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quadra blog gamification in business how to motivate employees

Gamification is becoming more and more common. In fact, most people have taken part in gamification before without even realising it. But gamification is big business, and thinking about adding it to your office can offer many benefits. In this short guide, we’ll look at some of the most common ways of implementing gamification into your office and the reasons why you should. Have a look at our SlideShare for a quick overview of gamification in the office environment.

So what is gamification?

“Gamification is the application of game mechanics in other areas of activity to engage users and solve problems.”

Simply put, it’s about putting game playing mechanics into non-gaming applications, to make them more fun and engaging. It can be applied to almost any industry and almost any task, to turn users into players. It is well known to increase engagement and is a popular new marketing trend that is expected to keep growing. At some point, everyone will have taken part in gamification. Leaderboards, earning points and achieving badges and levels are all common gamification examples, and you will often find gamification mechanics in games where you win badges or progress to the next level when you have completed a task. Perhaps you have a 'To Do' app on your phone? When you complete a task does it reward you with points or badges? Then that's a perfect example of gamification. 

Think gamification is just another silly fad?

When people say that gamification is used everywhere, they mean everywhere. It's not just in simple app games or used to help motivate people to try harder, but it is used to literally help save peoples lives. By 2007, 30 million people had been killed by AIDS. PhD scientists had been trying to understand the crystal structure for one of the AIDS causing viruses for over 15 years, but could not solve it. To get some help, the University of Washington's Center for Game Science and the biochemistry department teamed up to create an online puzzle game called FoldIt. This was designed for people all over the world to play and compete to find out different protein structures that fit a researcher's criteria. Users competed against each other to fold the protein better than the other players and get the highest score. The better the protein was folded, the higher up the leaderboard they went.  It used a game-like puzzle interface for people to use. With over 240,000 players registering and playing the game, a solution for the structure was found in just TEN days! This resulted in a major breakthrough for AIDS research. By using gamification to motivate people to play and compete against one another, it got people interested and engaged and so were able to find the answer to something that researchers had struggled with for over 15 years. 

If gamification can be used to help beat AIDS it sure can be used to help motivate your employees.

Why introduce gamification into the office environment?

It is predicted that by 2014, over 70% of Global 2000 organisations will have at least one gamified application, demonstrating just how quickly gamification is growing.

The idea of gamifying tasks in an office might seem strange, and many people might think that it would distract employees from their main job if they don’t fully understand gamification. But gamification actually helps to encourage and motivate employees as well as improving the company and office culture.  A well-designed gamification product can improve productivity, motivate employees and increase participation in the office. Gamification can help to change the office from a dull, boring place to somewhere that employees actually enjoy coming into.

Bluewolf is a global technology consulting firm that wanted to start getting employees to build and maintain a public brand. After asking employees how they interacted with social media they built the #GoingSocial Portal. Using gamification mechanics the goal was to teach employees how to use social networks more effectively and understand how to manage online reputations. On their website, employee profiles were displayed showing social activity. Points were given to award employees for activities, such as publishing a blog post. Employees could also earn rewards based on the popularity of their social content. If employees earned enough points, they could win rewards such as lunch, flight upgrades and gift certificates. Within four months of the program being launched, website traffic from social channels increased 100%, with social traffic increasing by 20%. They turned a dull job that no one wanted to do, into one that was fun, exciting and had rewards, which saw the company receive a massive increase in traffic to their website. This has not only benefited the company, but the employees will enjoy doing the job too and will feel motivated to keep going.

How can gamification be implemented in the office environment?

There are so many different ways that gamification can be implemented into the office environment that you’re really only limited by your imagination. With the goal to help motivate employees and increase engagement, here are just a couple of ways you can add gamification to the office:

Leaderboards – One of the most common ways to add gamification to the office is to incorporate a virtual leaderboard, where employees can win badges as rewards for good work. This can encourage them to work harder to win more badges. Employees can also give each other badges for good work, which can help to strengthen the relationships in the office. Getting employees to interact with each other in a positive way will help to make the workplace a happier, more motivated place to be. People respond well when they are praised for good work and are likely to feel more appreciated, making them want to work harder.

Training – Another interesting way to implement gamification into the office is to create more interactive training materials. Rather than giving new employees boring training pages to read, turning this content into online games and interactive modules will help to engage the employee in the content. Studies have shown that employees retain more factual information, and retain it for longer when training is done in this way. Employees will find it fun and interesting and help to get them more motivated for when they start the real work.

Small Improvements is a company that provides a performance management software, used for providing 360-degree feedback, employee performance reviews, the ability to track goals and objects and a lot more, and integrates gamification into its very core. I got the opportunity to speak to Customer Success Agent Tim Baker from Small Improvements, to see what he thought about the use of gamification within their software

“Performance management is a serious part of career development and managing talent. To make it more enticing for people to capture ongoing feedback, Small Improvements uses badges as a gamified way to get employees engaged and involved in open communications. It's human nature to see someone receiving a badge, then wanting one for ourselves. The competitive aspect is less important then the reinforcement of positive behaviour and aligned values. By designing company specific badges, the engagement levels can rise even higher. It's simple but the results are extremely promising. One client reported a complete change of office atmosphere within days of implementing Small Improvements! An intuitive and simple solution, easy messages and fun badges kicked off invaluable conversations which then translated into better face to face communication, higher engagement levels and an overall healthier office culture.” 

The benefits

A recent survey showed that 71% of employees are ‘not engaged’ or are ‘actively disengaged’ from their work, so there’s the possibility that there are employees in your office who, quite simply, just don’t care. For many, their job is boring and unexciting. Many workers feel underappreciated and aren’t motivated to work hard and do their job. Gamification engages employees more with their work. A virtual leaderboard, as shown above, is going to make those underappreciated employees feel good about themselves and work harder. If employees enjoy coming into work then they’re going to work harder.

Employees are a valuable asset to any business and therefore keeping employees happy is going to increase the performance of the business. Simply put, gamification can radically improve the performance of employees and thus the performance of the business. It’s really no wonder so many businesses are implementing gamification into their office environment.

How we've implemented gamification into our office

Here at E-scape, we're not all talk and no action. We've implemented gamification into our own office environment, so we really know what we're talking about. In January 2013, we implemented a tokens system, to help increase employee engagement and make the workplace more engaging, as well as bringing everyone together. Luke Szkudlarek and Lee Bosio championed the implementation of the token system, and so I've spoken to both of them to see how it has worked, 10 months on.

"There is always a danger than the workplace could suffer from lack of staff engagement, generally caused by a dull, formal corporate culture. At E-scape, we do everything we can do NOT be like that. Inspired by the gamification course and with our experience in game development, we decided the timing was perfect to test some of the principles in our office.  Lee & I drafted some high-level rules for the "Tokens system".  Our system has everything you need including badges, leader boards, progression, measures and rewards. We did make many mistakes when we first started and we had to iterate and change some of the rules each month during the first quarter.  Some of what we learnt included:

1) It's incredibly challenging to engage every member of the team 

2) The rules need to be fair, any team bias will backfire, and we learnt the hard way! 

3) Balancing the seriousness and fun aspect of the system is important - If you make it too strict you will suck out all the fun from it, but if you make the rules too loose no one will treat this seriously and people will stop paying attention.  

4) Involve the users - run regular surveys, monitor staff engagement and gather feedback.  

We are still improving our system and I'm hopeful it will continue to evolve as we grow the team and make E-scape a fun place to work." - Luke Szkudlarek, Director of Digital Marketing "The key issue faced when we originally launched the token system was to not appear condescending and get staff buy in to what could easily be perceived as a glorified sticker chart last seen in the classroom.  We had to make sure the framework was tight, the rules were clear and the objectives were achievable and fair. A team of 20 people offers 20 different personalities and 20 different ways of looking at the same thing, some people respond well to structure and rules, others to flexibility and autonomy.  To fully satisfy all would be difficult, but we continually try to answer issues raised with clarity and fairness. The true art of a successful gamified model is to play to intrinsic values without replacing them with an extrinsic goal (to win a prize).  We have worked hard to keep chances of winning as open as possible by carrying tokens over from a monthly draw to a quarterly and annual draw and scaled prizes accordingly to the effort seen. Our intention by the end of year 1 is to have a defined set of tokens, method of nomination (manual and automatic) and a definitive system of communicating these.  Aside from the anticipated tweaks and changes we're on track and believe that the token system will continue to improve engagement and communication going forward." -Lee Bosio, Senior Accounts Manager

What the experts say 

I spoke to some of the experts in the world of gamification to see what they thought about implementing gamification into the office environment

Kevin Werbach had over 70,000 participants on his online gamification course - "Gamification is a way to learn from the insights of game designers and apply them to the workplace. Just because something is in an office context doesn't mean it can't be engaging, or even fun."

Mario Herger is the founder and CEO of Enterprise Gamification Consultancy LLC, the only gamification consultancy - "Training and education is a good area. Typically 10% of the material only sticks with the learners in a traditional learning environment, but with a gamified environment, those numbers go up to 75-90%. And it's more fun. There are things like compliance training that nobody wants to do, but must. And there are companies specialising on that."

Steve Bocska is the CEO of PugPharm - "The sad reality is that 71% of US employees have reported active disengagement with their workplace, resulting in an estimated $350B in lost revenue. But this doesn’t need to be the case. By skillfully applying gameplay design principles, the employee engagement problem can be overcome, resulting in better employee relations, stronger retention rates, lower HR costs, and higher revenues.”

Ross Smith is the Director of Test at Microsoft and believes that 'the future of work, is play' - "As we continue to move into "high twitch, more now" - world of always on - always connected - always distracted by incoming data - a world with a constant stream of data and information, it's critical for knowledge workers to focus to do their best creative work. In what could be one of the ultimate ironies, one of the best ways for employees to get focused on their work is to play.

Drop the cell phone and play! Get outside, sit at a console, gather friends for a board game, or just beat your personal best at the gym. We know that game mechanics help keep players focused on a clear goal, we know that the most creative ideas come in the shower or on the drive to work - and as we think about 21st century business processes, it's critical to think about games and play as a natural way to engage the creative thinker to focus on the task at hand."

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