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Mistakes Made with Gamification

Mistakes Made with Gamification

Given the way gamification is exploding these days, some might find it surprising that the term has actually been around for two decades. Since then it’s been a very slow burn – with its first major milestone reached in 2009 when Foursquare became the first platform to use location check-in and awarded users points for going to places they’d never been before. Their concept was “turning life into a game” and they were clearly on to something, as at one point Foursquare was valued at more than half a billion dollars. Facebook and other social media outlets followed suit with check-ins, and before we knew it various forms of gamification were spreading to dozens of industries. In 2015, tech guru Yu-Kai Chou’s book Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards took a deeper dive into this marriage of fun and psychology, pointing out that focusing on one at the expense of the other reduces productivity, especially in the long term.

Today, everyone from CEOs to elementary school teachers are touting gamification as a means of aiding in data retention and boosting performance, largely through the enjoyment of otherwise mundane tasks. As with any craze, however, some are jumping on the bandwagon without fully understanding how to properly harness its power.  Here are ways in which your organization can avoid some of the most common gamification mistakes.

Keeping Things New and Exciting

Balance Competition and Collaboration

Design With the Future in Mind

Engagement Starts at the Top

Keeping Things New and Exciting

Nothing will defeat the purpose of gamification faster than allowing your platform to become stagnant – for example, by continuing to offer the same or similar rewards over and over again. First, individual members of your team likely desire, and are motivated by, different things. One person may see a gym membership as an exciting opportunity to improve their health, but for another it’s equivalent to the ugly, never-to-be-worn sweater gifted to them on Christmas. Second, knowing the pot of gold is always the same reduces the impetus to keep striving, especially when it comes to expanding within their current level which can be just as important as moving on to the next. In addition, rewards alone will not necessarily increase the retention of skills and information. As studies show, being immersed in a relatable story narrative is what allows users to create the context and the mental associations between their experience and knowledge.

Balance Competition and Collaboration

One of the reasons gamification is so effective is that it speaks to our dual desires to be part of a team and receive recognition for our individual achievements. Over-emphasis on one or the other, however, can lead to discouragement (i.e. if certain individuals always win the points and badges) or frustration if certain team members consistently fail to engage, leaving others to pull their weight. This does not only affect the success of the platform but the organization as a whole, especially if one of the goals of using gamification is improved workplace culture. The key here is to conduct due diligence before designing your platform so you can determine what your team really needs and wants, then strike a balance between collaborative and competitive activities, as well as those not exclusively focused on prizes.

Design With the Future in Mind

With a goal of the continuous improvement of its users, gamification is an inherently forward-looking tool; that said, what we’re talking about here is an experience that provides an opportunity for them to connect with the overall mission and future of the organization in a way that goes beyond the next sale.  This can go to the original intent of the founders (i.e., if the service or product itself involves the eradication or treatment of a disease) or a more recent shift in best practices to be more socially or environmentally conscious.  Perhaps the company is a disruptor that will completely change the face of an industry. A platform that incorporates these aspects allows users to envision themselves as part of the organization in a larger way, rather than feeling siloed or focused only on the next sale or other incremental goals.

Engagement Starts at the Top

An organization can’t expect employees to remain excited about any initiative when it is not supported and promoted. The point of gamification is to create an environment conducive to optimized learning and performance, and this will be a fluid situation that requires the constant attention by management long after the initial roll-out. Also, be sure to take a holistic approach, meaning the platform should be integrated into all aspects of the business, not just trainings or recruitment.

Bottom line: you must recognize that gamification is not a cure-all for organizational challenges, but one piece of the puzzle. If you’re trying a build a more positive culture, you might also institute things like diversity and inclusion trainings and afterwork get-togethers that address shortcomings while fostering camaraderie and unity.  Bottom line:  cheerful emojis and avatars aside, gamification is serious business, one that with a stellar design and a long-term strategy, will bring great rewards.

Revolutionize Recruitment with Gamification

Revolutionize Recruitment with Gamification

The benefits of gamification have been increasingly well-documented over the past several years, with the most current statistics showing that 70% of Global 2000 companies use it in some form. These benefits are evident, not only in terms of the bottom line (the same source states that companies using gamification are seven times more profitable) but the satisfaction of consumers and productivity of employees. However, one of the best reasons to invest in gamification is its ability to help companies choose individuals with the ideal skill set, personality, and alignment with its goals and mission. Here are some ways in which gamification can revolutionize your hiring practices, and some things to keep in mind while designing this process.  

Sifting Through Applicants

Gamification for Vetting

Boosting Your Brand

Feedback from Candidates

Sifting Through Applicants

First and foremost, gamification helps you sift through applicants more quickly and efficiently, and alert you to hidden gems you might otherwise pass over.  Yes, everyone interested in the job will have to meet certain criteria (i.e. a particular degree or level of experience), but what about those qualities or shortcomings that are not always obvious on a CV or even during an interview? Ask any employer and they will tell you that credentials on paper don’t always translate to performance. On the other hand, an applicant may not give a great interview but have a unique set of gifts and abilities that would perfectly complement your existing team. This is similar to the student who excels in class but does not perform well on standardized tests.  Gamifying the hiring process allows you to mine for talent in a new way.

Be sure the gaming experience evaluates the precise skills you need for a particular role.  For example, if the position requires in-depth analysis or product development you may have a different game or reward system than you would if you’re building a sales or customer service team.

Gamification for Vetting

One of the reasons gamification is such a great vetting tool is that it presents an opportunity for a candidate to show how they will perform while working for the company, rather than simply talking about what they would do. Think about creating a process that moves beyond a question-and-answer format to an immersive experience with the types of challenges they will encounter, not just on a daily basis but during a crunch time or crisis.  For example, a person may be equipped to manage the rollout of a new product when things are going smoothly, but how would they handle the disruption of the supply chain that delays a key component? In addition, it should also include the tools (i.e. processes and procedures) that will support them in creating workarounds.

A key benefit of gamification in the workplace is its encouragement of both healthy competition and collaboration, and your gamified recruitment tool should do the same. Depending upon your organization and the role you are seeking to fill, you want to make sure the gamification process gives candidates ample opportunity to demonstrate these abilities. For example, you might have scenarios in which the applicant will have to brainstorm with colleagues and others where they work independently; also important would be to have them choose between the two options.

Boosting Your Brand

Gamification also boosts your company’s brand. There is a reason companies like Google and Apple are consistently lauded as the best to work for: they focus on creating an environment where creativity and individuality are not only encouraged, but nurtured. Make sure the hiring process is fun and accurately reflects what the candidate will experience if they are hired. For example, do employees get kudos for out-of-the-box thinking? Does it depict an environment that is diverse and inclusive? Does it indicate how stress is managed in the workplace to prevent burnout?  Also, don’t forget the reward for successful performance – be it points, a cash bonus, or some other perk. Does the company send the team with the highest quarterly sales on a trip to the Caribbean? If so, make such a trip, or something similar, the prize in the interview game.  The important thing is that it’s realistic.

Feedback from Candidates

Finally, be sure to get detailed feedback from candidates, whether they progress to the next stage of the hiring process or not.  Was the process (game) enjoyable? Did it clearly communicate the company’s mission and values? Did it make them feel more or less excited about working for the company?  Did they feel the company would honor the skills they bring to the table? Provide additional space so they can elaborate, rather than simply clicking a yes or no ‒ this way, you can gauge its success and make changes as needed.

Gamification facilitates a greater level of transparency than is typically found during a traditional interview, helping to ensure a good fit for both company and candidate. Just as valuable, it is an excellent measuring stick, providing the organization with a clear picture as to whether their current working environment (gaming included) lives up to what is promised during the hiring process. It also gets the word out there that the company is forward-thinking and committed not only to quality work, but to their employees’ job satisfaction.  In other words, that it’s a place they will love coming to, in person or virtually, each day.

Gamification in Sales

Gamification in Sales

Ask anyone in sales and they’ll tell you it’s not for the faint of heart.  They must have, not only a comprehensive knowledge of the product, but the ability to establish a rapport with various types of personalities, understand their needs, and effectively address their pain points. Moreover, they must have the fortitude and stamina to withstand the uncertainty inherent in sales. A product that is in high demand one year may be obsolete the next, or a competitor may have found a way to make it better, less expensive, or both. It’s enough to make almost any salesperson lose motivation at some point in their career. The good news is, there are several ways your organization can help them regain their mojo, increasing their satisfaction and retention as well as your bottom line.

Take the Temperature of the Room

Help Employees Rediscover Their “why”

Create a Mentorship Program

Make Time To Play

Take the temperature of the room

If sales are lagging from previous quarters or not hitting new benchmarks, the first step is to identify the reason(s). As mentioned, there are several possibilities like a drop in demand or a larger economic downturn. However, if neither of these is the case then it’s time to take a hard look at the structure and culture of the organization, and nothing is a better reflection of this than the attitude of your team.  Creating a survey gauging their job satisfaction (or lack thereof) and the changes they would like to see provides you with excellent data while showing them that you care about their wellbeing. Just be sure to implement at least some of their suggestions or have a good explanation as to why you’re not doing so at this time.

Please note that this is not an endorsement of “toxic positivity.” No one is going to be chipper and motivated all the time, and most people will have days or weeks when they are not their best selves (for example if they’re going through personal challenges such as a divorce, health issues, and so on). But if the general mood is depressed, or if you find certain individuals are consistently griping to each other rather than taking concerns to management or HR, you have some decisions to make. A poor attitude, even one only held by a few, can be infectious and undermine the empowering environment you are trying to create.

Help Employees Rediscover Their “why”

– and yours. Sales is an attractive career choice for many reasons – one gets to connect with people from different sectors and walks of life, a plus for any extrovert. Others may thrive on the competitive nature of the work and the highs of closing the next big deal; some may even enjoy, on some level, the lows because they serve as a catalyst to improve performance. All this is in addition to being able to take care of their families, achieve a certain standard of living now and prepare for their future, and make a positive contribution to society. Depending on the industry, some love the freedom being in sales affords them. Whatever the case, reminding them why they got into the sales game will go a long way to keeping them there. Just as important is connecting them to the mission of the company and the nexus between it and their personal goals.

Create a Mentorship Program

Losing one’s motivation can be very isolating, especially if everyone around them is still pumped about their jobs. To bring them back into the fold, you might try encouraging high-performing and/or senior people to lend a hand to those who are new to the business or may be struggling. Ideally, you should try to match mentees with those who have learned to navigate similar challenges; for example, someone who bounced back from the Great Recession will no doubt have sage advice for people experiencing disappointing numbers. Mentors can also facilitate SMART goal-setting, not just in terms of quotas, but what they would like to achieve both personally and professionally in the short and long term.

Make Time to Play

The benefits of introducing gamification into your sales process are as numerous as the types of games themselves. One is that it makes even the most boring tasks – which are definitely a drain on one’s enthusiasm for the job – more fun by rewarding their completion with points or badges. Gamification also allows people to slake their thirst for competition and strengthens collaboration, whether they are playing against other individuals or other teams – all while working together toward a common goal:  the success of the company. The key is to get creative with both the games and the rewards; for example, you might award a badge for the person with the most five-star ratings from clients, or schedule a contest around the unveiling of a new product or during a slow period. Then tie the points and badges to a mix of tangible perks such as a trip to the spa or tickets to a sporting event, that appeal to different people on your team. Also, be sure to find a sweet spot with regard to difficulty, with levels that grow progressively more challenging as one moves up the ladder.

The satisfaction of your sales team should always be at the top of your priority list. They are, as rainmakers and ambassadors with the consumer, the lifeblood of your business. And while it’s true that you cannot always control all the factors that contribute to their level of motivation, you can make it part of your best practices to look past the current numbers to how they are feeling and why. Introducing gamification, while perhaps not a cure-all, definitely goes a long way to increasing morale, shoring them up for the next inevitable challenge while making their day-to-day more fun and fulfilling.

Revolutionize Recruitment with Gamification

Revolutionize Recruitment with Gamification

The benefits of gamification have been increasingly well-documented over the past several years, with the most current statistics showing that 70% of Global 2000 companies use it in some form. These benefits are evident, not only in terms of the bottom line (the same source states that companies using gamification are seven times more profitable) but the satisfaction of consumers and productivity of employees. However, one of the best reasons to invest in gamification is its ability to help companies choose individuals with the ideal skill set, personality, and alignment with its goals and mission. Here are some ways in which gamification can revolutionize your hiring practices, and some things to keep in mind while designing this process.

Gamification for Hiring

Company Branding

Getting Feedback

Gamification for Hiring

First and foremost, gamification helps you sift through applicants more quickly and efficiently, and alert you to hidden gems you might otherwise pass over.  Yes, everyone interested in the job will have to meet certain criteria (i.e. a particular degree or level of experience), but what about those qualities or shortcomings that are not always obvious on a CV or even during an interview? Ask any employer and they will tell you that credentials on paper don’t always translate to performance. On the other hand, an applicant may not give a great interview but have a unique set of gifts and abilities that would perfectly complement your existing team. This is similar to the student who excels in class but does not perform well on standardized tests.  Gamifying the hiring process allows you to mine for talent in a new way.

Be sure the gaming experience evaluates the precise skills you need for a particular role.  For example, if the position requires in-depth analysis or product development you may have a different game or reward system than you would if you’re building a sales or customer service team.

One of the reasons gamification is such a great vetting tool is that it presents an opportunity for a candidate to show how they will perform while working for the company, rather than simply talking about what they would do. Think about creating a process that moves beyond a question-and-answer format to an immersive experience with the types of challenges they will encounter, not just on a daily basis but during a crunch time or crisis.  For example, a person may be equipped to manage the rollout of a new product when things are going smoothly, but how would they handle the disruption of the supply chain that delays a key component? In addition, it should also include the tools (i.e. processes and procedures) that will support them in creating workarounds.

A key benefit of gamification in the workplace is its encouragement of both healthy competition and collaboration, and your gamified recruitment tool should do the same. Depending upon your organization and the role you are seeking to fill, you want to make sure the gamification process gives candidates ample opportunity to demonstrate these abilities. For example, you might have scenarios in which the applicant will have to brainstorm with colleagues and others where they work independently; also important would be to have them choose between the two options.      

Company Branding

Gamification also boosts your company’s brand. There is a reason companies like Google and Apple are consistently lauded as the best to work for: they focus on creating an environment where creativity and individuality are not only encouraged, but nurtured. Make sure the hiring process is fun and accurately reflects what the candidate will experience if they are hired. For example, do employees get kudos for out-of-the-box thinking? Does it depict an environment that is diverse and inclusive? Does it indicate how stress is managed in the workplace to prevent burnout?  Also, don’t forget the reward for successful performance – be it points, a cash bonus, or some other perk. Does the company send the team with the highest quarterly sales on a trip to the Caribbean? If so, make such a trip, or something similar, the prize in the interview game.  The important thing is that it’s realistic.

Getting Feedback

Finally, be sure to get detailed feedback from candidates, whether they progress to the next stage of the hiring process or not.  Was the process (game) enjoyable? Did it clearly communicate the company’s mission and values? Did it make them feel more or less excited about working for the company?  Did they feel the company would honor the skills they bring to the table? Provide additional space so they can elaborate, rather than simply clicking a yes or no ‒ this way, you can gauge its success and make changes as needed.

Gamification facilitates a greater level of transparency than is typically found during a traditional interview, helping to ensure a good fit for both company and candidate. Just as valuable, it is an excellent measuring stick, providing the organization with a clear picture as to whether their current working environment (gaming included) lives up to what is promised during the hiring process. It also gets the word out there that the company is forward-thinking and committed not only to quality work, but to their employees’ job satisfaction.  In other words, that it’s a place they will love coming to, in person or virtually, each day.

Gamification vs Forced Positivity

Gamification vs Forced Positivity

Mental health and how it affects work performance have been highlighted over the past two years as we all struggled to find our equilibrium during the pandemic. More recently, companies have been increasingly motivated to create a positive culture, as employees have shown that they would rather walk out than spend their time in a toxic environment. But is there a point when employers can be too positive? Apparently so, according to a recent article in The Atlantic.  Many workplaces are so concerned with keeping people happy that they are imposing “forced positivity,” or the exclusive focus on being upbeat and excited about, well, everything. While in general positivity is a good tack to take, ignoring or discouraging employees’ sadness or anxiety can actually have a detrimental effect due to the pressure to bury feelings that are considered unpleasant. They may even worry that expressing how they really feel will impact the way they are viewed by colleagues and bosses, and thus their ability to advance.  

Clearly this is a challenge for leaders, who must walk a fine line between creating a positive culture and acknowledging that even the happiest people will not be so all of the time. In fact, as the article also points out, anger, which is often vilified as counterproductive and toxic, can be used (and is often seen by others) as an expression of personal power and investment in outcomes.

Emotions in the Workplace

Gamification and Emotions

Mindfulness as a Tool

Emotions in the Workplace

Acceptance of normal human emotions in the workplace is only part of the equation; providing appropriate outlets for them is another (i.e. encouraging and acting on honest feedback so people don’t resort to gossiping around the proverbial watercooler). The real trailblazers, however, also provide a variety of opportunities to harness those emotions and channel them for both individual benefit and increased productivity. Companies like Google and Apple, for example, have incorporated regular “time-outs” when people can take a step back from whatever they are working on and recharge their batteries through activities such as physical exercise, breathwork, meditation, and even napping. In the most successful cases this goes beyond mere suggestion (we all know of workplaces where the term “lunch hour” is a euphemism for scarfing down whatever food is convenient between meetings) to demonstrated commitment, with physical spaces dedicated solely to the wellness. Some even take it a step further by mandating a company-wide fifteen minutes of silence each day, allowing for an “energetic reset” of sorts.

Gamification and Emotions

Another way to do this is with gamification, which simultaneously provides the brain with a vacation from sensory overload and an opportunity to learn and expand. Playing video games has been shown to literally grow the prefrontal cortex, right hippocampus and cerebellum, which in turn affects not only motor function but mental acuity, memory, and attention span. This is why gaming has been such an integral component of online learning platforms. Disappointment or frustration about a missed goal becomes motivation to try again in the next hour or day.  Feelings of isolation or resentment are transformed into healthy competition, with each person striving to achieve their personal best and receive the accolades that go with it, while at the same time feeling more engaged with others who share their goals.

Mindfulness as a Tool

Perhaps even more fascinating is research exploring gamification as a mindfulness tool. In fact, one study found that when used appropriately it has the same benefits as meditation. There are countless forms of meditation, some dating back thousands of years, but they all share a common aim: the temporary suspension of the onslaught of thoughts, many of them repetitive and unproductive, that cause stress and imbalance. With regular practice, the meditator finds they can escape the thought loops of the past or future and are able to live more fully in the present moment. Sounds great, right? Ask anyone who has tried meditating and they will tell you how difficult this is, especially when numerous obligations on the home and work fronts are competing for our attention. As a result,  mindful experts have expanded the definition of mediation from sitting silently in a cross-legged position to partaking in activities like gardening, sports, and anything else we enjoy. In the same way, gaming shifts our focus to the immediate task at hand (i.e. beating our own score or those of our opponents to achieve some sort of reward), while intrusive thoughts about whether we paid the electric bill or are on track to meet a work deadline fall away.  When the game is over, we return to the “real world,” refreshed and more likely to tackle challenges from a healthier perspective, which always leads to better outcomes.

 

World events, while stressful, have ignited an overdue revolution not only in the way we approach our work but how we contextualize it in our lives. As a result, organizations have had to get really creative about providing tools that promote wellbeing and productivity in an organic way. For many, gamification is a winner on both counts, with a perfect combination of stimulation and meditation that increases investment in the mission and each other while also honoring healthy boundaries.

Taking One for the Team: The Benefits of Gamification

Taking One for the Team: The Benefits of Gamification

Teambuilding, always critical to employees’ feelings of belonging and commitment to the organizational mission, has taken on whole new meaning in the past two years.  Many companies are still finding their footing in their existing ecosystems or creating their own, one that likely includes some sort of hybrid work arrangement. An estimated 74% of companies are moving in this direction,  due to a combination of factors including a reduction in overhead, the migration of talent who moved during the pandemic, and the fact that more than half of workers prefer at least three days of remote work each week. Moreover, businesses – even those in fields historically known for their unforgiving schedules such as corporate law – are trying to build cultures that nurture mental health and work-life balance – and protect themselves from the large-scale turnover we’ve seen recently.

Bridging Gaps

Finite vs. Infinite

Competitive and Collaborative Goals

Rewarding Employees

Bridging Gaps

As we learned during the pandemic, working from home, even part of the time, solved many issues while exacerbating and creating others. Sure, it cut down on costly and time-consuming commutes, but in some cases it also decreased employee engagement. Employees who could barely keep their eyes open during a four-hour training found it even more difficult when they didn’t have others around to chat and commiserate with. Those who already felt out of step with their colleagues or management might became even more isolated when working remotely, and even recognition for a job well done is far less exciting when celebratory toasts are made over Zoom.

Cocktails aside, gamification platforms go a long way to bridging those gaps when it comes to teambuilding. For example, they provide continuity, allowing members to feel connected to each other even when their in-person schedules are staggered. In fact, depending on the platform, it can even promote relationships among people with whom they would never interact in the halls of their office buildings, such as in company-wide competitions.

Also, one of the reasons gamification is so successful, both in education and at work, is that it harnesses the brain’s natural ways of learning and processing information. The user’s personal connection to the world of the game facilitates the development of critical thinking and analytical skills, while the attainment of rewards stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers, producing a chemical reaction that entices them to return. However, it goes deeper than that by also tapping into our tendencies around social interaction. As this Forbes article points out, humans are wired to constantly measure themselves and their circumstances against others. Much like our natural competitive drive, this tendency can be toxic – as we have seen with social media platforms that encourage unfavorable comparisons of lifestyles, physical appearance, and social status. Gamification, on the other hand, is highly empowering, as it channels that energy into excitement and motivation to continually increase performance.  

While the benefits of incorporating gamification are numerous and have the potential to revolutionize work culture, it can also be both costly and time-consuming; therefore, companies must be very intentional about choosing a platform based on their structure, vision, and employees’ needs.  Here are some things to consider:

Finite vs. Infinite

Finite versus Infinite. As the names suggest, finite games end after a specific time or event, such as a quarterly quota, while infinite gamification becomes a fully integrated part of the everyday routine. Both are useful when it comes to teambuilding; that said, infinite gamification must regularly be evaluated and revamped to make sure it is not becoming humdrum, which would be counterproductive, bringing growth to a halt and possibly reducing motivation.

Competitive and Collaborative Goals

One of the great things about gamification is that it makes space for our dual needs for unity and individual recognition. Depending on the type of culture you have or are building, it might appear your team leans into one more than the other;  however, it’s still a good idea to have a mix of goals that draw on each person’s skills (including those they may not even know they have) and strengthen their commitment to the common vision.

Rewarding Employees

This is another big one that is worth polling your employees about. While money  is usually a safe bet as a motivator, it is not the end all, be all. As mentioned, well-being tops the list of requirements for job satisfaction and plays a huge role for those fielding offers – this includes policies that value one’s time, family lives, and self-care.  You might think about offering more vacation time – and insist that they are actually unplugged from work – or perhaps an experience that includes their kids, a weekend retreat to a spa or meditation center, or a gym membership. Also, if you do offer financial compensation, keep in mind that form is important. You want to make sure that it is distinguishable from their regular paycheck or bonus, for example, by offering a gift card rather than another direct deposit.

Since 2020 the world has been waiting for the “new normal” to materialize, and while it is in many ways still taking shape, a clear picture has emerged. Just as hybrid work is here to stay, so is gamification, and for many of the same reasons: it reduces stress, maximizes time and productivity, and generally reflects our increasing emphasis on personal and professional well-being. That said, it also requires of companies the same thing it requires of its users: flexibility and the willingness to continually self-evaluate, expand, and evolve.