Gamifying HR Experience

With gamification normalising from a trending topic to a functional reality, it has sneaked its way into every aspect of our lives with us taking no notice. LinkedIn is a serious, business- oriented social network and hence does not strike us as the first thing when we visualise fun and games.

However, it has beautifully integrated game mechanics into its service and has used it to garner incredible success. Features such as the association of profile completion with profile strength, skill endorsements increasing the profile view by thirteen times, sections like who has viewed your profile and its leaderboard ranking are in fact, gamified.

Gamification is a process of utilising gaming elements and activities, such as winning badges, earning points, and topping leaderboards, in a non-game environment. It is a concerted effort to appeal to an individual's sense of competition and desire for recognition. In the recent past, when Facebook was virtually formidable, all of us were either addicted to Farmville or hounded by constant invitations from friends to join and aid them in their noble farming quest. What seemed to be an innocent game in fact resulted in producing a decisive and a favourable outcome for Facebook - its users logged in daily, spent large amounts of engaged time on their platform, and actively invited their friends to spend more time on the platform, which ultimately aided Facebook to grow its user base, and thence its revenue. Facebook literally added games on its portal, a viable tactic which was unrealised by the users as a collaborated attempt to engage them, but was seen as a truly fun way for them to spend their time. While there were no inherent advantages that the user could deem or gratify himself, since the points could not be redeemed or monetised, it assisted Facebook to help build its user base and brand value in a big way.

Gamification Framework: Octalysis

While there have been several proponents to explain the theoretical base around game mechanics, the one theory which has been well accepted and implemented across the industry is Octalysis, the numero uno gamification guru Yu-kai Chou, who has also authored, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Yu is an internationally acclaimed keynote speaker on gamification and behavioural design, and has made presentations in leading organisations and institutes such as Google, Stanford University, LEGO, Tesla, TEDx, Boston Consulting Group, Turkish Airlines, the governments of UK, Singapore, South Korea, Kingdom of Bahrain, and many more. His work has impacted more than a billion user experiences globally.

Yu-Kai Chou proposes that most systems are merely "function-focused," designed to get the job done quickly. They work like a factory that assumes its workers will do their jobs because it is warranted of them. However, human focused design recalls that people in a system have feelings, insecurities, and reasons why they want or do not want to do certain things, and therefore optimises as per their feelings, motivations, and engagement.

Within Octalysis, the Core drives on the right are Right Brain Core Drives - being more related to creativity, self-expression, and social aspects. The Core drives on the left are Left Brain Core Drives being more associated to logic, calculations, and ownership. Interestingly, left brain core drives are extrinsic motivators, it motivates people since they want to obtain something, be it be a goal or anything else they cannot obtain. On the other hand, right brain core drives are Intrinsic motivators - people do not require a goal or reward to use your creativity, hangout with friends, or feel the suspense of unpredictability, since the activity on its own is rewarding. If we scour popular gamified platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook's Farmville, candy crush saga etc., we will realise that they use a different mix of the right and left brain drivers.

Level 2 Octalysis tries to optimise experience through the four phases of a player's journey, discovery (the reason behind people starting the journey), onboarding (teaching users the rules and tools to play the game), scaffolding (the regular journey of repeated actions towards a goal), endgame (how do you retain your veterans). Level 3 and onwards, the framework starts factoring in different types of players and how different motivational tactics work for these differential players. While there are 5 Levels in total, Level 1 is usually sufficient for a majority of companies trying to create a better designed gamified product and experience.

Gamifying HR Experience

Through its wide scope and customisability, gamification has helped companies enhance their engagement initiatives, strengthen their employer brand, and personalise the recruitment process to attract and induct the right talent. HR and gaming have started working together for some time now, with the purpose of making an otherwise dull processes more interesting and engaging. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), talks about two types of gamification:

Structural gamification: Applying gaming rewards such as badges, levels, leaderboards, etc to job-related activities.

Serious games: Where a simulation is created for specific purposes such as training or sales simulation.

While both these types of gamification are in wide usage, companies are moving towards serious games designed with a goal in mind, to assess and report employee efficiency. Here are some HR areas that are now gamified:

Gamification in Administrative processes

Onboarding documents and expense forms are seen as tedious. Reward points for timely completion of these mandatory, yet boring activities can encourage efficiency and compliance.

Industry Example: Google

Google, like many companies, needed more of its employees to submit travel expense information in a timely and regular manner. When Google employees take a work trip, they receive an allowance for each location. Google gamified the expense process by letting employees who did not spend their entire allowances to decide the fate of the remaining money to getting paid out in their next paycheck, saving funds toward a future trip, or donating it to a charity of their choice. Gamifying Google's travel expense system translated into 100 percent compliance within six months of launching the programme.

Gamification in Recruitment and Selection initiatives

When coupled with recruitment, Gamification is often termed as recruitainment. Gamification can be integrated in the recruitment process covering quizzes around industry challenges, company related quests, and behavioural quizzes. Gamification personalises and adds a fun element to an otherwise boring recruitment process. It encourages the candidate to engage with the company by providing a simulated work environment.

Further, by using gamification, companies can comprehensively test their candidates' abilities, competencies, creative thinking skills, aptitude, and cognitive skills. This, of course, enables companies to cut hiring costs and time. And when gamification is really running on all cylinders, companies can attract diverse applicants that would not be otherwise possible. In 2010, L'Oréal's Reveal Game, where users compete and share results on social media and a global leaderboard, kicked off the use of gamification in recruitment. Over the years, as well as giving employers insight into the skills, personalities and behaviours of potential hires, gamification has helped engage candidates with the company, the role and the recruitment process itself.

Industry Example: Marriott

Marriott International Inc. was an early implementer in testing how gamification can be utilised in recruiting the right people. It developed a hotel-themed online game similar to Farmville or The Sims, to acclimatise prospective employees with Marriott as an organisation, the company culture, and the hotel industry.

Industry Example: PwC

Traditionally, candidates were spending fewer than 15 minutes on PwC's career website, and the firm was keen on creating a more professional candidate experience. They developed and launched a game called Multipoly, which allows PwC job candidates to virtually test their readiness for working at the firm by working in teams to solve real world business problems. Multipoly (resembles Monopoly for the financially savvy) presented users with tasks based on the PwC competencies being developed for the existing employees, such as building business acumen, increasing one's digital skills, and embracing relational skills. Ever since PwC launched Multipoly, the firm has reported 190% growth in job candidates, with 78% of users reporting that they are interested to learn more about working at PwC.

Gamification in Training & Development

Employees are keen to work through levels to gain badges or points. Aspiring to ace the leaderboard, employees easily get trained on the job and cross functionally. Recognising the leaders at town halls or honouring them with enhanced responsibility will instil a self-learning culture in the organisation. The renowned Deloitte Leadership Academy, which has trained 10000+ executives from all over the world, delivers learning gamification through Badgeville to increase knowledge sharing and brand development. Even TCS has stepped into the world of gamification by implementing game engines that allow the creation of real-life environments with built-in networking features, enabling the development of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG). The application of MMORPG in real world industrial training and simulation can lead to greater collaboration and team play and reduce the dreariness involved in solo training.

Industry Example: Siemens

Witnessing Facebook's meteoric success thorough games such as FarmVille and CityVille, Siemens mulled the idea of harnessing the wave to build a similar game where people enjoy the same features of Zynga's games while learning manufacturing concepts. When players first join the company through a Facebook registration process, they immediately have access to three aspects of PlantVille - the PlantVille game where users can manage either a bottling, vitamin, or manufacturing plant; the PlantVille Café where Siemens can engage with players to learn new manufacturing solutions; and the PlantVille Puzzler where users can test their knowledge through quizzes.

Industry Example: Walmart

Walmart began using gamification two years ago to deliver safety training for 5,000 associates in eight Walmart distribution centres. Gamifying safety training addressed a significant business issue; ensuring that a widely dispersed workforce was adhering to safety procedures on the job. The Walmart gaming platform was delivered in just three minute gamified applications, which were embedded into an associate's workflow. Gamification of safety training is competitive and addictive for associates, with associates talking not only about their rankings in the game, but also on the importance of adhering to safety protocols. It is this "emotional aspect" of gamification that has the deepest benefits to alter employee behaviour. Results showed a 54% decrease in incidents among the eight Walmart distribution centres using gamification.

HR Gamification in Engagement & Retention strategies

Accenture is making use of gamification tools for employee engagement and modifications in workplace behaviour. World Bank's Evoke is a social collaboration game for solving social problems. One very promising area of engagement and retention where gamification can be implemented is employee wellness, e.g., Mindbloom's Life Game, being utilised by Aetna, is a free online social game aimed at improving employee health and wellness by encouraging interactions with a metaphorical "self". In essence, users can keep a check on their health by choosing and developing plans to foster wellness.

Industry Example: Slalom Consulting

Slalom Consulting had 2,000 employees in offices around the United States. To improve internal communications, the company decided to create a mobile application that would help employees learn the names and faces of their colleagues. To encourage participation, the application included a "leaderboard" showing who had the highest scores. However, only 5% of the people truly cared about being at the top of the leaderboard. Gift cards as prizes did not prove to be attractive as well. What changed the outcome was when it was transformed into a team game. Whether by the organisation, or through randomly assigned teams, there was a dramatic shift in the engagement of the game. People did not want to let their teams down. Participation grew from 5% to 90%, and recognition scores went up from around 45% accuracy to 89%.

HR Gamification in Wellness strategies

Prior to wearables gaining popularity, wellness programmes and progress relied on self-reporting by employees. Unfortunately, this system had discrepancies, since employees also reported physical activity that never happened or quickly lost interest. Using wearable devices that track activity put an end to the self-reporting loophole, potentially increasing buy-in. Turning employee wellness into a fun-filled game where winning points through regular physical activity is rewarded, can be a great way to create a fit workforce.

Industry Example: Welbe

Welbe is an enterprise solution that combines employee wellness data from wearables (like Fitbit and Jawbone) into a company dashboard, where leaderboards can be seen from real data and employees can set challenges.

By gamifying fitness goals, these tools nudge users toward a path of smarter health choices. They also help HR departments deploy a successful wellness programme that decrease insurance costs, improve company culture, and ultimately benefit employees. Organisations like NextJump have made use of gamification to get two-thirds of their employees into fitness. Consumer brands like Nike+ use gamified feedback to drive over five million players to beat their personal fitness goals every day of the year.

HR Gamification to increase employee collaboration

Incorporating gamification into social collaboration platforms promotes the adoption and usage of the application in a way that is user-friendly and highly engaging, which in turn promotes immediate and enduring information - sharing within the context of business processes.

Industry Example: Qualcomm

Qualcomm is modelling gamification techniques to its internal Q&A process where employees ask and answer technical questions, and the best answers get voted up and rise to the top. Qualcomm employees receive points for their level of activity and engagement, and badges for doing unique things above and beyond, like answering a question that has remained unanswered for 30 days. Employees who do this receive an "Archeologist" badge and recognition on the site! In addition, the badge shows up on the employee's profile rewarding and recognising their willingness to share their knowledge.

Gamification tools doing the rounds

Badgeville: Badgeville provides gamification and social engagement solutions that enable companies to influence and measure user behaviour. Badgeville has become a dominant force in enterprise gamification with over 150 major deployments in leading companies such as Deloitte, Samsung, Dell, and Accenture. Similar to Salesforce Motivation, Badgeville provides an out of the box SaaS service that has several customisable options for companies to configure any type of goal, ranging from task-related goals such as completing expense reports to learning goals such as levelling up a key industry skill. With the integration of Yammer, companies are able to leverage gamification and social reputation, so that when badges are achieved from a goal, these achievements can be published through social media to provide visibility throughout the entire company.

Hoopla: The very name rings in fun and excitement. It appears that Hoopla is mimicking a live sports event that can spruce up burnt-out employees who deal with repetitive but critical tasks such as customer support and telemarketing. Contests can be created based on CRM metrics and launched using leaderboards. Then the results can be broadcasted daily using video and streaming the results via web, internal TV channels or directly to mobile devices of employees. Hoopla can truly be a dynamic way to run end to end gamification campaigns. It is most ideal for companies to keep their staff customer support or sales teams motivated daily, in spite of facing repetitive tasks.

Tango Card: This gamification software is an all-in-one rewards platform that can be used internally and externally. It can deliver incentives to employees, customers, and even partners or suppliers. If the company has clear and well-planned rewards for different audiences with different goals, the software is very useful. It has a huge catalogue where various reward formats can be stored, viz. e-gift cards, donations, and prepaid items. Recipients can choose their rewards, while HR gets to deliver a variety of options. Likewise, the catalogue allows scaling the rewards in a staggered manner to lead customers or employees to higher incentives that correspond to a higher ROI for the organisation, be it in terms of sales or productivity.

Bunchball Nitro: This gamification app is focused on improving learning curves. The software, using funnel incentives, can introduce new customers to the product's strengths, uses, and FAQs. On the other hand, Bunchball Nitro can be used for onboarding new employees as well. Achievement goals can be set at every level until the newbies are ready to be deployed live. The challenge based goals can be fielded online across internal websites, social media channels, and via mobile devices and enterprise tools. Standard gamification features include leaderboards, goal-setting, and a rewards platform. The app uses a process of standard rewards programme to enable HR to introduce a variety of incentive packages to sustain the excitement. Other notable benefits from using this app include boosting staff collaboration, reinforcing employee training, and increasing the rate of repeat customers.

Pros and Cons of Gamification

Gamification, though promising, is not the panacea. It cannot cure deeper organisational problems, and employers cannot expect that implementing gamification in the workplace will magically make their entire workforce qualified and informed.

Gamification can create a false set of incentives. One of the biggest problems with gamification is that it incentivises winning over other objectives. For training and corporate learning, HR will not want employees who know how to ace a test but do not necessarily know what they have been taught. The key is to design thoughtful programmes.

Gamification should not exclude other methods of learning. Not everyone in the same organisation has an identical learning style, which means that gamification will not work for everyone. Some people learn best by rote learning, others through storytelling or regular practice without any added incentives. Making gamification an option for employees instead of making it mandatory might be the best choice. Gamification ruins motivation if it is based on money alone. Working in a corporate environment has traditionally been a relationship of exchanging time and effort for money, and this naturally leads to a lack of motivation in the long term, especially for millennials who aspire to be engaged in meaningful work.

Gamification has the potential to revolutionise the entire process of recruiting, onboarding, corporate leadership training, and HR compliance. And if the world adopts good gamification principles and focuses on what truly drives fun and motivation, then it is possible to witness a day where there is no longer a divide between things people must do and the things they love to do. All people have to do is to play all day. This way, the quality of life for everyone will be significantly higher, companies will perform better because people actually want to do the work, and the society on the whole will emerge to be productive.  

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