How Gamification can Help (and Hurt) Your Employee Engagement

Posted by Mark Jackson on Wed, Feb, 25, 2015 @ 08:02 AM

Success stories touting gamification’s success abound. Recently, the spotlight’s been on companies like Dailybreak, who’ve used gamification to engage customers and reaped the incredible profits. As Dailybreak has shown, the market for gamification is huge, sparked by a series of successes in things like education and hurricane relief, as well as books touting the benefits of gamification. 

Gamification is being used in the world of work, so it’s important to HR professionals to understand what gamification can and can’t do for them. What is gamification? How can it help people work? What are its limitations and problems? How can we solve these problems or work around them? These are questions HR professionals should be asking themselves, as they’re important to knowing whether they should implement gamification in their own organizations. 



Gamification and its benefits

In a nutshell, this is gamification: taking processes and tasks that may not be fun or engaging on their own and turning them into “games” by providing an extrinsic reward and motivation for completing these tasks. By providing a bonus that then ties into a larger reward system, employees are motivated to do better at these tasks or complete them more quickly.

Let’s take filing invoices or time sheets, for example. They’re tedious to do, very few people like doing them, and they have to get done. So rather than have workers lounge in the tedium of filling these sheets out, gamification would motivate workers to get them done more quickly by offering them a reward, like a gold star or the experience points you’d typically receive in a role-playing video game.

There’s evidence that gamification can work, too. Studies done at call centers have shown a 15% decrease in call time (which means getting through customers more quickly), an 8% increase in sales, and a 9% increase in customer satisfaction. This increase in quality work has caused 70% of employers in the Global 2000 to have gamified at least one process at their organization. It’s clear that not only gamification is popular, but it can also get results. 


Tweet This: 70% of employers in the Global 2000 have gamified at least one process at their organization.


Problems With Gamification

Unfortunately, while gamification can help accomplish a number of things from increasing call center productivity to lowering traffic speeds in Sweden, it may not be the best fit for the business world. While there are benefits to sign gamification properly, as many as 80% of the current gamification apps today are predicted to fail, mostly due to poor design. In studies where the use of gamification was monitored in an organization, participation rates in gamified tasks was 50% lower than those using peer recognition incentives for said tasks.

Gamification doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution, and in fact it could be problem. Take gamification’s application in education by organizations like Khan Academy. Some have pointed out that in the case of education, gamification is going further down the test-oriented path schools have been going down in recent years by focusing on results. It leads to kids focusing on answering test questions without really understanding the material. This may not be as problematic in the results-oriented world of work, but it could lead to employees not understanding material they’re being trained on and losing out on productivity long-term because they have to relearn processes. 


Tweet This: Companies that utilize recognition programs have 23% lower turnover than those that don't.


Finding a Solution

If gamification isn’t always the answer, what should employers do? Well, when you think about it, the gamification problem is really an engagement problem, and there are other ways to help there. For one, 76% of employees find peer recognition rewarding and more likely to motivate them. 90% say they’re more likely to work harder if their work environment were more fun, gamification or no.

Gamification, ultimately, is a means to an end: retention and engagement, which 78% of business leaders rank as important. So while it’s tempting to hop aboard the latest trends in making your employees work better, we should use them in moderation, and not as a panacea for a problem we could tackle in more specific ways (such as implementing more robust peer recognition programs). The #1 reason employees leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated, and companies that utilize recognition programs have 23% lower turnover than those that don’t.

How effective is your training program? It’s time for you to take a second look.

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Tags: cyber train, training, employee engagement, Employee Training, Gamification