Can Turning Work into Games Motivate Your Employees?

April 17th, 2014 | Resume | 2 Comments »

gamification employee productivity

The term “Gamification” has been gaining momentum in the IT industry over the past few years.  It’s not exactly a term that most businesses take seriously, mostly because work seems too far away from leisurely video games.

Gamification, simply put, is the incorporation of game mechanics and psychology into the everyday workplace, essentially making the day-to-day tasks more engaging.

According to a report by APQC, incorporating Gamification into the work environment can increase employee productivity.  It can even help during the hiring process.  But despite its known effects, is it worth the return on your investment?  And aren’t there other ways to motivate employees and increase their productivity?

Incentives vs. Achievements

All employees need a source of motivation.  What Gamification does is highlight the clear difference between incentive-based motivation and achievement-based motivation.

Money is a fantastic source of motivation.  While your employees are loyal and want to see your company succeed (otherwise you wouldn’t have hired them), they don’t always see the profits of the company directly.  This is why incentives and bonuses are so common in the business world.

While monetary incentives and stock options are proven to increase productivity, their effects are limited.  What employees need – what all humans need – is a sense achievement.

Do your employees feel like they are making a difference?

We are Hardwired to Achieve

By establishing Gamification in the workplace, you are offering a proper source of motivation that speaks to a person’s deep-rooted drive to achieve.  It’s a basic human need to feel like you are achieving something, anything.  Whether we are raking up points in Pac-man or hitting a certain number of lines of code a day, making those achievements are essential to our measure of satisfaction in what we are doing.

Gamification goes beyond physical rewards and promotes a mindset of constant achievement.  When the goals of your employees are small, numerous, and most importantly, measured, they will be more motivated to hit them.  Whether they are as large as completing a project or as trivial as sending an email to a client, the motivation is there to complete them.

And merely completing them is the reward.

Why Can Gamification Work?

On March 13th, at 1:37 in the morning, Ray Cox made gaming history. He became the first – and remains the only – gamer in history to reach 1,000,000 achievement points on his Xbox live account.  He is, by all definition of the word, a hardcore gamer.

A fine achievement, but not one you would see headlining a resume.

Cox describes his “hyper-gaming” as practically a career, which is not surprising considering the amount of time he has put into obtaining achievement points.  Whether or not you would hire him to work for your company, you cannot doubt his motivation to complete the challenging, and sometimes pointless, tasks within the games he plays.

Some of these achievements required Cox to complete unbelievably boring tasks that take hours to complete.  But the drive to complete the tasks were still there.  What’s more is that the games that Cox has played over the years are the very games that many employees across the world go home to play after work every day.

This is how many adults are spending their leisure time.  So, if they are motivated by games to achieve more during their leisure time, can’t employees be motivated to do the same during work hours.

Gamification at Your Office

Your employees don’t have to be hardcore gamers for Gamification to increase their productivity.  Merely having a recorded achievement system through Gamification will encourage productivity and decrease poor habits.

Imagine having achievements recorded for staying off the internet for a set amount of time, completing X amount of projects, or going a certain number of days without being absent or late.  You can turn virtually every aspect of your business into a system that rewards employees for hitting a goal, thus motivating them to achieve more.

The APQC report recommends the following ten pieces of advice when incorporating Gamification into your office environment.

1.  Choose the behaviors you want to encourage. Accenture found that game-based motivation inspired more microblogging, collaboration and document sharing.

2. Start slowly so that you can figure out what works and what doesn’t. Then you can expand efforts based upon proven practices.

3. Strategy comes first, and it should determine what technology you need. Don’t let tech drive the strategy.

4. Don’t overcomplicate the game; otherwise people will drop out. If you have to explain it in any kind of depth, it’s too complicated.

5. It’s a game so make it, you know…entertaining. Include game experience essentials such as a compelling narrative, strong aesthetics and fun. Be sure to incorporate different accomplishment levels, too.

6. Make sure that employees can always view real-time results, such as total points, badges earned, and levels achieved. Keep these results on display to help maintain engagement.

7. Make winning worthwhile by offering great prizes. Cool gadgets are always nice, but your employees might also appreciate attending a great professional conference in a warm climate.

8. Timing matters.  Don’t let the game drag on too long, otherwise the folks who trail behind will likely quit. Press reset periodically to recharge interest.

9. Does your strategy have any loopholes? If so, stamp them out. Make it possible for employees to manipulate the game by doing an end-around of desired outcomes.

10. If you want people to play and you want the game to drive productivity, the game must relate to your employees’ day-to-day work.

By Kevin Withers

[Photo Credit]

2 Responses to “Can Turning Work into Games Motivate Your Employees?”

  1. Ben Simonton says:

    Is gamification really a source of motivation? According to the over 30 years of research by Edward Deci, Richard Ryan and many other psychologists, what motivates us all is simultaneously having autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Games would seem to supply a great degree of autonomy so they would certainly motivate more game playing.

    That said, I would never choose gamification as a motivator. In my own career in management, I found it was relatively easy to supply employees with autonomy, competence, and relatedness (being able to collaborate with other people who have a strong desire to achieve excellence) and thus to achieve a highly motivated, highly committed, fully engaged workforce of Superstars who loved to come to work.

    Such a workforce can literally jump over tall buildings in a single bound, pure joy for management.

  2. Kevin Withers says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences as a manager who clearly cares for his employees. Motivation can be drawn from any number of sources, and multiple industries are just beginning to see the benefits of Gamification.

    In the end, everyone will choose what works best for their team.