Feature Article - January/February 2013

Game On!

Gamification Programs Help Foster Employee Engagement

By Deborah L. Vence

Here to Stay

With so much attention and awareness surrounding gamification, there is no doubt that gamification will be used to a greater extent in the future, experts say.

Powers said that gamification is not going anywhere: "It's going to become a table fix," she said.

"We believe that gamification is transforming the industry. It's allowing us to create engagement before a reward is earned," she said. "It's an important trend in technology because people are starting to expect those types of user experiences when they enter into your program. Online gaming has become the most profitable entertainment category in history. Not only [do people] enjoy them, but [they] expect them."

Meanwhile, Callahan stressed that the incentive industry will see gamification used more and more, "especially when you consider the current technology-enabled environment of Social, Mobile, Cloud (SoMoClo) and Big Data prevalent in the business today.

"In this context, we'll see extended gamification solutions in everything from back-office tasks and training to sales management, career counseling, as well as gaming principles applied to partner interactions and customer touch points," he said. "Interaction, collaboration, awareness and learning are related effects, where people are encouraged to make new connections and share information.

"The creative application of game thinking, dynamics and mechanics (e.g., points, badges, status, progression, customization, surprises, social factors, etc.) plays very well in agile and innovative business settings. By garnering people's attention, reinforcing behavioral loops with right-time feedback and increasing the perceived ability of players by turning complex tasks into simpler missions or tracks," Callahan said.

He added that successful organizations can use gamification to help drive "highly-adaptive networks (employees, partners and customers)" as they sense and respond to the marketplace.

"Corporate agility will be a key determinant of success; as such 'agile' will need to be the new mindset engrained in the culture. Gamification in conjunction with other target programs will play a key making this come to fruition," he explained.

One example is Badgeville for Yammer, which enables companies to measure, influence and reward key user behaviors in their enterprise applications, and publish them into Yammer's Activity Stream as contextually relevant updates. The solution enhances the perceived value of employee rewards and elevates reputation through social visibility, motivating employees to seek out additional ways to utilize their work tools more effectively to drive additional process improvement.

"By 2015," Hennessy noted, "50 percent of enterprise projects will be part of incentive programs. If people are using all of these tools, everything from HR systems to the company Internet and competitors are using gamification, it will be hard to keep up without using the same tactics and strategies.

He added that "When we started this, our gamification strategy, in 2009, if you Googled the word 'gamification,' [it used to get] 2,000 hits. About six months after that, it got over a million hits. That's how quickly it grew. And, we were a little bit ahead of the curve," also noting that Maritz has developed a persuasive design lab that helps companies understand what gamification is, what it isn't, and how to redesign their programs from a game designer's perspective.

"Gamification helps them use the system better for their benefit and the benefit of the company that's applying the solution," he said.

What's more, "Adding a gamification layer now drives activities, drives actions, it moves people to do things, and it leverages the social network that exists," Reisner said. "It allows us to not bring just monetary rewards as motivators, but it allows us to leverage positive social pressure to drive behaviors."