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How gamification can save the disengaged workforce

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

In 2014, Gallup set off a firestorm of conversation and concern when it released a poll which found that only 31.5% of US employees are engaged in their work. That meant that around 70% of American employees were not “enthusiastic about and committed to their work & workplace,” resulting in a staggering $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity a year.

Considering the clear link between engagement and productivity, not to mention creativity, the concern is justified. In a highly competitive economy where innovation dictates which companies thrive and which do not, organizations cannot afford to have over two-thirds of their workforce checked out.

Moreover, millennials represent the least engaged demographic and every year represent a greater share of the American workforce. This means that unless businesses take action, they will have an even greater crisis on their hands. 

Recognizing the importance of engagement is one thing, but driving it is quite another, and in an effort to engage their workforce, employers are expending major resources on things like free lunches and career training. While a step in the right direction, these efforts do not go far enough.

Real engagement stems from a day-to-day, and even hour-by-hour, investment in the tasks at hand. The most effective way to jumpstart employee engagement is through gamification because it makes the tasks themselves more engaging.

Gamification uses the elements of gaming, such as competitions, game rules, and point scoring, to ramp up interest and investment in whatever a person is doing. The entire gamification industry is booming -- market research points to the market growing to $5.5 billion by 2020.

This is no surprise, given that Millennials grew up playing games and respond well to gamification. There are a number of ways companies can, and are, using gamification to boost engagement in the workplace. Let’s take a deeper look.

Collaboration

Yammer is a popular enterprise social network that is used by over 200,000 companies worldwide to help employees collaborate across departments, locations and business apps. Yammer has built-in gamification capabilities that allow companies to easily track and reward employees with virtual ‘badges’ based on goals and/or accomplishments.

For example, if an employee regularly posts articles that improve the corporate culture or serves as a valuable resource for younger employees with questions, they can earn badges for these actions in Yammer. When an employee reaches a goal and earns a reward, that shows up in the Yammer activity stream for the whole company to see, enhancing the visibility and recognition of the achievement.

Regular recognition is a critical aspect of engagement. Research has shown that recognizing team members has a significant effect on performance. Bersin and Associates conducted a study which found that organizations where recognition occurs perform 14% better on employee engagement, productivity and customer service than those where recognition does not occur. Gamification enables employers to provide an automatic and consistent system of recognition, which lets employees know that their hard work is noticed and appreciated, and thus inspires them to give it their all.

Job training

Siemens introduced gamification into its manufacturing plants with a game called PlantVille, which more than 20,000 players have tried. Modeled off the addictive Zynga game FarmVille, PlantVille simulates the experience of being a plant manager. Players have to operate their plant, juggle multiple responsibilities and make key decisions that affect the overall livelihood of the entire facility.

While playing the game, employees learn lessons about products and solutions from Siemens while also honing key skills, such as how to make quick decisions and keep workers happy. Players are measured on factors such as quality, employee satisfaction, safety, and timeliness, which is also how they will be measured outside of the gameworld.

In this example, gamification is used to impart critical information and ensure it sticks. Employees acquire the knowledge they need to do their jobs through job training, but delivering an all-day presentation and/or handing out heavy stacks of informational papers does not exactly promote learning.

By making it fun, quantifying learning, and creating a reinforcement system that drives retention, gamification helps arm employees with the tools they need to succeed.

Sales

SAP is one of the leading providers of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems in the world. It has a massive salesforce and regularly rolls out new products. This requires sales reps to constantly stay on top of SAP’s latest offerings and technologies.

Not only is this time consuming, but also requires remembering a huge amount of information. Employees can access documents about new initiatives online, but getting them to spend time learning (and remembering) this information has proved difficult.

SAP implemented a gamified application called Roadwarrior to motivate sales reps. The app offers a multiple-choice type game where sales reps can compete against other sales reps to become leaders in their areas of expertise. This game covers SAP’s latest technology innovations and mimics a typical pre-call planning meeting with a customer.

Competition has always been an important part of driving sales success. Most sales organizations hold sales contests and make commission a core part of compensation. Gamification takes this competitive spirit but spreads it throughout the sales process to equip reps with the information they need to close deals.

Adoption of new technology

Businesses spend large amounts of money on new software because they believe it will improve productivity and make workflows more efficient. However, that vision only holds true if employees actually use that software.

Unfortunately, getting employee buy-in is not as simple as implementing the technology and saying “go.” Businesses have to be proactive about driving adoption and have a clear plan in place to get the most out of their investment.

This is why MessageOps gamified its Office 365 Adoption platform. By completing “missions” team members are able to earn badges, as well as receive prizes and recognition across the entire company. The platform also includes a leaderboard displaying top leaders. This makes the transition more fun and engaging, and motivates employees to invest their time and mental energy in embracing the new technology.

Whatever are your engagement goals, gamification can help. Don’t miss out on the opportunities to supercharge the productivity and creativity of your team by making their day-to-day tasks more fun. 

Edition: December 2016

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