Operational efficiency is one of the most critical factors for business success in every industry and market today. The rising competition, rapid technological innovation and changing business scenario impels enterprises to be on top of their game always. Performance of the human resource to the maximum potential therefore plays a differentiating role for companies across geographies.
However, studies reveal that only a small minority of employees worldwide finds their jobs engaging, and is enthusiastic about the tasks and remains committed to its workplace. The rest (nearly 90%) of the global workforce are either indifferent, or in many cases, even disengaged and hostile to their employers. On the other hand, the relation between productivity and employee engagement is a long established one. The statistics (rough) mentioned above therefore make it clear that almost all the organizations in the world face significant below-par productivity.
The idea of gamification is to drive employees to push boundaries and perform to their potential. The practice is so called because it involves adding game elements to organizational operations and activities in order to motivate employees to give their best into it.
The Link with Human Nature
At the very core, gamification is about leveraging employees’ biggest desires and objectives in life, and providing the relevant incentives in lieu of certain activity. This motivates them to perform the best they can so that they can inch closer to their goal or fulfill their desire. Gamification is therefore all about analyzing what the organization expects from its employees, what employees want in general as well as from the organization. These understandings enable companies to set specific incentives that make sense to specific set of employees in lieu of the task that the company wants them to achieve.
Fundamentally, gamification involves basic human psychology – to strive more for task that promises rewards and perks. Humans have always found games engaging, and gamification taps into this intrinsic human tendency to enhance their productivity. People not find games interesting not because gaming is a new idea. Most of the popular games have been played by generations after generations, yet people find them interesting. The reason behind it is humans’ desire to connect with something larger than themselves, to master an art or work, to achieve their goals, and so on. Besides, understanding of design principles and of the ways in which data can be leveraged are also integral to gamification.
In the business context, gamification can be seen much like enterprise tools. Companies have to have deep understanding of their capabilities as well as their employees, partners and customers. Right implementation of gamification depends on broad thinking and psychological understanding, and insights derived from people’s digital engagement data. However, it is a wrong perception that gamification can make people do what they dislike to do. It is rather about motivating them through incentives to feel part of the company and its goals.
Four Prime Motivators
Businesses all over the world are hard pressed to increase their efficiency and bring the best out of their employees. It does not need to be explained that maximizing the potential of people and driving them to deliver up to their capability can be best done by motivating them to do so. However, no two companies, business sectors or markets have the same characteristics. The work culture, the requirement, the demand, the supply capacity, the availability of resources, and so on – all these factors affect the operations of an enterprises irrespective of its size. Large companies are able to handle the situation relatively better than their smaller counterparts, but there is no denying the fact that these factors do affect the productivity and operations of those businesses too. The sources of motivation therefore obviously vary from people to people and situation to situation.
In terms of gamification, there are primarily four motivators that drive people to deliver up to their maximum potential. Those primary motivators are:
Impact of Big Data and Digitalization in Driving Gamification
The concept of offering incentive of some kind to those who achieve specific targets or goals has always been known to be an effective driver of performance. As a concept, gamification is therefore not a new thing. When the root idea behind it is understood, gamification seems obvious in the business landscape. However, it has not been discussed as much as it had been in the last few years. Even when it was discussed, it did not have the same name that it has now. One of the primary reasons for such hype has been the rapid innovation in technology. Newer advanced tools have made it possible for the business community to better understand what gamification is, how it works, how it can be successfully implemented and what benefits it offers in return.
As it has been mentioned later here, data is crucial for gamification. The more the data the easier it becomes to understand various nuances of gamification. That is why while the concept has existed for long, and has been in practice in some or the other form to an extent as well, it made leaps-and-bound surged in popularity by the end of the first decade or beginning of the second decade of this century. It was the same era when modern technologies such as Big Data, mobility, analytics and social had gained considerable traction. In addition to the emergence and popularity of these advanced technologies and practices, the arrival of “digital natives” has been a major propeller of gamification. Digital natives, youths who have grown up with consumer electronics and mobile gadgets around them, obviously have a naturally strong grasp over technology. That is why they also exhibit greater tolerance to risk as well as greater need for constant feedback that the preceding generation of workforce.
Big Data is at the heart of gamification. This inherent requirement for gamification is aptly met by the digital natives’ extensive use of social media. Most of them are available on more than social networking platform. The amount of data generated as a result of this supports implementation of gamification. Besides, the active responsiveness by technology vendors has helped as well. Leaderboards, which have long been in place as motivators, are gradually giving way to innovative applications developed for gamification. With the globalization of business and increasing overlapping of enterprise functions, these apps have enabled companies to gamify operations and ensure consistently efficient performance by the staff.
How Companies Gain Advantage from Gamification
Gamification can be found in some or the form in numerous enterprises throughout the globe. Though the number of failed attempts is high, stories of success are not rare either. Among the organizations that are reaping benefits of gamification are Badgeville, Duolingo and SAP. Badgeville for Salesforce offers missions that revolve around major sales processes and behaviors. It allows its users to participate in those missions. Badges and points are offered to users as incentives, while analytics tools have been deployed to derive insights from usage data.
Duolingo, a website for learning language, has grown quickly to become the most successful platform for learning language online. The way it does things differently from its competitors is a major factor in its success. The website has gamified the process of learning language for its users. It has virtual currency, missions, various achievement levels, rewards for completing mission and levels, and so on. More importantly, all the elements have been implemented in an integrated manner in order to keep users’ engagement and excitement towards learning experience. The result of appropriate implementation of gamification is evident from Duolingo’s business – it has 60 million users, and more people learn languages from it than from the entire school system in the United States.
A more globally renowned organization to have implemented gamification is SAP. In order to increase the engagement levels in its Community Network, the company launched a gamification module about three years ago. The module enables SAP to design missions for tracking activities that it wants to encourage. As rewards, the company offers badges and designates feature-topic experts on leaderboards. The results have been impressive for the German technology giant, as it has recorded 400% rise in activity as well as 96% increase in community feedback.
It is also worth noting here that each company had a different approach to gamification, and that is critical for business heads and boards of directors to understand in order to achieve the same kind of success for their organizations.
When Gamification Does or Does Not Work?
In reality, gamification is applicable in every aspect of people’s life – professional or personal. It is as much a philosophy as it is a practice. There is no proprietary set of rules, regulations and policies that govern it, and every company has to abide by it. Going by the understanding developed about gamification so far, it can be considered quite a horizontal strategy. It can be applied to any set-up where there are people involved and a desire for their motivation and engagement exists. Therefore, the span of gamification encompasses almost about every kind of operations that one can think of in the world. It has already been implemented by companies ranging from established industry leaders to emerging players in the entertainment sector. The increasing traction gained by the practice of incentivizing performance is taking gamification into every industry and sub-industry.
To think that gamification is ideal for a particular situation or a specific type of environment would be to limit and confine the prospects and potential of the idea and its implementation. The real challenge is to identify the objective and then use the most appropriate or available tools to achieve the goal in the context of the organizational agenda.
There is no, and will never be, one right methodology for the implementation of gamification in all situations. There are examples of gamification that actually look like games indeed, with use of bright colors and funny components displaying or popping up on screen. On the other hand, there are instances of gamification that are quite understated, because they are highly operational in character. In both scenarios, one can easily determine whether the kind of gamification adopted is aligned with the environment. If it is, then gamification has been rightly implemented, while vice versa is true as well.
Gamification is neither situation-bound nor time-bound. Whenever there is a case where motivation is required, there is always an opportunity to implement gamification as a strategy to pump the required motivation. In short, there is no such question as when gamification works, or does not work? To ponder over this question, and to try to come up with a comprehensive list of scenarios where gamification works would be wastage of time, effort and resources. The main concern, and the only concern, is always to figure out whether implementing gamification would be a right decision for the particular problem. Once this can be sorted out, determining the most appropriate way to execute it becomes the major challenge. In addition to this, the way to ensure that the chosen technique is indeed the most suitable strategy for the particular problem also has to be mooted.
In order to implement gamification successfully and ensure its successful continuation, organizations need not haste into it. There are far too many instances where gamification generated significant enthusiasm among the workforce initially, but failed to sustain that excitement. That happens not only because of random addition of game elements to operations, but also because of ill-planned, or unplanned, implementation. The first step towards implementation of gamification is the analysis of the tools that are available. Availability of a variety of elements enables businesses to avoid repetition.
The second step is to formulate a process. An effective processes should include six necessary steps – determining the objective, selecting the processes, identifying the involved people, ensuring that the deployment is aligned with company’s larger goal, capturing and utilizing the generated data, and ensuring the sustainability of the engagement.
Avoiding the common mistakes and making a procedural move is the way to successful implementation of gamification and gaining continuous benefits from it.
Future of Gamification
The marketing sector in particular, and the business landscape in general, is going through an interesting phase. A lot has happened in just a few years, and even greater developments can be seen on the horizon. One does not have to be an expert of any kind to predict that businesses across industries and geographies are going to witness many major innovations, in terms of both products and services, in the near future.
The same is true about gamification, which covered the path from introduction and emergence to popularity and widespread adoption quite quickly. Few ideas and concepts have succeeded in capturing the attention of business heads as quickly as gamification has. It was just about three to four years ago when the excitement revolving gamification became evident. Consultants, real as well as self-proclaimed, emerged in overwhelming number, discussing and highlighting how great the new concept (gamification) was, and how it was going to change the way businesses carried out operations. However, despite all the noise, the adoption of the idea in practice was significantly low. There were only a few cases of practical adoption that could be cited as example.
Today, most of the consultants (mainly the self-proclaimed ones) have fizzled out. The same kind of noise and show cannot be experienced now anymore. The main reason has been hyping the idea without understanding the fundamentals of it. As organizations throughout the world realized that adding random game elements to operations cannot deliver a sustainable engagement, the popular opinion today seems to be that gamification has flopped and failed, which obviously is not entirely correct again.
In reality, gamification is now being adopted in the true sense, sans the hype surrounding it. A keen observation of markets and businesses will reveal that companies across sectors have implemented gamification in some or the other form. The game elements can be found in the operations of organizations across geographies.
Considering the present, and how incidents have unfolded in the past, the immediate need of the near future is data; the more of it, the better. In order to ensure the required never-ending supply of data, academics and researchers will have to come forward, and identify, consolidate and compile best-practices in order to help the business community. This will make adoption of gamification easier for organizations, as they can refer to use-cases and find out whether its application is beneficial for their situation. If it is, then understand which practice is the most suitable.
While many researchers are already striving at this front, and doing an appreciable job, a lot needs to be done for the consolidation as well. Today, gamification is at the borders of various fields. Marketers look at it from their marketing perspective, technologists have their technology-oriented take on it, while management-level people look at it from managerial standpoint. A major role that academics therefore will have to play is of bringing these people as well as the research together. It can therefore be translated for organizations to make sense of gamification.
** Originally posted on MarTechAdvisor.com **