Gamification – the winner’s strategy …or maybe not

The topic about training is very big these days. Next to the traditional training and learning methods most organizations use microlearning, learning through short experience, gamification etc.

On all the topics and methods there are many materials to help organizations make choice what to implement, and how to use it to boost results.

Gamification as a method and process is one of the very much discussed in the modern organizations.

As by definition Gamification is “The application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts”.

Some people swear that this is the method that will improve efficiency of the training process in their organizations. Some of the biggest companies in the world have introduced this method to try boost learning and increase results from the process and decrease costs of poor and ineffective training.

Gamification is a tool used in the agile methodology. It was pulled out from there to start living it’s own life. As other methods gamification has its own pros and cons.

Here I will share with you several of them, that, I hope, can help you decide whether this method can or can’t be used in your organization. The following pros and cons or pitfalls list come from my and colleagues of my experience in implementing gamification as a tool for learning and development.

Some of the benefits of this method are:

1. Overall increased employee and somehow customer experience – In 2 researches – one from Gallup and one conducted by the HBR – there are conclusions about the positive impact on employee engagement on customer experience. As stated in both researches the level of employee engagement relates directly to the customer experience for the company.

2. Motivated participation – There are different motivators, working for the different people.  The easiest step in the process is to start, but it is hard for most of the people, involved in this process of learning, to finish. Motivated perception means to ensure that people participate from the beginning to the end of the process, without any doubts.

3. Influenced behavior – A core benefit of the gamification process is that the process influence participants. To influence someone to participate means to encourage behavior of higher success in the process.

4. Loyalty driver – in late 20th century people have used an instrument called loyalty cards. These cards included information about points, earned from the employee during participation in different company events, rewards employee has earned etc. This whole information stayed as a leaderboard for each employee and has showed to others were this employee is in the company structure. The information written inside was assumed as sense of belonging. Implemented in the gamification methodology this extrapolates to the terms of belonging and status of the employee.

5. Service quality improvement – As stated broadly in 16 HBR and CIPD researches – motivated employees tend to deliver better service and results. Gamification of core processes can boost creation of accurate records of achievement and ensure lower mistakes rate.

6. Cost and time reduction – Gamification can be used as a tool to create more value for organizations. Reducing costs and time is easily measured through different activities for changing structure and brand awareness. People from inside and outside organization can be involved in solving complex problems and generate ideas on improvement. The collective work and the fun element are a prerequisite for lowering time and cost invested in a process and ensuring higher level results.

7. Profit driver – When all the benefits are in the game, this leads to natural increase in profitability. If you have a profit increase, based on the benefits of the gamification, then you need to consider how to implement this method as a strategic tool for business growth.

But, as other tools and methods Gamification has positives and constrains or pitfalls. These pitfalls are often minimized, in favor of the positives. But even though this I have seen several pitfalls. Here they are:

1.Used leaderboards are demotivating – If implemented for the whole team and placed to be seen from all employees’ leaderboards can point very hard on people who are not in the top three, five or ten of the list. Most people don’t want to be compared   with others, but with themselves in a previous period.

Friendly tip: To avoid the shame element you will need to think how to reward not only the winner in the list, but also other who are participating in your gamified process of development.

2. Points distribution – Well, the design of gamification is about building experience and letting users collect experience points. But the core element here is experience. The tool doesn’t have to be designed only about winning points. If so, this can turn the purpose from building experience, to collecting points. If the system turns in this direction it can easily lose his purpose and people can become a point collector with no meaningful developmental purpose of participation.

3. Superficiality – One of the strongest critics towards gamification is the superficial context it creates. The critics goes in line with the understandings that most exercises are cosmetic, don’t have deep purpose and results from them serve only statistics. This statement is especially strong in companies who couldn’t find the real motivators for people involved in the process of gamification.

4. Badges are deceptive – This pitfall comes from the understanding that badges are not promoting actual sense of achievement and real sense of joy or experience. People get badges as a sign of appreciation, but the meaning of the badge is easily   

Friendly tip: If you want to keep badges don’t focus on achievement points, but create badges representing level of effort and value proposition. Another approach can be to create badges with fun element.

5. Exploitation of people – In some cases, using gamification in the work and learning activities can be seen as exploitation. If setting goals between teams in one department or an organization, with specific point on speed you put people in a discomfort position where they have to go from what they know best and dive deep in new areas.

6. Cheating – People can cheat the system. When using gamification, you rely on people to report their results accurately. There are some digital solutions you can use to track people achievements, but you still rely on the person and it’s understanding of how to present results and achievements. The way you can manage the process of gamification and results reporting is by implementing audits procedures. That will involve more people in the process and will make it lumbering and slow.  

7. Manipulation of people to make them do things they don’t accept and like – Gamified processes or learning paths are created following specific model. This model may be flexible, but after all it is created to implement standardized way of how things are going to happen. If not individualized the approach is often not comfortable for part of the users.

Friendly tip: To avoid this pitfall you must think on implementing solid feedback giving process and communicate it widely, to ensure you will get enough information to improve on the pitfall of manipulation.

8. Campaigning your gamification process – If you don’t think in a long term and don’t build an upgrading strategy for the gamification process, you will have it as one-time event or campaign. That can make gamification look weak and pointless to the people. If you want to create meaningful and strategic gamification process you will have to think on several things:

– Experience you want to create

– How will success look like and how will you be able to measure it

– People feedback you want to hear at the end (What they have to say so that you can be sure tyou have succeeded)

– People’s level of engagement during the process

– How you can engage people participating in the process, to do more things they engage with naturally and encourage them to do this more often   

 IN CONCLUSION:

Gamification is a complex process of bringing new life to boring and old-fashioned training processes. If you want to successfully implement it in your organization you will need to consider on long term strategy goals, content, and most important – experience. Bringing positive experience in the process of gamification can help you to create long-lasting professional system that will add value to your organization.

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