Gamification of the Workplace
Gamification of the Workplace
The paper examines a new trend in workplace design called “gamification”. Gamification is defined as using concepts derived from video games and applying them in businesses to enhance motivation, raise productivity and lower turnover. The areas of effect discussed are motivation, cooperation, productivity and employee happiness. The text looks at which characteristics of video games make them so engaging and translates them into examples from the workplace. It presents real examples of companies that have implemented similar techniques.
Gamification in the Workplace: A New Way to Think About Work
American University in Bulgaria
The workforce of today is composed of young, talented and creative people, who despite their potential are less loyal and are always on the lookout for the job that better suits their qualification. As managers continue to search for ways to attract, motivate and keep them they ask themselves what makes this generation different from the previous. One of the things that separate us from other generations of workforce, video game addiction, has become increasingly relevant in the last decade. The college graduates that enter the labor market have played them since kids and consider them a hobby. The older generations learn about them as because of the app store which is a platform for easily accessible casual games. There is something in video games that makes people play them and create them and that something has made the video game industry the fastest growing entertainment industry today. With millions of people playing video games and investingmoney in their hobby, many companies implement video game concepts in an effort to make work more engaging, raise productivity and motivation and lower turnover.
The process is known as “gamification”. To understand why managers would look to video and computer games of all things to improve the work life of their employees we have to understand what makes a video game so appealing to the modern employee and what part of that appeal is relevant to their productivity and satisfaction on their job. We know that some games have bigger audiences than prime time television shows, which means that these people prefer to do something, to be involved, than just sitting there and taking it in. In his book The Game of Work: How to Enjoy Work As Much As Play (1984) Charles Conrad leans on the fact that people will often work harder or even pay money to improve their performance outside of work. He outlines five principles that would transfer part of this to the business environment and empower employees – better scorekeeping, clearly defined goals, frequent feedback, better scorekeeping and consistent coaching.
When the book was issued video games were not the object of the author’s discussion, however the concepts are present in today’s most popular video games. It is common have a score number in a corner of the screen showing how you are doing and every action you take changes that score. Taking this one step further is a ladder system that shows your score in comparison to other people’s score. With the popularity of video games today it is evident that people are respond very well to such a system. Through extension, if people are willing to devote so much time and energy into improving their game scores so they can climb the ladder and win intangible rewards, then, if they knew where they stood among their colleagues, they would be more motivated to do better. In her WSJ article Latest Game Theory: Mixing work and play (2011), Rachel Silverman gives a couple of examples of successful “gamification” of tasks. Live Ops Inc. runs a virtual call center. The company awards employees with virtual badges and points for keeping calls short and closing sales with leader boards that allow agents to compare their achievements. According to the vice president, since the system was implemented call time was reduced by 15% in some employees and sales have gone up by between 8% and 12%. I saw this in myself when I worked as a sales representative. When I joined the company it was evident who the top sales people were.
Everybody’s numbers were available every day for everyone to see. From the first day that I saw that I imagined my name on the firs position of the day end report on the cash register screen just like I did on my computer screen while playing a favorite game of mine. It helped. I was always eager to keep track of my sales and strive to improve and my boss nurtured that friendly competitive atmosphere in which I thrived. This helped me in the beginning a lot because I did not feel intimidated by the more experienced members’ numbers. One of the most popular types of games today is the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game (MMORPG). The model is basically putting millions of players from all over the world in one universe and to let them progress in this world by developing their skills and handling challenges alone or in teams of other players who have diverse skill sets for different situations. There are player rankings and guild rankings.
To climb up the ladder, players need to accomplish tasks or “quests” and apart from the regular points, they get badges, if they complete the quest not in an efficient or creative manner. As you play your character increases in strength by gaining levels. Each level requires more effort to achieve than the previous and the conditions that have to be met to advance are set in stone and they never change. You know ahead of time what you need in order to progress. Every task you’ve made has an effect on the completion and your progress is clearly visible. If we take this concept to the business world, we’d have a clear employee ranking system and a company ranking system. Each employee will aim for the top places on the scoreboard, but keeping in mind that success is only possible with cooperation.
This would motivate employees not only to do their best but also to be more accommodating to newcomers because they know that the better the people in your team/ department are doing, the better they would do. We do have a leveling system in the workplace – raises and promotions – but the conditions are not always as clear. If employees do not know what the requirements are and they have no guarantees that they would reach that threshold why should they work harder? Vendor invoice transactions are a tedious task, but now, with the new reward system, employees can earn points and raise their status among other SAP teams. At the end of the month, a dollar amount is awarded to a charity of the winning team’s choice. This is all done through an upgraded version of their clerk software. It adds extrinsic value to the work, makes employees contribute to a cause they can relate to. We play games because they are fun.
Play is not the opposite of work as entrepreneur Steve Keil tells us in his speech “A Manifesto for play”. It is also supported by Byron Reeves, a communications professor at Stanford University and author of the book Total Engagement (2009), who says that “The idea that work is work and play is play and never shall the two meet is melting quite a bit”. Games are fun which makes them engaging and we want our employees to be engaged in their work. One of the ways we can do that is by taking down factors that restrain and choke the individual. Once our goals are clearly defined and a scoring and reward system is set up as a frame, why do we need to keep restrictions in the workplace? Changes like making workday more flexible and eradicating fear by establishing an atmosphere of trust and cooperation instead of an authority.
Like the millions of gamers around the world we want our employees to feel good when they come to work because that is going to translate into better quality of work, customer service and engagement. In a MMO there is always a comfortable social network system. No matter what they are doing, a level 1 player can contact level 60 players and ask questions. There is a strong sense of community and presence, because it is easy to form contacts. When there is a task that requires 5, 10 or 20 people, the task is divided into smaller tasks and everyone’s progress in visible from start to finish. That accessibility and transparency is not always available in businesses but they would go a long way to improving communication. In his book, Byron Reeves takes this one step further saying that some people will soon do their jobs inside a game.
He draws a scenario where a woman would sit on her home computer and log on to a virtual world, in which she is represented by an avatar which she herself customized with badges and clothing, earned as rewards for completed tasks. Then she would take a look at her team’s progress by meeting their avatars. This is gamification in the modern business. When implementing the strategies from above, however there are a couple of things to be mindful of. First of all, managers have to make sure that the atmosphere of friendly competition does not go out of hand. With regard to the company’s mission statement, they have to recognize at what point employees stop working for the company and start working for themselves. The goals to reach thresholds have to be balanced.
A task is engaging when it is challenging, yet accomplishable with the skill set that the employee possesses. Some business may not be well suited for gamification concepts. The data on employees will make promotions and layoffs more fair and transparent but it may also undermine the importance of a manager. Certainly the concept of gamification is still young, the interest that companies show towards implementing them points to a new trend. In her article, Silverman quotes the tech industry research firm saying that “by 1214, some 70% of large companies will use the techniques for at least one business process”. What was until recent years though to be a massive waste of time now changes the way we think about our jobs.
Rachel Silverman (October 10, 2011) Latest Game Theory: Mixing Work and Play; Retrieved from online.wsj.com Charles Coonradt (September 1, 1984) How to Enjoy Work As Much As Play; Steve Keil (January 2011) “A Manifesto of Play”; Retrieved from tedxbg.com Byron Reeves (November 2, 2009) Total engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete
Subject: Video game,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 December 2016
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