Today’s businesses use a variety of tools to attract (and keep) employees. Some of these, like recruitment automation, seem pretty straightforward. Others, like gamification, may need a bit more explanation. While gamification can be a benefit in the workplace, it can also (if used poorly) be a red flag or an unnecessary distraction. Read on to learn more about how it works—and how it can be used most effectively.
What is gamification?
Gamification is the process of introducing game mechanics into a non-gaming environment—in this case, a place of work or recruitment process. The long-term goal of gamification is to make a task more interesting for employees and increase their overall productivity.
Unlike cutting-edge concepts such as the Metaverse (described, in one instance, as the future of HR), gamification isn’t really a new idea. It has its roots in organizations like the Boy Scouts, who awarded badges to participants after they met certain goals.
Gamification also overlaps a little with ideas like facility management, a multi-pronged approach to creating a better working environment. Gamification has similar goals, but focuses on employees rather than their physical surroundings.
There are several common elements in gamification within the workplace. Businesses may want to have employees earn badges or experience points to track their progress, or navigate levels with escalating challenges.
They can also create scorecards and leaderboards to summarize employees’ achievements, and compare their progress with their colleagues. They can even have employees work towards non-workplace rewards like gift vouchers or extra holidays.
Since gamification is often popular within businesses, it pays to understand the concept during the recruitment stage. Like other tips when starting your career, it helps you start a new job on the right foot.
How does gamification work in practice?
Gamification often has practical applications in the realm of employee training. Rather than giving a new hire a dry training manual, a business might want to present them with a mix of quizzes, challenges or some other interactive feature. This can come in handy when you’re learning about a complex new idea, such as PySpark create dataframe.
Businesses can also add a more interactive element to other parts of gamification. For example, after hitting a milestone (like a certain number of sales or amount of content produced) a business might want to have an employee spin a wheel to determine their reward. Adding an element of chance to gamification can often be thrilling.
Whatever the approach, gamification depends upon a few best practices to be effective:
Explain the rules
Explain the rules
Whether it’s a board game, a video game or a sporting event, human beings love to play. But in order for a game to be enjoyable, all of the players need to understand its rules and conditions for victory. Gamification is no different, and with communication options like an online video call, there’s no excuse to neglect this task.
When a business introduces gamification (to a trainee or a broader workforce) they must tell the participants about the game’s goals, how to win, what the winner or runner up receives and—crucially—the benefits from playing. These benefits are often for individual employees, but they may also discuss benefits to the broader business as well.
Think about the rewards
Think about the rewards
It’s easy to think of gamification as a childish pursuit. That’s not always borne out by the benefits (which we’ll get to in a bit) but it is worth thinking about the prizes at the end of it.
Gamification demands some kind of tangible benefit, either in terms of professional development or something that’s attractive on its own merits. It should also consider at which milestones employees earn a reward.
Recognize everyone who takes part in it
Recognize everyone who takes part in it
Gamification can have a competitive element—indeed, that can be a major factor in its appeal. But not everyone is interested in this kind of competition. Good gamification is a bit like document signing software: something that smooths out the operation of a business, for everyone who uses it.
This means rewarding employees for finishing a training course, achieving a benchmark or something else that benefits the company more broadly. This kind of activity gives gamification a much greater impact.
Track the success of gamification
Like much business activity, gamification is only valuable if we quantify the benefits in some way. As such we have to establish goals for gamification, as well as employee engagement with it. This covers things like how many people take part, whether they hit certain milestones, and if their broader job performance or skillset has improved after a task is completed.
Tracking the success of gamification can be a way of dealing with imposter syndrome. It makes it clear to an employer how their skills can be put to practical use.
If a lot of employees aren’t taking part in a gamified activity, it could mean the gamification isn’t appealing enough. Alternatively, a gamified activity could be appealing without improving job performance, and may need revising as a result.
Help players understand failure
Generally speaking, a game only has value if it can be both won and lost. However, that means some people involved in gamification will lose out.
If an employee falls short of a specific gamification target, is there a way for them to learn how to improve? Can employees also learn from each other?
Broader gamification efforts should highlight both success and failure in order to be effective. Video chatting can also help remote employees to participate in gamification – and learn from their mistakes.
What are the advantages of gamification?
Of course, all this begs a simple question: how does gamification actually improve things long term?
The most obvious benefit is an increase in engagement with boring or repetitive tasks. Adding some kind of challenge element can put a new spin on an otherwise boring task—helping us feel more motivated afterwards.
That motivation is a crucial concern for today’s employers. Today’s employees are often more easily distracted, share and receive information from people around us, and access information from many different locations.
Just as activities like goal setting keep us on track, gamified training (and similar initiatives) responds to this state of affairs, reflecting the ways we learn nowadays.
This idea of motivation often cuts across radically different age groups, since most of us like games of one sort or another. As such, gamification can be useful for businesses with a range of different people in them.
Indeed, gamification can also make workplaces more pleasant environments. This is for a couple of reasons. The first is that it creates a level playing field, eliminating favoritism and giving everyone a chance to show what they’re capable of.
The second reason is that gamification gives people a reason to work more closely together. Employees can share knowledge to complete challenges more effectively, whether as teams or on an individual basis. This is where tools like web conferencing software can be useful for gamification.
What are the drawbacks of gamification?
Even with these advantages, it’s important we don’t treat gamification as some kind of silver bullet. This is because the concept has its limits.
To start with, gamification can’t paper over the cracks of an already-poor working environment. If (for instance) a training program has poor materials or supervisor support, gamifying it isn’t going to improve the experience.
It’s also easy for gamification to become an end in itself. For instance, we can become more focussed on chasing rewards or totting up points than doing our jobs, or developing our skills.
The biggest problem with gamification is often that it just isn’t fun to engage with. If a company adds gamification to a workplace ham-fistedly (like just plastering points systems and leaderboards over everything) it’s likely people won’t willingly engage with it. Especially if there’s not a compelling reward to justify the effort.
In this sense, gamification is a bit like QA methodology. The issue is less the resources you have than the way they are deployed.
In fact, the very act of mandating gamification can work against the idea of it. Games aren’t fun if we have no choice in whether we participate. But even if a workplace’s gamification is flawless, employees can still get tired of it after engaging with it for a long time. Familiarity breeds contempt, however compelling something is to begin with.
Gamification can often be a helpful tool in a workplace, and a reason for a new hire to take a job there. It offers a more effective learning experience, and ensures long-term engagement with a workplace’s training and job duties.
That said, gamification can be a double-edged sword. At its best the concept caters to a variety of different people, giving them clear targets and rewards to shoot for. At its worst it’s a patronizing, superfluous band-aid on an ineffective working environment.
By understanding the ins and outs of gamification, you’ll be able to make more informed choices in your career going ahead.
This article was written by... Tanhaz Kamaly - Partnership Executive, UK, Dialpad UK
Tanhaz Kamaly is a Partnership Executive at Dialpad, a small business phone service provider that turns conversations into the best opportunities, both for businesses and clients. He is well-versed and passionate about helping companies work in constantly evolving contexts, anywhere, anytime.
Check out his LinkedIn profile.