5 Things You Should Know About Enterprise Gamification

5 Things You Should Know About Enterprise Gamification
Summary: Gamification in the workplace, or enterprise gamification, has many meanings to many people. This article explains how gamification is used today to drive employee performance, eLearning, or a combination of both.

What You Need To Know About Enterprise Gamification

Like the parable of the blind men and the elephant –where each man forms an opinion of the elephant based on the part they touched–, people have many differing ideas of the exact nature of gamification for the workforce. So what is enterprise gamification and why is it important for the future of learning and performance management? Here are 5 things you need to know to answer this question.

  1. Not a game. 
    Gamification isn’t a game. Most people are initially attracted to enterprise gamification because they imagine something like a video game at work; but gamification isn’t play nor a game – it is the use of game mechanics to encourage certain behaviors. Here is how Gartner defines gamification:

    The use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people, driving the achievement of business goals.

    The conclusion is that at its essence gamification is about using a mixture of design and digital engagement to drive certain behaviors and motivation.  Note that the point isn't having fun - or growing performance or learning. It is about encouraging behaviors that will lead to more learning or performance.

  2. Don't forget empathy! 
    Good gamification isn’t driven just but good game design, but also by empathy. The main focus of gamification isn’t to engage people through the use of game mechanics that are threatening (over-competitive) or manipulative. They are about creating an experience that will matter to the employee, have meaning and help the employee gain a sense of mastery and autonomy at work. Empathy means using gamification as a way to improve employee performance by contributing to the employee’s well-being, and not by treating the employee’s work as mindless competition. Designing games well requires asking what is in it for the employee – so that the employee can be the hero of their game. This means that training, coaching and feedback take center stage,  and there is an effort not to belittle employees by emphasizing their peers’ performance. Promoting extrinsic rewards or killer-type activity that focuses on employees out-playing their peers in fierce competition, isn’t realistic and isn’t good for both the employees and their employer.
  3. Super effective for learning. 
    Thinking of the employee, many millennials today know that “learning is earning”. Using gamification to drive learning can readily engage employees, if the learning is meaningful and in bite-size chunks - micro-learning gamification. Gamification and eLearning work exceptionally well together.  Games cut learning into micro-sessions and users respond very positively to completion game mechanics (think of the profile completion bar in Linkedin). In fact, learning completion rates are three times higher when gamification enters the picture. Gamification projects tend to be of two types: one is for performance – creating better habits for employees and driving their performance. The other is for learning (e.g. employee onboarding). But the really interesting (and deep) gamification implementations address both performance and learning – reflecting performance to employees, but also connecting learning sequences to performance objectives.  For instance, offering learning to employees based on the areas where they aren’t performing well in terms of their KPIs.
  4. Gamification needs to be done right. 
    Good gamification is about intrinsic motivation – people aren’t driven for the long term by extrinsic motivation (such as monetary rewards or competition). Research shows that high cash rewards are not correlated with better performance, and that intrinsic motivation – the human need to know that a job is done well – is a far better driver in the long term. Setting the right game rules and motivating the right behaviors is tricky. It shouldn’t be over-simplistic, focusing on only one or two behaviors, but rather drive people to achieve a balance between many different KPIs and activities. To do this well, the game needs to be designed in advance. In 2012 Gartner predicted that 80% of gamification projects will fail “to reach business objectives primarily due to poor design”. The gulf separating good gamification design from bad design is wide and companies must overcome it to enjoy meaningful enterprise gamification. Gartner’s Brian Burke stated this correctly:

    The focus is on the obvious game mechanics, such as points, badges and leader boards, rather than the more subtle and more important game design elements, such as balancing competition and collaboration, or defining a meaningful game economy. As a result, in many cases, organizations are simply counting points, slapping meaningless badges on activities and creating gamified applications that are simply not engaging for the target audience. Some organizations are already beginning to cast off poorly designed gamified applications.

    For long term engagement, enterprise gamification needs a good balance of game rules that can’t be “gamed” (if they can be “gamed” people will game them), game rules that engage employees with empathy and that have meaningful game mechanics. Getting points for getting up in the morning and coming to work isn’t enough. 

  5. Gamification can change organizational culture.
    Enterprise gamification sets performance goals for the employees; these goals can be tied into corporate goals. When someone sees their performance in the game, they know it is objective - and that sends a message that it is, therefore, "fair". This means that gamification results in more transparency in the organization and a better tie-into corporate goals. This changes culture and the way performance is managed. Instead of a once-a-year review in which employees are faced with year-old stale goals, employees can see their goals in real time and know how they are doing, enabling them to self-correct.