How Gamification Can Help Overcome Remote Employment Issues

How Gamification Can Help Overcome Remote Employment Issues
Summary: The Washington Post recently reported that employees at the US Patent and Trademark Office took advantage of the organization’s award winning program telecommuting program. They had lied about the hours they worked. Despite this, telecommuting is here to stay – the benefits are too great. Employees work remotely everywhere: from telecommuting to save on office costs, through telecommuting to support a family-friendly employment environment, to remote workers in a “flat” world. In any case, although remote working will increase as the world becomes “flatter” – dealing with the effects of remote work are sometimes a steep organizational challenge. Experts agree that remote work brings on distinct organizational challenges: communication, trust, and corporate culture and knowledge issues.

Gamification Can Help Overcome The Main Remote Employment Issues Such as Communication, Trust, and Culture.

Gamification can solve remote employment issues, if used right. My favorite example is giving feedback, the immediate positive kind. Working remotely denies employees the opportunity to get it; this may lead to the feeling that they are working in a void. Feedback – as in “wow, you’ve managed to get so much done today” – contributes to the employee’s sense of well-being and drives them more. Many game elements can give this feedback – and also document it so a human will also be driven to give feedback too. For instance, think of Karma points, the classic reward for participating in knowledge sharing (think reddit). Collecting Karma points provides an immediate reward – but can also get noticed by a superior or peer and get a positive mention. Completion bars (think LinkedIn profile completion bar) can have the same effect.

Let’s look at how using gamification in dealing with remote employment holds great potential in dealing with each of these challenges:

1. Communication
Employee communication – with peers, superiors and subordinates – is always a challenge. But in the case of remote employment, the saying “far from the eye away from the heart” becomes all too applicable. Managers can’t work by walking around the office or calling meetings or chatting at the water cooler. The lack of face time can hinder employee willingness to cooperate with peers, understand instructions and goals and do their job well. Lack of communication can also harm alignment with business goals – out of the ignorance that remote work may sometimes bring.

Most suggestions require setting communication goals that emphasize many brief interactions across instant messaging and more. Weekly calls, availability over certain hours and even IM etiquette are among the excellent recommendations given by experts. All these communication goals can be gamified.

Set goals that can be easily measured through time logging (such as calls made to remote employees), use the current gamification platform to suggest calls to action that involve communication (for instance, each time a customer order is obtained, its existence and special requirements need to be delivered in a skype call to the remote worker), and completion mechanisms similar to those used by linkedin (“you have reached 80% of your personal communication goal for the month”).

Communication can also be gamified through pat on the back games, where employees choose “best communicators” and reward them in person, contributing to a good team environment and exemplifying the use of communications channels in accordance with goals. Communications goals can also be set on a team and departmental level.

In knowledge management scenarios, think of how to reward over-communication. Give badges for expertise, detailed answers, using the right channel to ask questions and more.

Many companies increase communications through the use of social networks such as Jive and Yammer, which work well in bringing a remote office closer to the central office or work from home employees to the office water cooler. Gamification works great with Jive and Yammer – rewarding posting, liking, and sharing, and fostering mastery in using internal social networks.

Companies using narratives and leagues with a sports narrative can carry out weekly matches that are hosted in a different place each time. The place can be chosen based on group achievement or “to get to know people”. For instance, a Baseball match with the background of Ireland will appear when the Irish office had scored the highest amount of points in sharing activities during the match week.

2. Trust and productivity
Companies need to set up ways to measure and track productivity and do so in an atmosphere of trust that doesn’t give employees a sense they are being spied upon.

Gamifying productivity can be a great way to ensure that work is tracked but and that good performance is recognized and that it is all done with transparency in mind.

With gamification, it doesn’t matter if you work in the office or remotely. You can achieve high productivity results from anywhere.

3. Culture & training
Remote work means remote employees miss out on corporate culture and are at an increased turnover risk. It also means that subtle yet important corporate culture mechanisms may not be available to them – to participate in projects, get trained on how to do their jobs and voice their concerns.

Training and onboarding can be gamified. In fact, elearning is a field that can be easily gamified with surprising results.

A company can use gamification to teach employees about the company’s products, processes, and culture – like "Explore the world" – the employee will learn about the company’s products, processes, and culture while touring the world and taking photos of remote places (remote offices).

Employees and remote offices can turn elearning – or learnification – the other way around and send quizzes regarding their culture, their contribution to the company.

Culture can also be achieved with gamified team work, using narratives and contests. This can create an alternative remote employee culture that is based on the rituals within gamified “league” and fantasy sports.

In many senses, we can describe work within a global organization as a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual world.

In MMORPGs, the development of the player's character is a primary goal. Nearly all MMORPGs feature a character progression system in which players earn experience points for their actions and use those points to reach character "levels", which makes them better at whatever they do.

MMORPGs almost always have tools to facilitate communication between players. Many MMORPGs require teamwork to progress better in the game.

A gamification application in a global organization can be built based upon the MMORPGs principles where all employees /players in the organization / department are thriving to improve an organization/ department goal / save the princess…..

Telecommuting and remote work are here to stay. Let’s set the right game elements to ensure their implementation works out. And if the results looks like a Dungeons and Dragons world, so be it.