Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

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Implementing Gamification in your Workplace Part 2/4: How to Onboard & 7 Things to Avoid When Implementing Gamification at Work

This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen

Onboarding gamification

We recently asked you why you were part of the Octalysis Explorers Facebook group or joined the Kickstarter for Octalysis Prime. The largest segment of responses fell into this category:

“I want to implement gamification in my workplace.”

Maybe this is even a goal for you in 2017. This is part 2 of a 4-part series (here is Part 1: Getting Buy-in from your Boss).

Once you complete this article, move on to Part 3.

The following is my thought process and recommendations for a human-focused redesign.

Please note: I will reference the 8 Core Drives throughout this post: 

Who are you?

Whether you’re a leader, team manager, experience designer, product developer, or hustler might change to what extent your proposals and ability to onboard are successful. But don’t let your position in your organization hinder you. And don’t assume that if you’re the CEO everyone will immediately jump on the train.

If you’re a team manager, you might have already seen the article on Octalysis for Team Managers, or our post on motivating salespeople.

From here, instead of prescribing the details of how to proceed, I’ve made a list of actions and situations to avoid. Proceed with a balance of enthusiasm and strategy!

7 things to avoid when implementing gamification at work

  1. Starting without buy-in from your boss
  2. Forgetting about motivation (the core Drives)
  3. Not understanding player types
  4. Going too fast
  5. Embarking without allies
  6. Not being ready for different speed/adoption by players (super users, etc)
  7. Not being committed (when you start something, show up every day)

1. Starting without buy-in from your boss

If you’re an employee, your boss or manager will be a key ally, from motivation to operational requirements through to funding. Make sure he or she is on your side! (Here’s my previous article, Part 1: Getting Buy-in from your Boss).

The Strategy Dashboard can be a very valuable conversation starters. Tools like Sketch can help you create mockups once you reach that stage (and if you have a software-focused gamification design).

Also, if you haven’t, check out more about the Discovery phase, since implementation requires your organization already be aware of the power of gamification. And YOU are going to help them discover this exciting news (if you haven’t already).

2. Forgetting about motivation (the 8 Core Drives)

Gamification is so much more than badges, points, and leaderboards. You need to have a baseline understanding of all of the 8 Core Drives (even if you don’t always remember the numbers for them).

You can, however, use the Octalysis tool as consistent visual artifacts to give your design backbone.

If I was proposing 20% at my office, I might begin with the following exercise, envision a shared place to share projects with a community facilitator sharing news and giving feedback on interesting projects.

3. Not understanding player types

What are the people in your organization motivated by? Do these motivations vary from person to person? What about from season to season? Are certain times of the year more or less stressful?

These questions can help you understand how to design and implement your changes.

If you like, you can check your preparation by creating personas.

The workplace is also full of Anti Core Drives.

For several years, my brother Mark has contemplated leaving work as a risk manager and crude analyst for an energy commodities trading firm to follow his passion of creating and producing music. When asked why he won’t, he cites losing progress toward a prestigious and lucrative role as an energy commodities trader, among other things. His Desired Action (to live a life making music) is fueled by Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, but that Core Drive is first dampened and then repeatedly defeated by its Anti Core Drive. In this case, the Anti Core Drive is Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment.

Knowing these personal stories can help you adapt your design even after you’ve implemented (or learned from customer surveys or experiments with early designs).

4. Going too fast and flying blind

Make your onboarding actions easy and looped to give people confidence as they get into the system.

If you’re not using metrics to monitor early users, you’re flying blind. Define at least one primary metric and collect feedback, even if that feedback must by design be qualitative (hopefully you have some way of a quantitative feedback).

5. Embarking without allies

If I was implementing 20% Time at my organization and using a forum-based sharing and collaboration space, I would definitely give someone the role of Community Facilitator. This person will be involved in making sure everyone has a great time, stays motivated, and ultimately adds value to each others’ experience. (If your employees don’t add value during 20% Time, then your company won’t reach its Win States).

Remember, early adopters or users of your gamification implementation can help mobilize and help others. You probably already know who those people will be. Ally and align with them.

6. Not being ready for varying speeds

If you’re not ready for growth you might miss an opportunity to make your gamification implementation a great success.

Think: “This may not happen, but if it does we will do this and this and we’ll be ready for the growth.”

Once again, your allies can be called to your aid if your gamification implementation goes better than expected early on.

7. Not being committed

Remember why you wanted to do this and why your boss was bought in. Be consistent with what you say you will do and deliver.

As a reminder from Part 1, your boss could be interested in his own promotion or status (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession), or she could be a very curious person who is eager to experiment (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback AND Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity).

If you don’t know what your boss is motivated by, you need to do some detective work. If you have regular meetings with your boss, you can simply ask: “What’s most important to you in the next 6 months, 12 months, 18 months?” Or “What are you most concerned about in regard to the business in the next 12 months?” These are just starting points that could get a conversation going.

Get started with Onboarding

Avoid the above, good luck, and look forward to the next part of this series: Part 3/4 about preparing and managing your gamification implementation at work for the Scaffolding phase!

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2 responses to “Implementing Gamification in your Workplace Part 2/4: How to Onboard & 7 Things to Avoid When Implementing Gamification at Work”

  1. Just the term “gamification” can cause some friction. I’m thinking about how to use the techniques to drive longer and deeper engagement with content using intrinsic and generally white hat techniques.

    The challenge is that communicating what gamification authentically means takes some time and people come to it with preconceived notions.

    De we (as a community) have any really elegant boilerplate or drawer statements that consistently explain it?

    • I think this is an ongoing and evolving discussion. The way I think about it. I’m trying to aim toward a better life. There are some uncomfortable things I need to do at times, and understanding and tweaking my behavior can move me toward those higher aims.

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