Want productive and happy employees? Try gamification

Gamification is becoming an increasingly popular tool for companies that want to see happier and more productive employees

Credit: Creativesocialbloq

One of the bottleneck issues for HR and operational leadership comes down to employee engagement, and more specifically, how to keep employees from leaving. Low employee engagement translates into lower productivity, which consequently results in high turnover.

Other aspects that affect employee engagement are a general lack of knowledge of the entire corporate infrastructure, such as new products or services, or on a more micro level, how to align daily tasks with the goals of the company.

"The issue isn't necessarily about getting more tasks through to employees or better micro-management of employee time -- also workforce design can always help. The issue is that in order to authentically engage employees they need to truly believe that engagement is there for them, that's there something in it for the employee," said Gal Rimon, founder and CEO of enterprise gamification developer, Gameffective.

Big momentum

Gamification is gaining momentum among companies. According to Gartner, 40 percent of the top 1,000 companies will use gamification in 2017.

"With this kind of momentum, I cannot help but wonder whether my future business cards, in addition to name, title, and contact information, will show a few merit badges and my high score on the corporate leaderboard," said Holger Reisinger, Jabra's New Ways of Working Ambassador and SVP of Business Solutions.

Research from Gallup shows that highly a engaged workforce outperformed their peers by 147% in earnings per share and enjoyed 25-65% less turnover and 37% less absenteeism.  

Greg Salvato, CEO of Touchpoint One, quoting a recent article by Josh Bersin, new studies at Deloitte show that "while 90 percent of executives understand the importance of employee engagement, fewer than 50 percent understand how to effectively address this issue."

"One approach that is demonstrating measurable effectiveness in driving employee engagement to greater levels while simultaneously helping organizations meet the unique demands of a modern workforce is gamification. For those still unsure about how to confront the serious implications of a disengaged workforce -- which Gallup suggests costs the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion per year -- deliberation over the potential of gamification is long past," said Salvato.

Gamification trends

Gamification, while a sexy topic for years now, is seeing new trends emerge. Gal Rimon divides these trends into three categories.

Goal setting -- inspired by new management practices such as OKRs, gamification is now beginning to be used to add goal setting for employees, based on each employee's past achievements and proposed trajectory. Gone are the days of a winner take all competition between employees -- with 10% feeling great about themselves and 90% under-performing.

E-learning integration -- communication of corporate information to employees, training on the job and that is customized to actual performance is becoming crucial. It doesn't make sense to launch a product or an initiative if employees don't offer it. This is where gamification ties in -- besides the performance gamification that presents KPIs to each employee, employees are offered learning sequences that tie into these goals.

Real time feedback -- showing employees how they are doing in real time is the fairest feedback there is, since it lets them correct their course and shows them where to do that. That's why gamification is very much like a Fitbit for work -- and fitness trackers are proven to drive better health outcomes.

One of the crucial aspects to keep in mind is to manage expectations. Games aren't some godsend solution to transform a poisonous workplace into a flourishing one.

"The challenge is making sure games aren't treated as a blanket solution, instead helping people understand the unique benefits and applications of particular mechanics." said Ben Courtney, Lead Game Designer at Preloaded.

The unique benefits of gamification can be many. Companies might want to kick-off the journey of a new employee by gamifying even the most mundane of tasks.

"During onboarding, why not use an app to teach employees where the nearest restroom and exits are? Conducting a leadership training session? Why not use an innovation game to brainstorm possibilities and to experiment in a controlled environment?," asked  Marta Moakley, a legal editor with XpertHR

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