Monday, January 6, 2014

Someone’s Got a Case of the Mondays: How to Motivate Employees With Games (Seriously!)

Playing games and the enjoyment of game play is part of the human experience. Throughout civilizations, humans have played games – for entertainment and storytelling. But games have never been just about fun, they have also been used throughout history for education, training, and other practical purposes. And this is still the case today.
When the British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt in 1922, he found among the many buried treasures several boards used to play the game of Senet. Apparently board games were very popular in ancient Egypt: scientists have found Senet boards that date back over 5,000 years.
Fast-forward 2,000 years (give or take a few), and we find ourselves in the fastest-paced society ever. Consumers are permanently connected to the Internet (and each other) through mobile devices and record numbers of marketing messages and distractions. So it’s no surprise that one of the most talked about engagement tactics of the past year has been gamification. This means using game dynamics like competition, collection of rewards such as points, badges or levels, and status on leaderboards to give consumers – and customers – a fun experience that taps into their love of games and keeps them engaged with the brand.
But while much has been written about how to harness the power of gamification to improve the customer experience, there hasn’t been much discussion about how gamification can help companies improve their employees’ experiences.
It’s true that work and play don’t go together very well in most employers’ minds. However, The Daedalus Project, which studied human behavior within the context of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), found that players are, in fact, honing work-related skills such as organizing teams, monitoring processes, assigning tasks and tracking budgets.
Who knew?
gamification_definitionThe Adweek article referenced above also cites a recent global survey by Gallup, which found that a whopping 90% of workers aren’t engaged with their jobs – and that disengagement is costing companies about $2 trillion in lost productivity.
Using Gamification Incentives as a Human Resources Strategy 
In an article for Forbes with predictions for 2014 in talent, leadership, and HR, Josh Bersin writes: “Today’s HR organization is no longer judged by its administrative efficiency – it is judged by its ability to acquire, develop, retain, and help manage talent. And more and more HR is being asked to become ‘Data-Driven’ – understand how to best manage people based on real data, not just judgment or good ideas.” Gamification is an excellent way for companies to tap into their employees’ personalities and interests while also gathering useful data.
Several experts agree that companies need to approach their corporate cultures from a gamified perspective in order to better engage their employees – much the same way they’re using gamification tactics to engage their customers.
I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to implement this kind of initiative at ThinkInk. Maybe create a leaderboard which shows who the fastest employee is? Or perhaps a special perk – say, a monetary bonus or a free lunch – for the employee who gets a thought leadership article or blog post or press release client-ready with the fewest rounds of edits.  Aaaaaahhhhh, the possibilities are endless.
The daily grind can sometimes leave employees feeling disengaged and listless, here at ThinkInk and at every other company. Perhaps if, as bosses and leaders of great teams, we can combine a play ethic with a work ethic, that daily grind can become less grinding and more fun.
It’s food for thought, at the very least.
Has your company implemented gamified initiatives to boost employee engagement? Have they been successful? Share your stories with us in the section below.

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