Looking for ways to up your game in terms of better work productivity? Funnily enough, “game” just might provide an answer!
In a world where people have gone crazy for Pokemon Go, you earn badges for checkins on some social apps, fitness apps reward you, and even investing is getting in on the fun, gamification is becoming more and more popular across a range of possible applications.
Productivity could be one of them.
Gamification may offer a way to spice up work life and breathe new motivation into you and your team. Here’s how it works and some examples for using it:
What is Gamification?
In a nutshell, gamification is the use of game mechanics or thinking to aid with real problem solving or task completion activities. To put it simply, it’s turning ordinary tasks into a game.
If you ever played “Sonic the Hedgehog” as a kid (or you’re into games still now), you’ll notice characteristics of those games such as:
- Striving toward a goal (usually with many smaller goals in between).
- Earning rewards.
- Leveling up.
- Plotting your way through a course.
- Avoiding or defeating situations which could cost rewards or “lives.”
All of these gaming ideas can and have been incorporated into the everyday tools, apps, and operations of businesses. They become a great way to keep the team on track.
At a base level, games provide fun as well as a sense of accomplishment to their players. This means that gamification can help to motivate team members to achieve tasks.
“Gamification works by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors, by showing a path to mastery, and by taking advantage of our human psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.” (Peep Laja)
Gamification works to engage the brain and trigger mechanisms which signal a connection between a reward and the work required to obtain it. As Zapier point out, this “mesolimbic pathway” is the same mechanism triggered when you go for a run or take an exercise class, then feel good about doing so afterwards. It is the release of dopamine that causes this response and gamification does the same.
A survey conducted by Badgeville found that 91% of employees find their experience of work to be improved when gamification is brought in (Note: Badgeville is in the gamification business).
Gamification is not creating a game – it is bringing those game-like mechanics into play to create something interesting and challenging. Sometimes we need that bit of extra motivation to jolt us into action. Another benefit is that gamifying can help information stick better, which is useful if – for example – you are conducting team training.
Principles of Effective Gamification
If gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology (as stated in Gamification by Design), then effective gamification is going to rely heavily on getting that “human” element right – especially today where the technology side is constantly evolving.
Here are some principles to ensure gamification works effectively:
Link Design to Business Objectives
It’s great to have fun and engage your team. But, if you’re using gamification as part of your everyday business activities, then you don’t want rewards for the sake of rewards or gamification that doesn’t really make sense.
Before implementing any gamification, sit down and work out what your end goals are for it. This will help you stay on track rather than get distracted by any of the “shiny toys” out there.
Get Employee Consent
Research shows that making participation in gamification compulsory for your team doesn’t work. You need to work on buy-in first.
“The ‘mandated fun’ of gamification, however, will only work if employees consent to the game; otherwise, the attempt will have the opposite effect. This is the conclusion of researchers Ethan Mollick and Nancy Rothbard, both of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, whose research also revealed three employee consent factors:
- recognizing that the game is being played (i.e., paying attention to the game)
- understanding the rules of the game
- seeing the game as fair” (Ideas for Leaders)
How do you get that buy-in? In many teams the fun of gamification means that won’t be a problem (as long as what you’re proposing actually is exciting). But otherwise, consider making your team members part of the decision-making process on implementing gamification.
Make Rewards Meaningful
Not everyone is motivated by monetary rewards or salary increases. In fact, 69% find more motivation in one of the following: High performance, feelings of professional satisfaction, on-the-job recognition, the support of their colleagues, and advanced learning opportunities.
The positive feelings associated with the reward are a key ingredient for making gamification work.You want your team to be excited about participating and keen to be able to claim the rewards.
Have Clear Rules
If you have grey areas or it seems like some participants are able to exploit “loopholes”, your team are more likely to disengage. You need to have clear, fair rules if you want to keep your team in the game.
Peep Laja made some great points about the gaming mechanisms you should consider and the psychology behind them in this article. For example, people are often motivated by a need to avoid losses over acquiring gains. This is manifested in examples such as Farmville, where you start out with crops to look after, but will lose them if you don’t.
Another great point is that people will compete for status. Things such as leaderboards, points, badges, and social sharing of achievements all encourage participation.
How Are Businesses Using Gamification?
There are a number of possible applications for gamifying in business. Here are some that can help to boost productivity:
Training and Development
While Yoav Vilner points out that “gamification” is one of those buzzwords that companies love to hate, that may be because gamification needs to be integrated into the DNA of the business, rather than being seen as an unnecessary extra.
This can begin with training and development. Gamification can help boost the efficacy of training because it not only engages employees, but it helps to break down tasks or modules into doable chunks.
If you’ve ever looked at a thick textbook and wondered how you were going to get through the thing, you’ll understand how chunking down tasks can make the whole thing seem more manageable. Gamified elements such as badges and points help to put parameters around learning and give clear end points.
Task and Project Management
How can you encourage your team to stay accurate and get tasks completed efficiently? When Lawley Insurance found that employees were getting sloppy with Salesforce entries, they turned the process into a game and generated more activity in two weeks than they’d had in seven and a half months.
There are more softwares coming out now with gamification in mind, including project management software. Teams are using these to motivate employees. After all, as pointed out in this Capterra article, there is now an entire generation in the workforce who have been primed for gamification by being raised on video games.
Always a big deal when it comes to productivity; time management is another aspect which is easily gamified. And yes, there are several apps for that.
For example, Forest is an app that helps to provide some focus so that you get through your work. Users plant a “seed” whenever they need a block of 30 minutes to focus and that seed will grow into a tree over that period of time. However, if they leave the app to check Facebook or any other time-waster, the tree will wither away and die.
Eventually, if you’ve successfully worked those chunks of 30 minutes without leaving the app, you’ll sprout an entire forest of trees. It’s a great way to visually represent your achievement and productivity over time.
While “gamification” might seem to be just another buzzword making its way into corporate conversation, it’s actually a very valid way to boost productivity in your business.
Gamifying everyday tasks or problems helps to engage your team and motivate them to do well and achieve in the reward system you use. Of course, this is dependent on you following a few best practices, such as getting team buy-in first and ensuring the gamified element is meaningful and transparent.
There are all sorts of possible applications for gamifying, either by creating it yourself or purchasing apps which have already been made with gamifying in mind. How can you use this with your team?