makes progress measurable

    • Companies typically review their employees' work on a quarterly, biannual, or annual basis

      • This review process can make it difficult for employees to know how they're progressing in their roles
    • Gamified syste ms, with points, badges, and leaderboards, makes it clear how employees are doing and how they compare to their peers

      • Giving someone immediate feedback in terms of the goals they meet or opportunities they miss is more effective than doing so long after the fact

Things to Keep In Mind When Gamifying Your Business

Companies must be careful before adding a gamified system to their current business model. Gamification can bring many benefits, but it's also difficult to execute well. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Don't coerce participation

    • Companies with successful gamification programs make participation in them voluntary

      • Employees should want to participate because it is fun
      • A game you have to play isn't fun
  • Make games about more than points and badges

    • The IT research firm Gartner estimates that 80% of gamification programs will fail in the workplace due to their shoddy construction

      • Companies need to think carefully

        • What systems to gamify
        • How to gamify them
        • How to find the right balance between

          • Competition
          • Collaboration
      • For employees to engage with them, gamified systems need to be

        • intrinsically fun
        • meaningful
  • Don't overemphasize competition

    • Games that reward competition above all else can cause problems

      • Employees may

        • Cheat
        • Exploit loopholes
        • Sab otage others
      • Deloitte's Leadership Academy designed a leaderboard that:

        • Only ranks users of similar levels

          • This means there are several "Top 10" boards
        • Reset each week

          • This prevents new players from getting discouraged
  • Games can grow stale

    • Players can become bored with games they play all the time

How to Implement a Gamified System

No two businesses are the same, so there's no magic system that will work equally well at all companies. There are some general tips, however, that every business should consider before implementing gamification, including:

  • Find the purpose

    • Before considering gamification, the company must know what it wants to accomplish

      • Gamification should be a tool for solving a problem, not a tool in search of a problem
    • Make sure your goals are concrete

      • Stay away from nice sounding bromides:

        • "Improve work environment"
        • "Work together more efficiently"
  • Measure your success

    • Pick quantifiable metrics

      • "Increase customer conversion by 25% by next quarter"
      • "Reduce wait times by 10% this month"
  • If a company's culture strongly values competition, consider a game that rewards employees for doing better than their fellows - or vise versa
  • Make participation simple

    • Overly complex games may discourage participation or frustrate those that do decide to play the game
    • Gamified systems should have relatively simple rules with clear and measureable progress towards goals
  • Get help

    • There are many existing tools to help companies gamify their operations

      • Zurmo is a CRM designed to make sales more fun
      • Nitro for Salesforce is a general purpose gamification engine
      • Badgeville offers a number of products

        • People Analytics - a way to monitor and visualize progress
        • Profiles - where workers can organize their work lives

Most companies would discourage employees from playing games at work, but the benefits of gamification makes it clear that certain types of games are more than just acceptable, they can boost a company's bottom line, increase worker productivity, and provide a better work environment. Gamified systems can be tricky to set up, but if done correctly, they offer big benefits.

Sources: badgeville.com, sunlife.ca, theguardian.com, sustainablesv.org, recyclebank.com, ford.com, myfordmobile.com, fastcompany.com, gallup.com, wired.com, businessinsider.com, bunchball.com, hbr.org, inc.com, simplyzesty.com,


Frank Moraes

About Frank Moraes

Frank has worked in the tech industry since the early 1990s — as a writer, programmer, and manager. He’s an insatiable blogger and “Don Quixote” fanatic. In his spare time, Frank writes experimental plays — usually involving puppets like Grumpy Squirrel in his image.


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