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Brad Callahan
Vice President, Business Solutions Group
December 4, 2012

All Work, No Play, Could Affect Workplace Performance

When it comes to driving employee engagement and even changing employee behavior, the line between work and play is becoming blurred. By applying the design, dynamics and mechanics of games to business, new platforms are being developed that are proving to be powerful tools for driving behavior enterprise-wide.  The combined application is called “gamification” and if you aren’t using some form of it already in your workplace, you probably have some sense of the term, which is generating enormous buzz. Simply put, gamification is the application of game-design thinking to non-game activities to make them fun and exciting.

Gamification has been called one of the most important technology trends, and with good reason.

Prior to 2010, there were only 500 search results for gamification, according to Google Trends; by the end of 2012 there were more than 9.5 million searches. The gamification market, currently $242 million, is expected to climb to $2.8 billion by 2016, according to M2 Research. Gartner predicts that 25 percent of day-to-day business processes will incorporate some aspect of gamification by 2015 and 50 percent or companies that manage innovation will be using it.

So, gamification isn’t something that’s way off in the future—the future is happening right now, and it’s being  brought to us by a the interplay of powerful forces. First is technology itself:  We are immersed in a technology-enabled world comprised of social, mobile and cloud (SoMoClo) platforms and the “big data” they generate, all of which provide a natural springboard for gamification to facilitate, trigger and drive desired behaviors in business. This is especially true for employee engagement, where gamified processes can already be found in everything from back-office tasks and training to sales management, career counseling, partner interactions, and at customer touch points. Couple this with also the dynamic nature of today’s workforce, where many employees are experienced “gamers” in their own right or have been exposed to virtual online games for  years. Finally, there is the ongoing pressure to maximize workplace performance, and the contextually-rich narratives of immersive games specifically designed for business, which have shown remarkable success in driving engagement and encouraging desired behaviors.

In simple terms, gamification works because people love to play games to win, achieve, discover and interact. From an enterprise perspective, gamification helps reinforce desired behaviors and drive engagement by showing employees how they can contribute to the organization by following a self-directed path toward mastery to solve real business problems.

Gamification is most effective because it employs the very same intrinsic motivational triggers used in traditional reward and recognition. By capturing performance data and social-sphere contributions, communicating standings, displaying status and reputation and rewarding accomplishments, organizations can leverage new forms of immersive interaction that drive participation and engagement. Progression bars, leader boards, scorecards, points, reputation and rewards may be brought into play. Many of these mechanics give employees the ability to benchmark themselves against peers and provides them with tracks toward improvement. Interaction, collaboration, awareness and learning will all be related effects whereby individuals will be encouraged to make new connections, share information, learn and have fun.

But does it work? Deloitte Tech Trends 2012 cites some examples (from many) showing it does. Seeking to promote better health practices among its members, a health plan company invited them to participate in Mindbloom’s Life Game, an interactive platform that uses game mechanics to monitor users’ progress toward health goals. Rewards were made for completing certain activities, such as taking a walk. In a beta trial, users completed three-quarters of the activities—a 50 percent increase over previous attempts, which did not use gamification. In another example, a restaurant chain used gamification to encourage such employee behavior as up-selling and cross-selling. Early results showed a nearly 2 percent increase in sales and an 11 percent increase in gratuities.

Just as importantly as any bottom line impact, gamification delivers valuable communications to employees. As the Deloitte study shows, it tells them: You are doing better than you did yesterday, you are contributing to our organization’s goals, and the tools for growth and development are in your hands.

Gamification has important contributions to make to the business environment. Are you ready to play?

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