9 Ways to Boost Employee Experience with Gamification

They care about achieving their goals and they try harder, session after session, to surpass their previous performance and beat their own records.

Wouldn’t it be great if your employees felt as strongly about their work as they do about games?

That’s the question that has led an increasing number of companies to incorporate elements of gameplay in the workplace. The idea is that these elements can make work as addictive as World of Warcraft and boost staff members’ motivation to improve performance over time.

It sounds crazy, but the notion has gained significant traction over the past five or 10 years.

INTERNAL FOCUS

Gamification has natural applications in customer relations. Airlines, for example, have long incorporated elements of gameplay in their frequent-flyer programmes. When you make enough flights to be promoted to a new tier of benefits, that’s equivalent to ‘levelling up’ in a video game. The rewards are typically pretty small, but the prestige and sense of achievement are real.

Pioneering companies have applied gamification not just to customers, but internally, employing elements from the world of gaming to make work more competitive, fun, rewarding, and engaging.

In 2015, Microsoft overhauled its worldwide customer support services management programme through gamification. The company discarded the monthly scorecards that it had previously relied upon to motivate agent performance, replacing them with software that recognises and rewards excellent service on an immediate, case-by-case basis. Agents receive badges for demonstrating specialised proficiency, earn rewards, and ‘level up’ upon hitting performance targets.

A Frost & Sullivan study reports that Microsoft’s gamification initiative has helped customer support managers recognise and reward agents, increase productivity, develop skills, encourage sales, and boost favourable outcomes in customer support worldwide. The programme has improved agent engagement and satisfaction, raised retention rates, improved speed-to-proficiency times, and agent skill levels...all while improving customer satisfaction and loyalty, boosting sales, promoting efficiency, and reducing costs.

BRINGING GAMIFICATION HOME

Gamification isn’t about letting employees play games at work. It’s about making work as rewarding and addictive as play. Psychologists have analysed game players to discover why they are motivated to engage so deeply and for so long. Out of those studies come principles for ‘gamifying’ your own workplace.

1. Make Progress Visible

A game is a journey toward a goal - slaying the dragon, capturing the opponent’s pieces, accumulating a hoard of gold pieces, whatever. Psychologists say the reward doesn’t matter. After all, in most games, the rewards are only imaginary. What is critical, experts say, is that you provide a sense of progress. This can be as simple as the sort of progress bar you see on the screen when you install software or download a large file. A progress bar helps staff members see that they are moving toward their goal - or that their current behaviour is sending them in the wrong direction.

2. Mix Long-Term and Short-Term Goals

Role-playing games like World of Warcraft allow players to embark upon long story arcs that take weeks or months. Along the way, they are accumulating knowledge, skills, and other resources in encounters that may take less than a minute. So while you might want to keep the program that sends the year’s top sales rep on a week’s vacation, it’s also important to establish quick goals that support your business objectives. For example, you might challenge customer-service agents to refer three customers to the sales department. You might reward salespeople for hitting a daily or weekly quota of a particular brand or item. Experts say a mix of short-term and long-term goals is best.

3. Reward Efforts

Managers often fall into the habit of rewarding only top achievement. Video games are addictive in part because they reward smaller accomplishments. Earn five points by filling out a form or survey. Earn five more by putting an entry in the suggestion box. Any desirable activity, no matter how small, may be worth a point or two.

4. Give Frequent Feedback

When you’re playing a video game, your player slays the orc or dies on the battlefield. Every task is either a step toward achieving the goal or a step backwards. The addictive workplace offers the same sort of real-time feedback.

5. Be Inconsistent

Studies show that predictable rewards lead to improved performance that quickly fades away. Games are addictive in part because they are unpredictable. B.F. Skinner demonstrated in the 1950s that white rats could be trained to press a bar repeatedly if tasty food pellets dropped into the bin unpredictably as a result. Your employees aren’t rats, but the same principle applies. The quest for rewards can make even the most repetitive tasks addictive.

6. Be Smart About Rewards

Experiment a bit to find out what your department’s workers find rewarding. It’s common for people in customer support to value travel vouchers or tickets to a musical or dramatic event. They find it rewarding to get away from work. The engineers in your software development department might prefer larger monitors or faster CPUs. They find it rewarding to get deeper into their work. You gain nothing by offering a reward that doesn’t appeal to your staff, so experiment a little to find out what works.

7. Gamify Training

Motivate employees to acquire new skills with achievement badges, levelling, and rewards. Studies show that reviewing a five-minute training video at the beginning of a shift can boost productivity and quality. Bring that productivity and quality boost home by making training part of the game.

8. Remember the Social Element

Create ways for employees to establish reputations, to make their levelling-up visible, to compete with co-workers.

9. Promote Teamwork

Create incentives for individual employees to collaborate for team benefits and challenges.

DESIGNING YOUR GAMIFICATION PROGRAMME

Remember, gamification is not about playing games at work or even turning work into a game. It is, in the end, a way of incorporating the addictive and immersive elements of gameplay into the workplace in support of increased employee engagement, productivity, work quality, and retention. Gamify your department and you may level up within your own organisation.


Has your company grasped gamification as an effective employee experience technique? The UK Employee Experience Awards 2019 is now open for entries and the ‘Use of Digital Technologies’ or ‘Innovative Employee Engagement’ categories could be the perfect way for your organisation to showcase your ‘EX’ success. Click here to see the 2019 categories.