Gamification, not so simple a game

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As we all have heard & know by now that gamification is a trend that is catching up fast &quick, if it already has not. At a global level it is perhaps accepted at a much higher & matured fashion as compared to the Indian corporate world. Many organisations are picking it in their human resources arena. Pick any established engagement survey and it will predict that majority employees are disengaged, be it in the global perspective or in an Indian context.

This worries most senior HR professionals who in turn share their concern with the management & look for innovative ways to improve the physical, psychological and mental wellbeing of employees by focusing on building a flexible and inclusive company culture that get the engagement quotient to a better statistic. Gamification in HR is one of the many ways that futuristic HR leaders are experimenting with.

What is encouraging is that millennials have grown up among video games. Infact, video games on smartphones is a very common past time for people. Gamification in people processes can take advantage of it, with a clear focus on increasing engagement by making all aspects of communication as highly interactive and interesting for people in the organisation.

As per common knowledge, there are two kinds of gamification that is typically utilized: structural gamification and serious games. In structural gamification, people use gaming elements (badges, levels, points, leader boards etc.) to workflows. Serious games are where we create a game or simulation to utilize & execute it for more relevant areas such as training or assessment centre simulations. However, the most critical part is execution, adoption & retention of such intervention. Will gamification really make a real change in increased engagement, better retention, higher productivity, we cannot be very sure. Just like, many organisations have installed pool tables, foosball tables, table tennis tables etc. How much does it make a difference in engaging & keeping people glued to office & office work, we can never really say.

However, if we might want to consider gamification in people processes we will need to identify not only our objective, i.e. culture change, engagement quotient, retention etc but also need to choose our workflows smartly, where we want to bring in the change, i.e. recruitment, onboarding, learning, training, etc.). Some applications for gamification in people processes &changes at workplace could be in bringing in culture elements by employees by allocating “culture points” or “value badges”, refurbishing the training content & making itinto a game where people can read through levels to win badges/points, onboarding documents and expense forms can be converted into gaming formats. Unusual areas such as employee wellness can have points and can be turned it into a competition. Karl Kapp, professes that the success of gamification depends on its ability to become an addiction across generations of people. Many organizations like Cognizant & Deloitte are using gaming to enhance workforce alignment, increase employee skills & solve problem statements including identifying new talent pools.

Some organisations which can be quoted as using & taking good advantage of gaming as a avenue are:

  • TCabs, a local radio cab service provider from Pune, India, that transformed its ordinary Call a Cab business into a gamified customer-engaging offering. It uses eMee gamification engine as customer loyalty program called TMiles. They put game mechanics to encourage customer to provide feedback on their cab journey, encouraging users to actively participate in improving their service and sharing their TCabs experience with their friends.
  • Marriott utilized gaming in recruiting by developing hotel-themed online games similar to Farmville to acclimatize prospective employees with the Marriott as an organization, the company culture and the hotel industry.
  • Whirlpool uses social media and gamification (cryptic puzzles) to engage prospective employees to keep the brand connect alive.

Some very interesting ways in which some companies have adopted gamification in not only their people processes but in their day to day business & operations can also be found in companies like Walmart who are using gamification for over 2 yrs now to deliver safety training to their employees across distribution units. This ensures a dispersed workforce adheres to safety procedures & has fun on the job. The application is a three-minute workflow embedded in employee’s daily workflow. Best part is, that it becomes competitive and addictive as employees start to compare rankings in the game as well as discuss the importance of adhering to safety procedures. Another great example of increased productivity through gamification is by Qualcomm who through gamification techniques on query portals such as stackoverflow.com have embedded it in their internal Q&A process. Employees are encouraged to post and respond to technical questions and the best answers are voted up and move up the score board. Employees earn points for their activity/engagement and best answers. They even win badges for doing unique things such as answering a question that is unanswered for over 30 days. However, in the overall scheme of things, especially in people processes, gamification within the recruitment vertical has been highly adoptive, responsive & proven to be very effective successful for companies.

Some other very interesting ways in which HR can implement gamification and get employees engaged are rewards and recognition, completing mandatory or statutory compliances, filling required forms by creating a friendly competition, peer mentorship which drives employees to want to succeed.

They experience peers earning praise, achieving goals and raising the bar every time, and they get interested to achieve similar goals, e.g. top salesman completing annual training on time, turns in sales reports daily, filing in expense reports/forms within TAT etc. Using gamification, HR folks can evolve new, transparent, mission-based, matured & yet light hearted career paths that exhibit career movements of people in the organization. By highlighting behavioral changes in a gamified format, people can view a perfect example of becoming a top salesperson. All such workflows become breadcrumbs for peers to follow.

Gamification platforms provides ways to design programs to allow team members to recognize one another for contributions made toward a common goal. The data is trackable, creates a valuable information spread and captures employee and organizational knowledge. By visiting the knowledge platform, the organisation can identify high potentials in specific skills, work on clients &make relevant correlations through such repository of data/information. It creates a whole new world of a more efficient, highly collaborative & immensely productive workforce, which is for sure engaged.

In all the readings & discussions that I have done with people in HR, Sales, marketing and even so called high-tech areas such as data mining, machine learning & data sciences, some critical themes that I could figure that become critical when deciding on implementing gamification in organisations, be it people or business processes are:

  • Core Objectives: Zeroing on specific business objectives is critical. We need to be clear & conscious of what do we want to achieve with the intervention.
  • Intrinsic Motivation Factors of People: Gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology. Employee demographics & personal information reflects what people really need.
  • Emotional Intelligence: It is important to get people bond & understand the shift in professional intent at a emotional level. It will take some time, but the changes will be permanent.

Author-Kanishka Mallick, General Manager – HR, with 15 years of overall experience in people processes, currently leads and manages PMO-HR at Times Internet Ltd. Has worked with Indian conglomerates like Bharti Enterprises & Mahindra & Mahindra group of companies.

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