Gamification: A Generation Y Working Method

Written By: Paul Johnson

from July 9, 2013

It is possible you’ve not heard much (if anything) about gamification.  That is likely to change. As it relates to organizational management, you are likely to hear much more about gamification in the near future.

The demographics of our global workforce are changing. Baby-boomers are retiring and the Millenials, also known as Gen Y, are entering the workforce with a significantly different set of expectations than those which were held by Gen X’ers.

Born between 1978 and 1994 and expected to comprise nearly 75% of the workforce by 2025, Gen Y individuals have grown up with video games and an increased expectation of immediate feedback and gratification. Combine this with a desire to remain increasingly connected through technology and social networking – it’s the foundation of the gamification construct.

Gamification by Definition

Gamification is a concept which takes advantage of people’s innate desire for competition, achievement, and status by incorporating the mechanics of a game into what would historically be considered a non-game setting. Blurring the line between “work” and “leisure,” gamification in the context of the workplace focuses on employee engagement, learning, and performance while providing the employee with an enjoyable experience.

When involved in something that is enjoyable, it is possible for that person to become so immersed in the activity that nothing else seems to matter and “work” doesn’t feel like work. Providing the employee with this type of experience on an on-going basis is a vital component of the idea of gamification.

Just a Fad?

If reading this thinking gamification is just a fad – think again. In addition to the increasing number of Millenials in the workforce, organizations are adopting gamification concepts across many areas of their operations. Companies such as Delta Airlines, IBM, Coca-Cola, Nissan and others have adopted numerous components of gaming and incorporated these into various aspects of their business operations. Whether it is a front-line customer service representative or sales associate, or an individual working on the manufacturing floor or back office, organizations have taken heed to the information being provided by researchers regarding the trends of workforce dynamics.

The professional technology research firm Gartner has predicted that by 2014, 70% of global organizations will have at least one gamified application. Their research also predicted that by 2014 as many as 40% of Global 1000 organizations will utilize the gamification concept as their primary means of transforming business operations. These findings indicate a trend which will continue and organizations should embrace along with the changing demands of their workforce.

Adopting the Concept

Getting to what really matters – What can adoption of the concepts provide to your organization from an operational or financial perspective?

User adoption of new systems or processes improves when employees become more interactive and enjoy the tasks they are performing. Whether they are learning about new advancements in medical treatment protocols in a healthcare setting or earning points through completing sales process training, the more employees enjoy the “game” they are playing, the more likely they are to adopt the changes.

Employee satisfaction is a key component of an organization’s success. While compensation still plays a significant role in some employees’ satisfaction, the changing workforce demographics have provided for changing views around employee satisfaction. While compensation will always be a component in some workers’ satisfaction equation, increasingly, it is less about the compensation and proverbial carrot or stick. Now, a vital aspect of employee job satisfaction includes such things as the ability to work remotely, maintain a flexible work schedule, experience a fun work atmosphere, and receive performance recognition.

Gamification supports these changing views by allowing organizations to provide games for their employees regardless of where they are physically located. Furthermore, a properly designed game will create a challenging yet fun atmosphere where performance is recognized based on performance and achievement of set objectives.

Research has found that happier employees often result in increased revenue for the organization. While a properly designed game will definitely provide a certain level of fun, another important item provided to the participant is immediate feedback regarding their performance.

While standard biannual or annual reviews will continue to have their place, immediate feedback regarding an employee’s performance will prove to be very valuable. Addressing employee performance periodically sometimes prevents the employee from making corrective actions to their behavior in a timely manner. Games in the workplace can address this by providing for immediate feedback to the employee regarding their achievements and performance towards a set goal or objective. Based on this feedback the employee and team can make the necessary changes to ensure they remain on course to achieve the stated objectives.

The common bond shared regarding the competitive strategy of the team or organization creates a catalyst for knowledge sharing and interaction. Whether the employees work remotely or are all located in the same office, effective game design encourages interaction among individuals and teams in order to achieve the objectives set. Increased interaction often fosters innovation as well as learning and development on the team.

Get in the Game

Gamification is a trend that will continue to become an increasingly important aspect of achieving organizational success by providing a fun experience for employee learning and motivation. Will your organization be in the game?

By Paul Johnson, Summit Group Software