If you want to get two otherwise normal, friendly people to start hating each other with a passion of a hundred enraged honey badgers, make them look at Excel spreadsheets for hours at work.
If you want to make them befriend each other - make them kick each other's behinds in Tekken, in the newest installation of Pro Evolution Soccer, or in real life, in an amateur boxing tournament.
When it comes to modern-day team-building, much of the heavy lifting has to be done by tourist guides, carting instructors, and paintball course owners. The moments spent outside of work seem to be the only time when humanity and personality of team members can truly be brought to the fore.
But what if you can combine certain core elements of team building and insert them into the workplace itself?
This is one of the main ideas of introducing gamification to the workplace.
In this article, we’re going to explore the curious idea behind making work more game-like with the addition of checkpoints, rewards, point gathering, and other dopamine-rich niceties typically encountered in computer games - in the workplace. (Or, console games, no offence to PS and Xbox enthusiasts out there.)
Without further ado, here’s the deal.
‘Gamification’ is a cheeky made-up noun that describes the process of making some process in real life more game-like, typically for the purpose of increased motivation, productivity, or just plain fun.
In a 2019 survey, an overwhelming majority of poll-takers responded positively when asked if introducing gamification improves workplace productivity.
Usually, the target of a gamification effort is a task, or a series of tasks that’s boring, repetitive, unimaginative and otherwise mundane. The idea is that adding certain features typically found in gaming will make the tasks in question easier to grind through, and that the whole experience can be even somewhat fun.
The idea to ‘gamify’ certain aspects of life and work is not that new.
Language-learning apps have been using gamified designs for years. For example, Memrise, a receiver of ‘the app of the year award’ famously uses multiple choice answers to help its users learn new words.
For every successful guess, they earn points. The users compete with themselves, other users, and thanks to the game-life design of the app - you always have a rather clear idea of where you’re at with your language learning efforts. (Well, at least when it comes to vocabulary.)
Anway, gamification in the workplace is a broader, more complex concept. It can involve a wide range of game-like features and there are even entire workplace strategies that can be put in place by the company’s leadership.
In the section below, we’ll describe some of the areas of the workplace that can be improved by some degree of gamification.
While there is no limit or rules that prescribe distinctly what aspect of work can be gamified and what cannot, some areas are more easily enhanced with a game-like bend to them.
Anything involving computers, whether it’s for work itself (such as in graphic design), or your employees use them to delegate tasks, record various production variables - is fairly easy to gamify. (After all, computers are essential for gaming, too.)
Other team-building non-computer games can be gamified, as well.
You can take your employees for a paintball match or down to the shooting range where they can try out safety gear, learn how to handle weapons, and how to load natchez ammo in the chamber. After the instructor teaches them to shoot, you can set up a mini tournament to see who’s the most precise shooter, for example.
Here are some areas at work that can be improved by gamification.
Customer support - Here’s an idea. Each successfully resolved ticket without having to call in the artillery (the higher ups in the company) to help troubleshoot the client’s problem - you get a reward. You stack up enough of these ‘points’ and you get a couple of days off extra during the year.
Whether it’s days off, vouchers, or candy, rewarding your customer support representatives for excelling at their jobs is a worthwhile gamified approach to work.
Inventory management - Stacking boxes one on top of the other, making labels, filling out shipping info, printing, sticking labels, the list goes on…
Inventory management may as well be the most boring part of working at a company. As such, it is a perfect opportunity to reward the employees with enough patience and mental stamina to bring order where chaos rules.
Teamwork - Sharing valuable pieces of info on the job, while your company’s boss is going out of his way to attract a prospective client, is an important part of building a powerful business hub that can tackle any issue.
By putting in place smart gamified apps that help your employees delegate tasks, check off finished projects, and communicate at a distance in real time, you promote teamwork that can be a mighty tool for propelling your company to success.
One of the coolest things about gamification at work is that it’s not a simple ‘you do well at work, and there’ll be a couple of extra bucks in it for ya’ type of deal.
Since millennials have already infiltrated the workforce a long time ago, they know all there is to know about gaming and the dopamine rush of completing a level, beating a boss (a game boss, for the record), etc.
For this reason, gamifying a certain aspect of work is a complex task that means creating apps, making attractive visuals, selecting the game mechanics, and measuring the success of the gamification model itself.
Generally speaking, the goal of implementing a corporate-based gamification strategy is rather simple - enhance engagement, performance, and motivation of your employees.
Another benefit of using gamification in the workplace is the chance you get to evaluate your employee behaviour and performance, which is info you can use to fix other issues down the road in your company.
Below are five gamification strategies you can use to improve your business today.
Depending on the industry you’re in and what position you occupy, there’s always something to learn at work.
Whether it’s the new code of conduct for workers in the care industry, or a new set of rules to follow regarding the health and safety procedures, learning (especially with the help of computers) can be rather easily gamified.
Similarly to how language learning apps help you memorise words by showing you flash card-like boxes you can click on your screen, you can program any sort of course material. You can make it into a quiz-type of game, missing letters, memorization, you name it - there are plenty of game formats that you can use to make the employee training sessions fun for your workers.
Also, tracking their progress is considerably easier with a piece of software in place that lets you see how they’re progressing.
In the section below, you’ve seen an example of a player vs. AI, in a way.
Now, what about pitching a player vs. player sort of game at work, so you can discover who is the best at what they do.
Whether it’s player vs. player or team vs. team, figuring out what your workers and teams are capable of when put under a healthy amount of competitive pressure can give you valuable insight into determining what your team is made out of.
Also, gamified teamwork can help you determine what team members work well together. At the same time, maybe you discover that some other members of your team excel working alone and could be more suitable for a different position within the company.
Representing possibly the most notable Achilles’ heel of the younger generations, short attention spans in employees typically do not translate into a whole lot of work getting done.
In a way, playing video games and possibly eating a lot of sweets, has been playing a major role in everyone getting bored with everything pretty quickly that’s not flashy and instantly gratifying.
In this sense, using gamification to break down long and boring work tasks into more manageable chunks can help kick start that dopamine contingent reward system in our brains.
Completing a bunch of smaller tasks in rapid succession may seem more appetising to a young member of the workforce than sitting all day at the desk trying to slowly chip away at a behemoth of an Excel report.
All in all, whether we’re talking about completing a boring new fire & safety training program, or negotiating a major merger with a company in the same line of business as yours, gamifying your employees daily tasks can bring about many positive changes.
Being able to track their progress, break down otherwise long and arduous tasks into smaller, bite-sized chunks, and having fun gathering points, badges, and rewards, all translates well into a real-world workplace scenario.
If you can help your employees learn, grow, create strong interpersonal relationships, and create strong teams with the help of a gamified workload, you can rest assured that you will have a long-term game-based strategy to rely on.
Author bio: Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organisational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for Digital Adria.