Before delving into enterprise gamification, does "business enterprise" and "game" together sound like an oxymoron? You would be surprised to notice certain similarities between these two non-related terms.
A game can be thought to have certain attributes:
Goal: A player sets their eye on a target to achieve.
Rules: Structure and How-To's of a game.
Player(s): One/many who participates.
Outcome: Declared a winner if the goals are met, lose otherwise.
Feedback: Player is kept updated of the progress.
If you observe closely, business enterprises also have relevance to the following attributes:
Goal: A business enterprise has strategic objectives to accomplish.
Rules: Structure and policies that govern the organization.
Players: Employees who work for the organization.
Outcome: Declared a success if the objectives are met, fail otherwise.
Feedback: Applicable both at an employee and organizational level to gauge their progress.
While a game is played mainly as a pastime fun activity, gamification doesn't exactly signify playing games. It refers to the application of game design thinking in non-game contexts to engage users. In other words, we incite the user by turning a purposeful activity into an engaging one by delivering a game-like experience.
Before proceeding further, it is important to understand the distinction between these terminologies below:
Fun game: An actual game played for the purpose of pure fun or entertainment.
Serious game: An actual game played for a meaningful purpose apart from pure fun or entertainment.
Gamification: A non-game context is transformed into game-like experience leveraging attributes derived from game psychology.
Gaming is often associated with the spirit of one party winning and the other party losing. On the contrary, in the context of an enterprise, gamification can act as a catalyst that improves employee engagement, thereby resulting in a win-win situation for both employer and employee. A good gamification platform can help employers understand and influence the behavior of their employees to work towards accomplishing the desired outcome. In order to envision and design such a platform, it requires a comprehensive understanding of game thinking so that it can be leveraged to influence the behavior of an employee.
Have you ever felt like being completely immersed in an activity when you don't hear the loud utterances from your mom or spouse, the ringtone of the phone, the whir of a fan or air conditioner, or the noise of a ticking clock? This is what is termed as the optimal point of engagement called flow zone, as proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Make a note
Read more about the concept of flow (psychology) at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow.
Psychologically, it has been proven time and again that most humans experience the state of flow while playing games. A game designer always dreams of creating a game that fully exploits this flow phenomenon. The perfect setting for a flow is achieved only when the player is performing at their optimal skill level or ability. A game should be designed in such a fashion that the challenge matches the player's ability.
When the challenge level is too high considering the player's abilities, the player experiences too much anxiety or frustration and shies away. In contrast, when the challenge level is not on par with the player's abilities, the player tends to enter the boredom zone and shows huge signs of disengagement. An ideal game should ensure that the challenge matches the player's current ability for the player to enter into the flow zone and gradually groom them over time to gain mastery with practice. The player starts with a small challenge but eventually confronts huge challenges with an inherent desire to upgrade their abilities and become the master.
An employer can exploit game design principles in order to create that flow zone in the workplace and groom their employees to achieve high skill levels and attain highest efficiency levels. With well-defined goals and active feedback loops, an employee can enter into the flow zone whenever they are challenged with an opportunity that matches their inherent potential.
Enterprises have started leveraging this powerful concept of gamification in engaging their workforce, paving the way to a new buzzword called enterprise gamification. This refers to deploying gamification within an enterprise to engage and align with the workforce better. The employees are empowered to explore personal strengths, enhance competencies, establish social connections, and attain a sense of accomplishment. The employer, in turn, benefits from the improved productivity, improved service to the customer, and better employee retention. The employer is able to accomplish the desired outcome, keeping the employee engaged to a higher degree.
Approaches to gamification can be broadly bucketed in two major categories:
An organization can take up processes within an enterprise and induce game mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics into the process to make it more efficient and engaging for the users.
Microsoft used gamification on top of its bug testing engine to encourage non-QA staff to perform bug testing. The company used gamification for language translations in software localization efforts to publicize top contributors.
The impact has been stellar, with 4,500 participants reviewing 500,000 dialog boxes addressing 170 bugs. Particularly, Microsoft Japan took just a single day to weed out all localization errors.
Cognizant launched an internal platform called OneCognizant (1C) that facilitates business process orchestration through an internal app store with game mechanics and dynamics intertwined to engage its employees.
The impact has been overwhelming, with 10 million user hits, 100,000 likes, and 300 plus apps in the app store, enabling 102 business processes and five engagement channels contributing to a modest increase in employee satisfaction score with three key business processes doubling in user compliance.
An organization can launch a gamified initiative to engage and influence the user primarily with the objective of rendering the user more effective and efficient. Typically, this comprises of improving employee wellness and individual productivity.
NextJump, an offers and rewards company in New York, built its own internal health application that split the company into five teams and rewarded the winning teams for regularly exercising by depositing cash in each team member's health savings account.
The impact has been that 70 – 75% of NextJump's employees work out regularly. This saves the company millions of dollars in work attendance and insurance costs, and makes the workplace healthier and happier.
Keeping in view the resistance to change and to emphasize the importance of change in management, an initiative called tiny changes was floated in my organization. Employees can tweet about a tiny change that they have incorporated in their workplace or personal lives. Every week, a winner would be picked by the CIO.
The employees adopted this initiative big time and started incorporating slight changes in their routine that increased their wellness and created a congenial work environment. Sharing the tiny changes with the community encouraged others to adopt these changes. A few tiny changes incorporated by the associates that went viral are as follows:
I started using the staircase instead of the elevator and feel more brisk and refreshed.
I walk over to the desk of my teammates and help them troubleshoot. I derive more satisfaction.
I have started to volunteer for the CSR program and tutor underprivileged children over the weekends.
Enterprise gamification can benefit organizations in many ways, a significant few being:
Improve employee engagement
Increase employee productivity
Effective problem solving
Improve quality of service
Enhance synergy and collaboration
Increase speed to market
Better employee retention