Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service.
Recent studies from the latest Gallup report on the workplace provides the alarming news that two-thirds of the American workforce is not engaged. In fact, the average productivity level is only about 33%. This means that companies who fail to engage and motivate their workforce will soon struggle to remain financially positive.
As a result of this need for engagement, there has been tremendous growth in the rise of employee engagement software. In particular, gamification is a hot buzzword these days, with over 70% of Fortune 2000 companies using some type of gamification in the workplace. But are these strategies really effective or all just hype?
Why Gamification? Why Now?
Many arguments for gamification come from those who say that as technology changes, so also must the workforce adapt. The big difference, however, is that the workforce hasn’t seen such a major shift in technology since it’s very beginning. As SaaS has taken over the offices and changed the way we do business, it has also changed the way we manage.
Previously, companies used things like sales bells, whiteboards, an employee of the month trophies, plaques and other things to motivate their workforce. The major downside was that it was hard to bring together separated offices. So, it was very hard to build a culture in a single cohesive manner.
With SaaS systems, real-time updates, data visualization, TV screen celebrations, international leader-boards and much more have become the norm. Basically, engagement software systems have found a gap that needed to be filled and has filled that gap by making celebrations throughout an entire company instant and regular.
At the same time, there has been a shift in how managers view employee relations. Research and surveys continuously point to recognition as one of the most powerful workplace motivators. Also, it’s our natural competitiveness to be the best. In fact, in recent research, it was shown that recognition is a more powerful workplace motivator than money.
In addition, Millennials are those born between approximately the early 1980s to mid-2000s. They would soon make up nearly 50% of the global workforce. And by 2025, they would account for 75% of the global workforce. This generation is the first to consistently rate praise, recognition and company culture as their most important values in the workplace.
So, combining what we understand now about shifts in technology, the power of recognition, and the millennial workforce, it’s easy to understand why employee engagement software systems are on the rise.
Does it work?
Many people used to argue that gamification was simply all hype and no real solution. This particularly happened around 2012 when it reached the peak of Gartner’s hype cycle. However, as time has shown, gamification is very much here to stay. The reason is that gamification provides new and better ways of solving the same problems we’ve been trying to solve for years. Assume the sales bell and whiteboard or the stickers you used to get in school when you completed your homework. It’s basically the same idea, just digital.
As with any industry, there are tons of gamification and engagement software systems popping up around the globe. Some know what they’re doing, but many do not. In order to provide a truly effective platform, it requires a thorough understanding of game mechanics, motivation strategies, and of course applies to the end-user. (For Example experience in sales, marketing, e-learning, etc.)
Gamification and rules go hand-in-hand. Namely, there must be clearly defined objectives, a path towards mastery, and meaningful rewards for completion. If these are in place, then gamification provides great benefit to its users. However, the software must be good and you can’t force it on people who don’t want to be involved.
In his book, The Truth About Managing People, Ph.D. professor and author Stephen Robbins says “The most powerful workplace motivator is recognition, recognition, and more recognition!” The power of real-time recognition in influencing motivation is clear and well documented. By announcing team success together on TVs, web and mobile app, it’s much easier to create a culture of mutual celebration.
In addition, the ability to visualize data, understand progress on goals and create instant action towards clearly defined objectives ensures that everyone is contributing to the company’s bottom line. With a variety of ranks, badges, leaderboards, a wall of fame, and other display information, employees receive immediate signs of achievement and progress, ensuring that their hard work does not go unnoticed.
Engagement software also allows teams to develop skills together, learn quickly, and move towards mastering their assigned tasks. As a result, gamification build high-performing teams which result in a great culture.
In short, gamification builds trust, transparency, cohesion, and teamwork towards clearly defined objectives. This drives shared the vision, more efficient work, revenue growth, happier customers and thriving company culture.
For more information on engagement rates, please view this info-graphic. Employee Engagement Rates (Click on the link to download the infographic).
David Smith is the Chief Marketing Officer for SalesScreen, a sales motivation platform that combines data visualization with performance metrics and gamification in order to track progress on clearly defined objectives and reward performance for achievements.