Gamification: New tool for motivating employees?

Rochelle Kopp

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Gamification: New tool for motivating employees?

Napoleon Bonaparte once said “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.”  Today, companies are hoping that employees will work long and hard to get “badges” and other electronic equivalents of that bit of ribbon.  The vehicle for doing this is called “gamification.”

It is said that there are four ingredients of motivation: having a clear goal or objective, knowing your progress toward that goal (your score), having control over the outcome, and getting rewarded for meeting your goal.  By that standard, video games have all four of those elements — the game gives you a clear goal, you know your score at all times, you control the actions you take to get to the goal, and when you succeed you are quickly rewarded, either with a sound or a picture of some sort.  Psychologists say that the combination of these elements is what makes video games so addictive, and indeed game designers are careful to plan their games so that the balance and timing of challenge and rewards holds the player’s interest and draws them in.

Seeing how video games capture the attention and motivate people to put forward great efforts, companies have wondered how they can bring some of that flavor into their work so that they can inspire harder work from their employees, especially the younger ones.  That idea has led to the concept of gamification, in which video game elements, such as game-like elements such as challenges, points, badges, leaderboards and levels, are adapted for use in the workplace.  Gamification is viewed as a way to inspire increased employee productivity, without having to spend a lot of money.

A company that wants to use gamification will sign up with one of the providers of the necessary software systems, such as Bunchball or Badgeville.  Then they will identify what employee behaviors they want to provide rewards for, and design a system for grating those rewards.

Examples of companies using gamification include Cisco enhancing a virtual global sales meeting, SAP improving its accounts payable function, and call center company LiveOps reducing call time and improving sales.  Companies have also used gamification to promote employee wellness, by designing games and rewards that promote healthy life habits.

For those in older generations, gamification may seem silly or shallow.  However, it appeals particularly to younger employees who have grown up using video games and are accustomed to game-like elements and enjoy the rapid feedback that games provide.  For businesses looking for ways to better engage their younger employees, gamification can be the ticket.


Japan Intercultural Consulting

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