Can Gamification really turn traditional drudgery into productive engagement within the enterprise?
In a world where creative and innovative tasks are becoming an increasingly greater part of the world economy, it seems the archaic carrot and stick tools of motivation used throughout the Industrial Revolution are un-evolved tactics that fail to truly engage the modern day individual. Perhaps one of the biggest indicators of a lagging workforce culture can be seen in how the U.S. loses nearly $370 BILLION annually due to disengaged employees according to a Gallop Poll.
With such staggering disengagement and worker dissatisfaction, I can’t help but wonder… what if I could harness that zen-like focus I get when I’m fully immersed in a video game for twelve hours straight onto my real-life work instead?
Well, it turns out a hoard of start-ups and large corporations have also caught a whiff of what’s cooking and have started to build gamification applications and programs which have turned into a $100 million industry overnight that is expected to grow to $2.8 billion by 2016. Although there are many successful gamification examples that have cleverly incorporated game mechanics such as leaderboards, badges, and progress bars to provide real-time feedback and increased engagement, you have to wonder how in the world could you possibly make the most mundane tasks intrinsically motivating.
Despite the huge risk that 80% of current gamified processes may fail by 2014 due to employers simply replacing one extrinsic reward (money) for another (badges), there are actually quite a few enterprise gamification successes that have spawned from carefully applying game mechanics to fit the unique needs of each organization. As you’ll soon see, even the most mundane tasks can be successfully gamified to increase engagement. It’s time to take back that $370 billion and make a dent in our national deficit.
Enterprise Gamification Example #1: Salesforce with Nitro/Bunchball
If you have ever worked in any sales related role ranging from door to door soliciting or the dreaded cold call, you know firsthand how demotivating a multitude of rejections can be. Although thick skin and a narrowed focus on the prize can get you through the day, in the end it’s team competitions, leaderboards, and rewards that have typically had the most success in motivating sales forces.
While I’m not particularly excited about these extrinsic rewards and believe that there’s a lot more intrinsic tactics that we have not fully tapped into yet, I do agree that providing real-time feedback and visibility into tasks is a first step. Remember how in the Disney animation Monsters Inc., Sullivan and Randall had a competitive rivalry to be on the top of the leaderboard? It was apparent that the tracking and real-time feedback significantly affected the monsters’ behavior in speed and focus on the job.
Salesforce Motivation uses these same proven techniques to replace manual processes with a user-friendly sales application that displays a team leaderboard, a progress bar, and a featured challenge that can be customized. Team standings display which teams are leading in points and progress bar while the rewards tab offers either real life or virtual goods selected by employees. Moreover, Salesforce Chatter allows for teams to easily exchange info and keep each other updated in a collaborative manner. While many sales jobs have not typically screamed of intrinsic motivation, let’s face it, we all have to sell every day in some shape or form. Now with this tool, sales teams can get a steady diet of real-time feedback to keep them gunning on achieving their short and long-term sales goals.
Enterprise Gamification Example #2: Badgeville with Yammer
What do you get when you combine one of the largest gamification companies with one of the leading social media plug-ins? Yammerville… I made that up but in all seriousness, Badgeville has become a dominant force in enterprise gamification with over 150 major deployments with major companies such as Deloitte, Samsung, Dell, and my own company Accenture. Similar to Salesforce Motivation, Badgeville provides an out of the box SaaS service that has many customizable options for companies to configure any type of goal ranging from task related goals such as completing expense reports to learning goals such as leveling up a key industry skill. With the integration of Yammer, companies are able to leverage gamification and social reputation so that when badges are achieved from a goal, these achievements can be published through social media to provide visibility throughout the entire company.
While I personally have never cared too much for posting an accomplishment through social media, I have found myself twiddling on my own Accenture profile and seeing how I can complete certification trainings or volunteer events in order to get the added bonus of a virtual badge. Although badges run the risk of sapping intrinsic motivation and creating gaming/manipulation of the system behavior, I have found that these badges can actually enhance intrinsic motivation, serve as a pseudo resume, and expose me to other skills/interests that I already have a liking towards.
When extrinsic rewards such as badges are paired carefully with a goal that you already have intrinsic motivation for, the effect can be positive. If extrinsic rewards such as prizes or money are large enough that they supersede intrinsic motivation, then all the unintended behaviors I mentioned are likely to occur and the benefits of gamification are lost. Because of this fine line and need for customization, Badgeville has created a gamification framework that can apply to a myriad of companies. Whether this is just a scheme to boost revenues or an effective methodology to improve productivity in enterprise remains to be seen.
Enterprise Gamification Example #3 SAP Community Network
Professional communities are another growing area where gamification principles can serve to significantly motivate people to contribute to and boost knowledge/productivity exponentially. Just as Yelp rewards yelpers through a leveling system for contributing reviews, SCN, has been heavily applying game-mechanics since 2006 to provide users points by blogging, answering questions on forums, contributing to the wiki pages, or submitting whitepapers. The rewards/points are aggregated across the different areas and a lifetime leaderboard is visible to everyone to compete on social status.
In addition, there seems to be a lot of adoption and engagement by employees as these metrics are valued and often times actually counted as a KPI for employee performance reviews. Furthermore, SCN’s use of badges to indicate SAP employees, SCN mentors, and top contributors are often used as search criteria for other teams to staff their projects with experts in key subject areas.
As employees level up and earn points, they used to be able to trade these in for T-Shirts; however, it was later decided to donate points to charity instead which indicates that SAP was able to successfully engage the intrinsic motivations of accomplishments and social status. As users are providing actual value and risk their reputation if they sacrifice quality posts for points, cheating the system is rare. Overall this is a solid endeavor and again shows that simple game mechanics such as leaderboards, badges, and progress bars can be effective if aligned properly to an already existing intrinsic motivation.
Enterprise Gamification Example #4: Microsoft Communicate Hope
Armed with the knowledge that offering extrinsic rewards could derail the successful launch of a productivity game, Microsoft’s Director of Test and creator of Communicate Hope, Ross Smith, was one of the first to create a successful game involving no extrinsic rewards. As many of us know in the Tech Industry, the Testing phase of a product is a huge endeavor and often the phase that many of us dread due to sheer boredom. Knowing that quality user feedback and bug identification are the key metrics of a successful testing phase, Microsoft sought to increase these behaviors by creating a program that tied leaderboards to charities. With Microsoft’s contributions tied to game results, surprisingly, “gamers” were able to increase user feedback and bug identification by 16 times more than “non-gamers.”
One of the key qualms about gamification in the workplace lies in the fear of creating gimmicky games that end up cluttering employees rather than engaging them. Knowing that creating a game that people actually care about is paramount to invoke participation, Microsoft actually did quite a bit of research before implementing their program. Again, good game design that focuses on being inclusive of many players as well as tying a task to a cause that has meaning are key ingredients to a good batch of gamification.
Enterprise Gamification Example #5: Project Management: Props To You
Also in search for the perfect batch of gamification, the makers of Props To You went to great lengths to apply many of the salient points of Daniel Pink’s book Drive to create a project management app that avoids many of the pitfalls of carrot/stick motivators. Project Management has been one of those areas in the enterprise arena that could most benefit from gamification as many project management applications have typically treated people as “resources” to check off an endless list of tasks. Having worked in a large scale systems integration project myself with a massive Microsoft Project To-Do list, I can personally attest to the feeling of completing a major task and then instantly being assigned ten more tasks without as much as a thank you.
Instead of going the overly simplistic route of creating another gamification app with leaderboards, progress bars, and badges, Props To You attempts to avoid the danger of gaming the system by awarding “now that” awards and personal best statistics. The application keeps track of each week’s list of tasks and assigns skill points for tasks completed. Furthermore, over time, the application keeps track of trends and rewards certain behaviors with badges. By creating badges that are not as easily attainable, employees are much less likely to attempt to game the system and focus more on the intrinsic motivators of mastery. Given that the majority of enterprise gamification apps focus on leaderboards and badges, it will be interesting to see how effective Props To You will be in humanizing typical project management tasks.
Enterprise Gamification Example #6: Siemens Plantville
Often times in the gaming community, many of us can attest to talking to many people that do not want to be associated with the word “gamer.” In actuality, I believe everybody has a gamer lying dormant inside of them that is itching to realize engagement through play. Instead of associating a “gamer” as productive, engaged, motivated, and goal-oriented, society tends to associate a “gamer” as unproductive, geeky, lazy, violent, and escapist. If you view gamification as a tool like anything else, then yes, abusing a great tool can and has lead to all of the negative associations just mentioned.
Capitalizing on this perception, Zynga was able to erupt into a billion-dollar company overnight by applying text-book game mechanics to social-media games that appealed to the masses of people that did not necessarily consider themselves a gamer. Perhaps riding the meteoric success of games such as FarmVille and CityVille, Siemens thought of the idea of harnessing this wave to build a similar game where people enjoy the same features of Zynga’s games while learning manufacturing concepts. When players first join the service through a Facebook registration process, they immediately have access to three aspects of PlantVille: the PlantVille game where users manage a bottling, vitamin, or manufacturing plant; the PlantVille Café where Siemens can engage with players to learn new manufacturing solutions; and the PlantVille Puzzler where users can test their knowledge through quizzes.
Similar to the addicting elements of FarmVille, players in PlantVille try their hand at being a plant manager who must make key decisions on a variety of issues ranging from energy efficiency, personnel management, and investments in new technology. Thus far, nearly 20,000 players have tried their hand at this game with positive feedback. CEO of Siemens Industry, Daryl Dulaney, imagines that the game will appeal to high school and college students and hopes to not only market Siemen’s brand but to also educate students and professionals alike of key performance indicators of the manufacturing process.
Enterprise Gamification Example #7: SCM Global
Similar to PlantVille, SCM Global is another game that seeks to marry the joy of gaming with the goal of learning by allowing players to simulate the job of a supply chain analyst. On a map of the world powered by Google Maps, players can drag and drop factories, stores, and warehouses, and connect them through routes consisting of trains, trucks, planes, and ships. Through this game, players can get real-time displays of how individual facilities and vehicles are performing and re-route supply routes if key factories or modes of transportation are compromised from events such as strikes and natural disasters. Thus far, SCM Global has been adopted as a learning tool by universities such as Florida Institute of Technology and Institute Superieur de Gestion in conjunction with the best-selling supply chain textbook, Essentials of Supply Chain Management.
Now I know what you must be thinking… how many people actually take the CD from a book and install/play it for “supplemental” learning? While SCM Global does not scream of being a particularly exciting game at first glance, it does show that nearly every industry can be turned into a game to foster learning and more engagement. Similar to managing a city in SimCity, Supply Chain management can benefit from the same game mechanics to transform a job that typically relies on spreadsheets towards a job that has real-time feedback and visibility. It will be interesting to see if an Enterprise Resource Planning application can be developed to combine the simulated world of SCM Global with the social recognition of applications such as Badgeville.
Enterprise Gamification Example #8: Master Data Management
A tedious and often thankless task, yet extremely critical to a company’s long-term success lies in master data management. If a company such as Amazon labels their categories incorrectly and shows you movies when you search for books, they probably wouldn’t be the behemoth that they are now. In a world where mergers and acquisitions happen every day, large corporations frequently suffer from duplicated, inaccurate, and many times downright useless data from their acquisitions. With inaccurate data, these corporations are severely hampered to deliver to their customers as well as realize key strategic insights that come from clean inputs. While the overall purpose and importance of cleaning master data can’t be stressed enough, the actual task of doing this dirty work is quite frankly, extremely boring… In the past decade, the sheer amount of data in the world has made quantum leaps, and jobs that require mining, cleaning, and analyzing data are increasing rapidly.
With this in mind, a team dubbed Data Scrubbers came up with a gamified approach to this necessary job in the SAP Gamification Cup. As master data is in constant deterioration, data scrubbers would embark on “cleansing missions” where each player can gain points and level up depending on not only how much data they cleanse but also how complex the data is. Moreover, players can see a progress bar that gives them an indication of their daily progress. Although points and progress bars again seem very typical of enterprise gamification, you would be surprised how helpful just having a progress bar can be as cleansing master data can feel like a black-hole task that never ends. By creating visibility and competition if desired, both internal and external teams can contribute towards a necessary task that will significantly help the welfare and profitability of companies all over the world.
Enterprise Gamification Example #9: SAP Roadwarrior
Speaking of Master Data Management, SAP is one of the leading providers of Enterprise Resource Planning systems and frequently sells a variety of dynamically changing services such as business analytics, supply chain planning, quote to cash systems, and master data management. In such a rapidly evolving industry, SAP sales reps have to constantly be on top of the latest products and services in order to answer the deluge of customer inquiries. Although there are plenty of documents and materials for sales reps to personally study, we all know how regularly recommended studying gets pushed down to the bottom of our To-Do lists.
To motivate and engage Sales Reps to stay on top of the latest products and services, SAP implemented an application called Roadwarrior which is a sort of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” multiple choice game where Sales Reps simulate a “pre-call planning” session with a customer. As they answer questions correctly, Sales Reps are able to level up and gain badges. Similar to Salesforce Motivation, there is a leaderboard structured in a zero-sum game where players can challenge team-members to a quiz battle in order to unseat a top ranked leader. While players are probably not going to care about these leardboards as much as leaderboards from Salesforce Motivation due to the social status tied to actual sales numbers, it does offer a more engaging and playful medium to get Sales Reps up to speed on the latest offerings.
Enterprise Gamification Example #10: Morf Media
Next is…drum roll…Compliance Training! In all seriousness, if you can make compliance training even 5% more engaging through gamification, this should be more than enough evidence to make the case that almost any task in the world can be gamified. To save us all from the hours of drudgery skimming through Sexual Harassment and Anti-Bribery laws, a company I advised – Morf Media: has made it its mission to find the most boring topics in the world and re-present them in a shortened and more interactive game experience that actually allows people to have just enough attention span to grasp the key points.
Enterprise Gamification: Looking into the Future
As you can see, there are a variety of enterprise examples where gamification has and will have a significant impact on better engaging employees. While these examples offer a snippit of the importance of gamification in the corporate world, I do want to caveat and mention that that enterprise gamification still has a lot of research and implementation details to get it right. As we learned in Statistics, making a claim and providing a bunch of examples does not warrant causation.
With that in mind, I do believe that invigorating motivation in the modern day workforce and changing a culture based on carrots and sticks is the cure towards solving almost every single national problem. When we can empower each and every single individual to live in a results only world where work is uniquely suited towards each person’s intrinsic motivations, people will naturally seek out tasks that provide them autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Although gamification in enterprise has the potential to yield significant benefits, I must caution that it is really a tool that has to be wielded with great care and consideration for the unique variables of each company.
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