A company can live and die by its employees. Payroll is often one of the greatest expenses for a business, and companies are wholly dependent on their employees' output. Put simply, without a workforce, there can be no work. So it should go without saying that anything which can keep these employees happy and productive is good for business.
One unexpected avenue that more and more businesses are starting to explore is the concept of gamification. The idea is simple. Gamification is the application of gaming mechanics to regular tasks in order to incentivize people to complete them. In other words, it turns work into a game. Though this may seem counter-intuitive to the old school among us – after all, gaming while at work is a needless distraction, right? – the idea is gaining ground because it's been shown to work.
Taking Advantage of Proven Methodologies
Games encourage specific behavior by motivating people with incentives. Often, the incentive isn't even real – it's imagined. When you play a game, “winning” is often the only actual reward. There's no cash prize or brand new car at the end of the tunnel. The simple desire to beat the people you're playing with is enough to keep you engaged as a participant. This idea is what drives gamification. The same concepts and mechanics that are found in games can be applied to employees and customers in order to drive a specific set of behaviors for a specific end goal.
What is enabling more and more businesses to adopt gamification, both for employee and customer initiatives, is the proliferation of advanced mobile processors and technology. Smartphones and tablets are now everywhere, and it is easier than ever to develop an app (or utilize one that's already been created) for your own needs. Even small businesses are getting into gamification, as the cost of entry is lower than ever. With social gaming commonplace and the tools needed to spread gaming throughout an organization in the pocket or purse of nearly every employee, the recipe for success is now here.
However, it's important to note that the recipe isn't a guarantee for success. There are challenges and hurdles to overcome. Companies would be well advised to take these into consideration.
The Mistakes Companies Make
There are many mistakes to be made when setting off down the gamification path. The biggest mistake that companies can make is assuming that employees will embrace the process automatically. Don't get us wrong; when they do embrace gaming, it can lead to improved employee morale and productivity – both of which can improve your ROI and bottom line. But employees are not puppets, they are people, and gamification initiatives have to provide them actual incentive. If they view the initiative as a gimmick, or something that is forced upon them, the end result is likely to be the opposite of the desired effect.
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Before your organization implements gamification, think long and hard about what your goals are, how you plan to achieve them, and why your employees would want to participate (hint: “because they have to” is not a good answer). In order for gamification to be effective, you must have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. For example, if your company would like to increase the number of customer invoices that are processed in a day, then the gamification techniques must be built around this specific goal. How can you incentivize your employees to achieve this? What will be the actual methodology for achieving this goal – a phone app, desktop game, or browser-based program? Know the answers to these questions and your organization will find success.
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Is Gamification Right for Your Business?
It might be. But it might not. The simple fact of the matter is that gamification initiatives can only truly work if they're customized to your needs. Ultimately, people must want to take part. If they don't embrace the process, then the game can't achieve its goals. But as a concept, gamification is proven. Incentives help dictate behavior, and employee behavior impacts productivity.
Click here to read the June 2015 edition of Business Review USA