That was the dilemma Charlie Bess, HP Fellow and HP Enterprise Services’ Chief Technologist of Americas Application and Business Services, faced. He was the chairman of HP’s Global Tech Conference. Attendees must submit a paper and then have five people review it before they can attend this vaunted confab. “We weren’t getting the reviews done on time, and the ones that were done didn’t have enough feedback,” he says.
To improve performance, Bess used gamification to encourage people to do the reviews earlier and provide more feedback. He created a badging system that everyone could see. Every three days he ran a program that announced to the participants privately their performance vis-á-vis everyone else’s. For example, if you were only one percent through the process, the system could show you that you were behind the average of 30 percent.
The technique created a 35 percent increase in review performance, and feedback quality increased significantly.
Welcome to gamification.
Kshitij Jain, founder and CEO of MoBolt, says organizations are just now “learning how to use gamification for their objectives. It is a new way to solve business problems. It teaches people how to do things differently.”
Paul Stillmank, CEO of 7Summits, adds, “The use of gamification is increasing because of today’s hyper connectivity. People are connecting in a new way and need a new way to facilitate that connection.”
Brian Larson of HireFuel says employees are responding to gamification because they are so comfortable playing games on their mobile devices. “Social media has trained all of us to play games,” he says.
“Gamification can have a real corporate impact,” HP’s Bess believes. Stillmank of 7Summits agrees that gamification is becoming an important tool for businesses. “Companies that truly understand gamification will have a competitive advantage,” he says.
What is gamification?
Here is the industry definition:
Goal-oriented, metrics-based behavior modification for employees, customers and partners using games.
According to Stillmank, gamified business processes create real business results. “Companies use gamification to engage their constituents to drive behavioral change – in other words, to work differently or more efficiently,” says the 7Summits CEO. “Executives are trying to eke out even a fractional percentage increase in employee productivity. Playing games taps into people’s emotions, making them want to participate and help each other, thus increasing productivity.”
Gamification is important in today’s changing work place as the workforce makeup shifts in favor of Millennials. “Millennials work differently than Baby Boomers,” Stillmank observes. “Business processes are in flux as the workforce changes, and any time there is a change in how things are done, there is a productivity loss.” And companies can regain some of that loss because “game mechanics make every day, mundane tasks more engaging,” points out Louis Vong, vice president, Digital Strategy at TMP Worldwide.
Executives are using games to:
- Solve a problem
- Achieve a task
- Offer incentives
- Provide recognition
- Lock in customer loyalty
- Launch new online communities
The Holy Grail for business executives is capturing the employee’s attention, according to Bess of HP. “Executives want their employees to understand their corporate objectives. This can be very difficult. Gamification is powerful because it creates the ability to have people focus on outcomes.”
John Schwarz, CEO of Visier, says “the game engages the attention of an employee that a business application may not because games have a ‘now psychology.’ Games grab people’s attention and get an immediate response. And they tap into people’s desire to win.”
Gamification, in less sophisticated forms, has been around forever. (Archeologists found a game piece in Turkey that’s 5,000 years old.) Sales people have had dashboards since there have been sales.
However, Big Data and today’s IT environment have made gamification a cutting-edge business technique. “Before, we just never had enough data,” explains Larry Acklin, manager, applications marketing, HP Enterprise Services. Today’s IT capabilities produce an abundance of data. Predictive analysis is the key tool that drives gamification’s efficacy.
How does gamification work?
Gamification “is all about metrics-based activities,” according to the HP executives. Bess says companies can add behavior-modification techniques to almost every business process.
The chief components of gamification are:
- A reward system to influence people to learn and improve performance
The IT department collects the information and then analyzes it to run the game.
Here are some best practices in setting up gamified processes in your business:
- Understand your business goals. “The key thing is to understand your business goals so you can set up a system to encourage the desired behavior,” Acklin says.
- Create an engaging user experience. “The more engaged people are, the better the corporate outcome,” says Schwarz of Visier.
- Don’t chase shiny objects. Vong of TMP Worldwide says “companies have to know what’s broken and why before they create a game.”
- Choose a target audience. Vong adds games work best when addressing a specific group.
- Select rewards that encourage game playing. Vong says the rewards have to match the game or people won’t bother to participate.
- Be able to tweak along the way. Bess of HP says properly designed games allow leaders to chart the process so they can make changes whenever necessary.
Examples in various business processes
Here are some examples of how companies are using gamification:
- Call centers. Companies can improve performance by incentivizing behavior like first-call resolution.
- On the shop floor. Operators can use the software to monitor plant performance in a graphical way.
- CXOs: Leadership can use gamification to measure how each department is performing.
- Project management: Gamification encourages teams to win projects.
- Social media. Companies can determine what topics are trending and have an internal competition to see who can contribute the most blog posts and videos.
- Customer support. Some companies use gamification to encourage their customers to help their other customers. Leaders in tech forums thrive on the recognition.
- Branding. Vong of TMP Worldwide says customers learn about a company through games. “Games create consumer buzz,” he says.
- Recruiting. L’oreal is able to select the most-qualified university students through its game, Reveal. The company flies the winner of the game to its Paris headquarters to pitch his/her ideas. It’s also great branding for this young, hip market segment.
Vong of TMP Worldwide says the biggest use so far has been HR training. “How do you get employees to watch training videos or read an 80-page manual?” he asks rhetorically. “Gamification allows companies to recognize people and reward them for expanding their knowledge.”
When it comes to implementing gamification, Bess of HP believes the outsourcing industry “is just scratching the surface.”
One thing is clear: gamification is a game changer.