gamification is not about playing a game. Generally, a game is created
with the sole intent of entertaining. Gamification, on the
other hand, applies game-like elements (things like a narrative, a
scoreboard, co-operation to accomplish goals) to something else;
maybe a wellness program or management course, for example.
This “gamifies” the course or program with the intention of driving
An online course might include quizzes or multiple-choice questions,
a progress bar and levels of certification along the way. Or
an office-wide fundraising challenge may show which departments
are leading the way when it comes to donations. Gamification can
take any number of forms and its principles can be applied to
influence employee behaviour in a nearly limitless range of areas.
WHY IT WORKS
When it’s done well, gamification works because it taps into what
motivates people. According to Gamification by Design co-author
Gabe Zichermann, “Gamification is 75 per cent psychology and
25 per cent technology.” In fact, recent research has tied effective
gamification to the main tenants of self-determination theory.
“In self-determination theory there are three elements that lead to
motivation: autonomy, mastery and relatedness or the social aspect
of it,” said Karl Kapp, director, Institute for Interactive Technologies,
Professor of Instructional Technology, Bloomsburg University and
author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.
“Gamification says we can use game elements to drive these
three areas,” said Kapp. First, autonomy: People engage freely
in the game and often learn or progress at their own pace. Next,
they earn badges or see progress reflected on leaderboards, which
acknowledges mastery. And generally, gamification is social in
nature, so relatedness is covered quite naturally.
In the early years of this decade, organizations gravitated to testing
the gamification waters in a few specific areas. “Originally, gamification
was used mainly in the sales training area,” said Kapp. “This
was based on the belief that people like to be competitive, people
like to see their names on leaderboards, and there was a focus on
the competitive element, in particular.”
Early adopters also saw opportunities to improve employee
wellness. “Some of the first applications of gamification involved
finding ways to motivate employees to complete online programs
or engage in friendly competition against each other to
improve their fitness and health,” said Jeanne Meister, partner,
WIDE RANGE OF APPLICATIONS
Over the past several years, many employers have refined and
improved their approaches, and the range of applications has
Gamification can be used to benefit recruiting, for example.
Many organizations gamify the application process to engage
applicants with the brand and reward them with acknowledgement
– and even perks – as they complete the required steps.
Internally, organizations can encourage employees to take an
active role in talent acquisition by acknowledging the top referrers
of each month, quarter or year.
Onboarding, too, can be enhanced by gamification. A new and
overwhelmed employee might welcome the idea of a friendly
game-like quiz about where the break room is, where to store a
bicycle and so on.
Kapp notes one company in particular that’s made smart use
of gamification to improve retention. “This company hires university
students in January, but they don’t start work until June,
so they had been struggling with attrition between those dates,”
said Kapp. “To address the problem, they started using a gamified
onboarding program to help build camaraderie and commitment
to the company, even before those students had started work.” He
said, “They found it really paid off, with a significant reduction
Training tends to fit quite well with gamification, even in areas
you might not anticipate. Deloitte, for example, used a gamified
approach to help motivate its rising stars to make use of an online
library full of videos and other resources on leadership. The company
gamified the library with leaderboards, progress bars and
badges, and saw use of the site increase dramatically.
Gamification can also help encourage employees to take care of
more mundane – but still important – tasks. For example, a few
years ago SAP was searching for ways to encourage sales staff to
update their records more often. “To help solve the problem, the
company created a game in which sales reps competed against each
other, answered questions and earned badges, with results posted
on a virtual leaderboard,” said Meister. The company saw immediate
results, which extended well beyond better tracking of data.
“The gamification gave employees a way to engage with others in
the same job family and learn something along the way, too.”
GAMIFICATION AND COLLABORATION
If gamification often makes the most of employees’ competitive
natures, it’s still not necessarily at odds with collaboration. “I’ve
seen companies where teams that are competing against each
GAMIFICATION CAN TAKE ANY NUMBER OF FORMS AND
ITS PRINCIPLES CAN BE APPLIED TO INFLUENCE EMPLOYEE
BEHAVIOUR IN A NEARLY LIMITLESS RANGE OF AREAS.
16 ❚ JULY 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL