With the so called ‘Facebook generation’ now joining the workforce, gamified processes could be an important element of reward and recognition initiatives for organisations of all sizes. Neil Penny, Product Director at Sunrise Software, explains how motivating staff using the latest gamification techniques will boost productivity and ultimately improve customer service.

Most people are part of the consumerisation of technology in one way or another, and the workforce in general is becoming more engaged with IT.

The ‘Facebook generation’ (also called Millennials or Gen Y) now expect to be able to use the same technology at work as they do at home; they expect to be able to use social media at work, and they expect software to look and work in a certain way. They are completely turned off by the staid interfaces of older business applications.

Productivity: employee engagement is key

Getting the best out of staff, by which I mean productivity, engagement, quality, and consistency of work, is key for organisations to prosper. Motivated staff are more productive, provide a better service and generally are happier at work. The difference in productivity between those that are motivated or engaged and those that are not, has been reported as high as 90 per cent. This seems a very high figure, but if it was actually closer to 50 per cent, it is still a significant difference and a potential opportunity to improve.

According to a 2012 Gartner survey only 29 per cent of employees were engaged at work, with 52 per cent identifying as unengaged and 19 per cent as disengaged. Gamification has the potential to improve employee engagement, thereby improving productivity.

How gamification helps

Gamification uses game theory to introduce a competitive element to work operations that use social capital, self-esteem and fun to appeal to the workforce. An important aspect of employee reward and recognition schemes is that they encourage and incentivise staff to work towards corporate goals.

Gamification is the ideal tool for this as it can be used to design collaborative or competitive games that maximise business outcomes and recognise everyone to some degree, rather than rewarding just a few top performers. Employee performance feedback goes from being a top-down and periodic event (for example, a yearly appraisal) to being social, peer-based and real-time.

Gamification of business processes

Many workers start their careers in customer-facing roles such as service desks, Customer support desks or call centre environments, making these ideal places to harness gamification techniques. Not only does the more modern style of working appeal to younger staff, but it also helps to keep staff motivated.

Gamification for the customer-facing departments integrates components often more typically seen in console gaming like leader boards, badges, challenges, quests and levelling. Service desk agents can gain points and badges as they resolve customer issues, meet customer service level agreements, gain positive feedback or complete projects. Typically systems are completely configurable, allowing each organisation to incentivise staff as they see fit - celebrating both individual and team achievements.

The top business benefits of introducing gamified processes to employee reward and recognition concepts are:

  • Cost effectiveness - points, leader boards and recognition cost a lot less than expensive incentives and are more effective at increasing productivity.
  • Continual employee engagement - staff can compete within teams, against each other or with themselves, aiming to beat their colleagues and peers.
  • Improving knowledge - with clever design, gamification can encourage staff to read more, skill-up, help to train themselves and pass on knowledge to others.
  • Business goals - gamification can help ensure that everyone is working towards corporate goals. By engaging with their staff, organisations are far more likely to achieve their stated business goals.
  • Location inclusivity - employees can be based in any location and still take part.
  • Motivating and retaining staff - improved recognition helps to motivate and retain staff. Minimising staff turnover improves knowledge retention and in turn customer service.

Top tips for introducing gamification

Understanding gamification is one thing, but making it a viable option that works in a real-life business environment is the next challenge. Here is a simple three-step methodology that will put you on the road to successful gamification.

Gain buy-in

  • Don’t assume everyone understands the concept of gamification and make sure to position it as a motivational reward and recognition system rather than just another fad.
  • What’s in it for the players? Linking rewards to something tangible like cake and coffee or even monetary gain will grab their attention.
  • Recognise that not all players are the same - challenges and rewards need to reflect differences in roles and function.
  • Don’t commit to promises of rewards you can’t keep.

Start simple

  • Wait until everyone is familiar with gamification before introducing more complex, longer-term goals and rewards.
  • Go slowly to build up confidence and keep players keen.
  • Decision criteria for determining winners should be based on measurable statistics.
  • Make first-time rewards attainable to keep new players motivated.
  • Create tiered rewards that motivate players to continually do better.
  • Mix it up - apply different rewards for different groups at different times but make sure players are competing against colleagues performing similar tasks.
  • Minimise the opportunities to cheat by keeping rewards criteria clear and strict.
  • Align gaming scenarios with business objectives to keep them real and meaningful.

Monitor and iterate

  • Continually review the effectiveness of your gamification techniques.
  • Listen to staff feedback - they will know what works and what does not, and come up with fresh ideas.
  • Constantly tweak and rollout new challenges and rewards to keep up momentum.

In a business world where many organisations are looking to do more with less, staff productivity is crucial. Anything that increases motivation and reduces employee turnover will improve productivity, leading to the twin benefits of raising customer service and cutting the cost of recruitment.

While it may sound like the latest overhyped technology, time will show that gamification actually has a lot to offer.