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Is Gaming Changing Our Workplaces?

February 3, 2014

By Cheryl Kuch SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Games are everywhere. Nearly everyone has gaming systems on their electronic devices—their smart phones, on the Internet. And now our work? Are we heading toward revamping recruiting, employee training, product testing and sales force management into a more game-like experience?

According to Markets and Markets, the gamification market is forecast to hit $5 billion annually by 2018.  Research by Gartner projects that 70% of 2,000 global organizations will depend on gamified applications for employee performance, health care, marketing and training this year, and half of corporate innovation will be gamified.   

It isn’t hard to find gaming already in some large companies.  For example, Target uses gaming technologies with cashiers to track their effectiveness.  If the cashier is scanning too slowly, a red light shines, and conversely, a green light shines when they are scanning at a correct pace.  At Canon, games are used with repair technicians that allow them to drag and drop parts into place on a virtual copier.  At Google, engineers have been able to spend an in-house currency called “goobles” on server time, which is often a scarce resource at Google, or use it to bet on certain outcomes as part of a company-wide predictions market. 

What is gamification? Gamification refers to transferring the features that players encounter in videogames–achievement levels, say, or a constantly running score, into a non-game setting. The growing popularity of gamification should be no surprise, given that much what many of us do in the workplace is technology-driven and measurable—features that pave the way for the use of gaming methods. From employee training and recruiting to product testing and sales force management, adding interactive components and enhancing work experiences to make them more fun and engaging is what gaming is all about.

Why are employers considering gamifying the workplace? Employers hope that if they can transform previously mundane tasks into something more fun and motivating, they could then reap the benefits of increased employee morale and productivity. 

Indeed, some companies have reported success including Target, which reports that its cashier efficiency and morale has gone up as a result of the institution of gaming. Citrix also reported a slight increase (4%) in employee bookings when gaming systems were instituted. However, the overall data on gamification’s effectiveness is not yet conclusive, even with the rapid growth of gamification companies and industry.  

If you are thinking of instituting gaming in your workplace, a few rules apply. Jason Costello, vice president of corporate strategy and marketing at Cornerstone OnDemand, shares a few rules for gamification in the workplace.  First, start with a good design.   The design should be solid and accepted by employees and provide adequate training.  Second, do not design a game for the sole purpose of trying to get more out of workers – it should enhance work and make it more fun, not just more productive.  And third, do not rely on monetary rewards in the game; that is not what you are paying your employees for. Rewarding the best “player” monetarily may alienate other employees and pit them against each other.  A better tactic would be to allow in-game “points” to be exchanged between players.

Games, part of tomorrows work culture.

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