Gamification Programs Help Foster Employee Engagement
By Deborah L. Vence
Get It Right
As gamification moves from the leading edge to more widespread use by early adopters, Gartner Inc. asserts that now is the time to understand and evaluate this trend.
Much of gamification is currently driven by novelty and hype, and Gartner predicts that by early 2014, 80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives, primarily due to poor design.
"The challenge facing project managers and sponsors responsible for gamification initiatives is the lack of game design talent to apply to gamification projects," said Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner. "Poor game design is one of the key failings of many gamified applications today."
The problem, according to Burke is that the focus falls on "obvious game mechanics"—things like points, badges and leader boards—instead of "…the more subtle and more important game design elements, such as balancing competition and collaboration, or defining a meaningful game economy. As a result," Burke added, "in many cases, organizations are simply counting point, 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."
While game mechanics such as points and badges are the hallmarks of gamification, the real challenge is to design player-centric applications that focus on the motivations and rewards that truly engage players more fully. Game mechanics like points, badges and leader boards are simply the tools that implement the underlying engagement models.
Gamification describes the use of the same design techniques and game mechanics found in all games, but it applies them in non-game contexts, including: customer engagement; employee performance; training and education; innovation management; personal development; sustainability; and health. Virtually all areas of business could benefit from gamification as it can help to achieve three broad business objectives:
1. To change behavior.
The most common use of gamification is to engage a specific audience and encourage them to change a target set of behaviors. By turning the desired behavior change into a game, people become engaged and encouraged to adopt new habits. For example, brands can leverage gamification to engage consumers to better understand their products and become advocates for the brand to provide product endorsements and drive loyalty; or companies can use gamification to improve employee performance and motivate adoption of new business processes.
2. To develop skills.
Gamification is increasingly being used in both formal education and corporate training programs to engage students in a more immersive learning experience. While many approaches are used, they can generally be divided into two categories: building a game layer on top of the lesson material, where competition or collaboration between students is encouraged with game mechanics; or turning the lesson into a game, where in addition to the game mechanics, simulation and animation is used to immerse students in the environment and allow them to practice new skills in a safe, virtual environment that provides immediate feedback.
3. To enable innovation.
Innovation games are typically structured differently from games designed to change behavior or develop skills. Innovation games use emergent game structures that provide the goals, rules, tools and play space for the players to explore, experiment, collaborate and solve problems. Innovation games generally use game mechanics to create a more engaging experience, but the key is to engage lots of players, solving problems through crowdsourcing.