Play is the opposite of work. That was the main concept related to work during the time of the Industrial Revolution. Today we have a different approach and we know that playing and gaming can help change behaviors, develop skills and boost performance. Besides, playing is fun and keeps us emotionally healthy. At the gamification workshops we facilitate, we continuously experience that managers from all industries attribute great significance to gamification for driving employee engagement and delivering business results.
The word gamification itself was introduced in 2002 by Nick Pelling, a British programmer and inventor but did not achieve great popularity until 2010 when Badgeville, a leading Business Gamification Platform, was founded. Since then approximately 350 companies have already designed major gamification projects to increase performance, engagement and revenues.
Having a look at statistics it’s interesting to point out that:
• 61% of (surveyed) C-level executives say they take daily breaks to play games at work. More than half of these
“playful” executives say they do so “to feel more productive.”1
• more than 50% of organisations that manage innovation processes will gamify those by 2015.2
• businesses spent $100 million on gamification in 2011 and the industry is expected to grow to over
$2.8 billion by 2016.3
The main areas that the corporate world is wanting to revolutionize by gamification are driving performance, boosting engagement and enhancing corporate health.
In the following we will explore three different gamification projects which have been successfully introduced by multinational companies.
The US foodchain Target realized a few years ago that their cashiers were checking out their customers too slowly. After trying different traditional interventions, the management decided to opt for a gamified system, which gave instant feedback to the cashiers about the speed of their checkouts. A certain time range was defined within which the cashier was expected to complete the checkout. A big G on the feedback screen indicated that the transaction had been completed quickly and an Rshowed that the transaction had been too slow. Y-rated transactions were acceptable. The cashiers could see the average rating of their last 10 transactions, for example 80% meant that in 8 out of 10 cases they had received a G(reen) light. By using this method the food chain managed to upgrade the quick checkout ratio to 82%. Employees participated in the competition with pride and enthusiasm (the scores did not result in any direct consequences) and the general morale was also improved.
Employee engagement ratios have shown a stagnating tendency over the last 10 years, with only 30% of the workforce being engaged worldwide. Understandably, organisations are looking for new ways to drive engagement in general and for specific tasks as well.
Microsoft developed the "Language Quality Game" that was used internally to test the localization of Windows 7. The company was able to mobilize native speakers of rare languages, who proudly undertook the rather tedious work of checking the dialog boxes that appear for users of Windows 7. Finally 4 500 employees checked 500 000 dialog boxes and reported 6 700 bugs. There was no official reward, it was just about the thrill of detecting problems, being good corporate citizens and being the most successful office on the online leaderboard Microsoft had set up. This way a giant like Microsoft was able to mobilize its own internal resources based on a healthy competition among the different teams, which felt proud of using their mother tongue.
At NextJump, an IT service company, more than 80% of employees work out at least twice a week. And how does the company achieve to encourage so many employees to exercise? By developing a formula that actually convinces its workers to hit the gym. The entire company is split up into teams and everyone has to log their workouts in an internal computer system where colleagues see their data. The team that works out the most each week wins $1,000.
While a growing number of companies offer their employees incentives to stay healthy, NextJump actually achieved that their people make use of the services it offers.
And what does Charlie Kim, the company’s CEO say about gamification?
“I never use the word ‘gamification'. I use the word ‘motivation'. If you stop and think about the best motivators in the world - they’re usually the top leaders in an organisation - and if you look at what they do to motivate, there’s most likely a gamification element in there.”
So what’s the next project you would like to gamify at your company?
1 US research conducted by Information Solutions Group exclusively for PopCap Game based on online surveys completed by 2,842 respondents, 2007.
2 Gartner Inc, 2011
3 M2 Research, 2011
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