6 Reasons Gamification Increases Productivity at Work

What is gamification, is it effective for employee engagement, and should you try it?

David

Head of Marketing - April 23, 2019

Most people by now have heard of gamification in some form or another — basically the use of points, badges, leaderboards, or other elements of what we generally know as “games” in tasks that already exist in order to motivate participation, engagement and loyalty.

That’s pretty straightforward, right? We all have played games at some point in our lives, we all enjoy games and generally speaking we wish the rest of life could be as fun as the games we enjoy most.

But, of course, for some reason there’s this idea that “work is not supposed to be fun… if it was fun, you wouldn’t get paid to do it.” That’s simply untrue.

Combining good game mechanics with clearly defined and measurable tasks is a great way to increase awareness, activity, performance and motivation.

The following 10 game mechanics are common in gamification:

  • Fast Feedback
  • Transparency
  • Goals
  • Badges
  • Leveling Up
  • Onboarding
  • Competition
  • Collaboration
  • Community
  • Points

Gamification — a brief example

With the correct combination of leadership and a clear understanding of what key tasks or activities you want to increase performance on, it can be relatively easy to turn them into a game if some type of reward is involved.

As one example, let’s take contacting people: customers, prospects, anyone. Let’s say you are going to contact them by phone or email. Let’s say also that you have some clear goal: generate a customer success case, qualify a lead, or simply thank someone for their business.

If you are going to repeat this task day in and day out, it will eventually get boring because as humans we just don’t care much for repetition. The first few times we do something it’s new and exciting but after that it gets routine, stale, dry, and flat out boring. So, in order to keep it fun, you decide to look at turning these tasks into a game.

Now, in order for this game to be effective, it needs to involve something that the “players” or employees will care about. Is there some reward? Is there public praise or recognition involved? Is there some celebration or other incentive for completing the task or being the first one to finish? Once a clearly defined goal is established and a meaningful reward has been set forth, the game is on. But, what does meaningful mean? It means that in order for the players/employees to strive and put forth max effort to achieve this reward it needs to be fun, interesting and fulfil some desire that they have.

As an example for meaningful rewards, let’s say I offer up a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or tickets to a sporting or movie event to the “winners”. The winners can be the first one done, everyone who accomplishes the goal in a given time frame, the top 3, and so on. But, if none of them care about movies, wine, chocolates or sports then the incentive will be ineffective because it is meaningless to them.

One general rule of thumb is that there is no one-size-fits all approach for rewards. Even if everyone in the office loves chocolate, some will like dark chocolate, some will like milk chocolate, some will want chocolate with candies in it and so on. The better you can do at providing specifically what the “winners” would like as a prize, the more effective a motivator that prize will be.

Done right (hint: just have simple conversations with your team about what they like) you can find highly effective motivators that are not expensive. For some clever and inexpensive rewards ideas, check out our free PDF on 100 ideas to motivate teams.

6 reasons gamification increases productivity

Obviously, unless gamification is actually increasing activity levels, performance, awareness on goals, or some other clearly measurable business objectives that it’s unlikely your boss is going to give the thumbs up to this endeavor. Luckily, gamification helps with many areas of business performance and here are just a few quick examples:

1. Ramp up the competition

Everyone likes to compete, right? If someone is next to you on the treadmill, you run a little faster. Likewise, if someone is closing more deals, you’re likely to up your game and start calling more customers in order to close more deals. Why? because humans are wired for competition. For example:

In a survey of faculty, students, and staff at the Harvard School of Public Health, nearly half of the respondents said they’d prefer to live in a world where the average salary was $25,000 and they earned $50,000 than one where they earned $100,000 but the average was $200,000.

Competition is an innate part of who we are as human beings. From a biological and historical perspective, we’ve competed since the beginning for everything from food and resources to Olympic games. We are hardwired to compete.

However, keep in mind that when competing small team sizes are more effective. According to the Association for Psychological Science, When there are few competitors, people can experience social-comparison, which fuels motivation to compete. But as the number of competitors increases, social comparison diminishes, dampening competitive feelings.

Researchers found that while one’s competitive motivation increases in a small group; it decreases significantly when a few competitors become many.

So, if you are going to use gamification to increase competitive instincts within your teams, ensure that it is done in small groups in fun ways with motivating rewards or acknowledgement for the finishers.

2. Make work more fun

Who doesn’t want to have more fun at work? Gamification is more than just a game; it allows leaders to leverage intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors to inspire us to take action because the tasks are interesting and satisfying.

A well-designed gamification plan inspires employees to take action on clearly defined business goals because they are rewarded in ways that are meaningful, such as: recognition, praise, mastery of tasks and celebration of a job well done.

By measuring business impacts of key tasks and supporting the growth, development and improvement of action on these key tasks, gamification is an effective strategy to drive focused activity while also making the repetition of such activities more fun and enjoyable.

3. Speed up time to mastery

All of us should be striving for mastery in our jobs. Mastery is comprehensive knowledge or skill at something, allowing us to complete large tasks in shorter time with higher levels of quality. In order to achieve mastery, we need to repeat tasks many times over… but repetition is boring and tedious. So, how can you make it so that attaining mastery becomes simple, interesting, and fun? Turn it into a game.

When people receive recognition, accolades, rewards or other meaningful incentive for completing clearly defined tasks, it inspires better performance and higher motivation, which in turn results in more incentive to keep learning.

So, if you want employees to master specific tasks, then use gamification as a tool to motivate performance on clearly defined objectives. Next thing you know, you’ll have an office full of highly motivated rockstars!

4. Inspire collaboration

Similar to competition, collaboration inspires us to put forth extra effort, but in a slightly different way. Whereas competition pits us against each other–individually or in teams–collaboration sets common goals for a group to achieve together.

Gamification thus helps to build and culture of teamwork and fuels continuous progress for everyone. And since it also increases transparency (everyone can see how everyone is performing, when they complete tasks, make a sale, etc.), people are more likely to converse about theirs and others activities and contribute relevant knowledge whenever possible.

For example, say one of your co-workers makes a sale with an important client. You happen to have some insight about that particular client that can help with nurturing the relationship moving forward, so you head over to their desk and fill them in on what you know. Not only does this foster relationships within the office, it also helps to prevent churn and ultimately benefits the company bottom line.

5. Designate goals

There is a reason why so many people set goals when they want to achieve something. It inspires motivation and holds them more accountable in the completion of tasks. However, it is also common to abandon goals due to lack of clarity, specificity and frustration. Sales gamification makes goal-setting simple and targets explicit, which greatly increases the likelihood of accomplishing–and surpassing–both individual, team and company goals.

Specific, measurable goals with a time-constraint are proven to be the most effective. With gamification tools, you can easily implement assessable targets and indicate time limits–you can also set up recurring goals, for example weekly or monthly budgets.

6. Provide instant feedback

With millennials making up a large majority of the workforce, it is no wonder that the availability of real-time data and frequent, immediate feedback from managers has become a must for any successful organization.

Instant feedback gives people the opportunity to understand how they are performing and subsequently adapt their behavior if need be. If they are performing well, they can celebrate and continue to progress, and if they are performing poorly, they can quickly course-correct and identify patterns that could help them to improve in the future. Either way, employees have control and ownership over their performance, and this will likely result in happier and more productive workers.

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