Disengagement—we’ve all experienced it. After a few years (or even months) on the job, monotony and habituation inevitably set in. Suddenly what was once inspiring becomes numbingly dull. Enthusiasm is all too readily replaced with complacency, and in the business world, the result is decreased productivity and a vulnerable bottom line.

So what can we do about it?

In recent years, more and more organizations have turned to gamification to combat day-to-day doldrums and put an end to disengagement. You’ve heard the success stories, but wouldn’t it be nice to become one of them?

The Dos and Don’ts of Gamification

  • DO Take advantage of intrinsic motivators.
    One key to successful gamification, according to Gabe Zichermann, author of The Gamification Revolution and founder of Dopamine, is to remember that it’s not all about winning. In fact, Zichermann asserts that most people aren’t strictly or particularly “winning-oriented,” but rather, “rewarded through a feeling that they control their own destiny.” The task then is to create an environment that satisfies this craving by way of clearly illustrated progress, invigorating competition, the creation of challenges, and a tangible sense of accomplishment.
  • DON’T Rely on novelty and hype.
    According to Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner, one of the deadliest mistakes a business can make is to place too much emphasis on “obvious game mechanics, such as points, badges, and leader boards” and not enough on “more subtle and more important game design elements, such balancing competition and collaboration, or defining a meaningful game economy.”
  • DO Know your audience.
    What works for one learner, won’t always work for another—and the same goes for employees. Rich Hein, Senior Managing Editor for CIO.com points to Target and Omnicare as two examples of businesses that have successfully incorporated gamification, but in two very different ways.

    Target stores, Hein explains, “have implemented a little game cashiers play when checking people out.” The object is to scan customer items in the optimum amount of time. Depending on his/her success or failure, the cashier is shown a red or green light and an updated overall score. With the introduction of the game, Target was able to increase employee engagement, and therefore productivity. Hein goes on to explain however, that when Omnicare introduced a similar model, their productivity actually plummeted. At Omnicare, the culture and the employees themselves are vastly different than at Target, and thus require different strategies for success. Whereas a scoring system satisfied Target’s need, creating challenges and recognition-oriented rewards proved more successful for Omnicare.
  • DON’T Assume that games are juvenile.
    On the contrary, the right game with the right design can be utterly transformative. According to a recent study, the average adult learner recalls roughly 20% of what they hear and only about 10% of what they read. But when learners are given the opportunity to “do the job themselves” that number skyrockets to 90%, “even if only as a simulation.”
  • DO Zero in on key business objectives.
    In the same way that you must consider your audience’s motivations, your own bottom line should be given equal attention. What is your business going to accomplish through gamification?
    According to Brian Burke, the answer will most certainly be:

    • Changes in behavior
    • The development of skills
    • Increased innovation
    • All of the above

    Without a clear set of objectives in mind, businesses run the risk of “simply slapping meaningless badges on activities and creating applications that are simply not engaging for the target audience,” and thereby miss the mark completely from an investment standpoint.

Above all, experts agree that the biggest misstep in any gamification initiative is poor design—and alongside every success story, there is a tale of equally impressive failure. If you are considering gamification to combat disengagement in your business, remember the dos and don’ts to ensure your place among the successful.

AUTHOR
Nolan Hout

Nolan Hout

About the author: Nolan spends the majority of his time performing marketing research in the L&D industry to help understand the most common and pressing challenges of the industry.  He uses this information to help formulate cutting-edge learning solutions that are designed to maximize business performance and return on investment.

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