The latest gaming mechanics are those being applied to workplace environments across the globe. This process is commonly known as gamification.
Although gamification is a complex concept to define, it refers to the method of applying the mechanics of gaming to non-game activities such as those found in the workplace so as to alter employee behaviour and make the activities involved more fun and more engaging.
It is based on the “psychology of gaming” which has been developed from Maslow’s simple concept of the hierarchy of needs. This states that in order for humans to progress to a level of self-actualisation, they must first complete the five phases of the hierarchy at some point in time.
Above all, the basic physiological need of feeling safe, loved and belonging to a family or close knit group must be met. They are then able to build on their self confidence and self-esteem through achievements and accomplishments that gain them respect from others. From here they are able to reach the final stage, self-actualisation, whereby they go above and beyond the basic wants and needs of a human by practicing acceptance, problem solving, creativity, morality and lack of prejudice.
It is at these last two stages that gamification comes into play. As humans, we have an innate inclination to be involved in games and or activities that will engage our minds. We all like to be motivated, challenged to a certain extent and of course, be rewarded for our perseverance and achievements. The sense of satisfaction and respect that comes with accomplishing a task elicits dopamine, the feeling of pleasure, acting as a positive reinforcement stimulant and will evoke us to repeat the process.
Keeping this in mind, we are now able to understand how the gaming process can be so successful particularly in the workplace. It can virtually “be applied to almost anything to create fun, engaging experiences, converting users into players” (Rachel King, June 8th 2011).
CEO of Power2Motivate, Ben Thompson says, “Gamification can be used to accomplish a variety of business goals, drive participation, engagement, sharing of ideas and interaction within a team.” If you are able to apply the principles of gaming mechanics to a mundane task which must be completed in your office, you will be able to transform it into a fun and playful activity. This will encourage your employees to do things they otherwise might not want to do or even go “above and beyond” what is expected of them. (Carr, D. 2011, ‘Gamification: 75% Psychology, 25% Technology’, Information Week.)
The gaming process can drive virtually any kind of contribution including product training, customer service activity, on-time performance, learning, feedback, demonstrating knowledge and most importantly, creation of new and innovative ideas. Gartner believes that “50% of all innovative processes will be gamified by the year 2015.”
To create gamification strategies you must consider gaming mechanics & design, behavioural economics and loyalty programs. Effective gaming mechanics involve earning tangible objects, such as, badges, trophies, awards, vouchers or discounts. A system that can track and reward activity within the business must be implemented. A sense of competition for a position on for example a leader board must be created. Collaboration as part of a team must be encouraged. Finally, a strategy to spread the word about the game or competition must be fashioned, e.g. word of mouth. If you would like to, creating virtual identities for self expression can also be used.
In terms of behavioural economics, the gaming process must involve regular, short and long feedback methods so as to ensure the rewarded behaviour is not misinterpreted if pro-longed. Competitions must have a clear structure and rules which can be set up on walls around the office. Recognition should be performed in front of the team. There should be varying levels of difficulty adapted to the individual participating, making sure the challenge can be achievable. Problems that require strategies to solve and choices to make are also engaging.
Gamification must also be comprised of loyalty programs for example; frequent flyer programs will always encourage customers to purchase goods that will contribute to your point increases. Each time you earn more points your ego gets stroked creating positive reinforcement and the want to do the same again.
So as you can see, users can be customers as well as employees. Another example includes customers of coffee shops such as Starbucks. These customers are being encouraged to check- in at Starbucks stores on Facebook to increase publicity through rewards including badges and give a ways from different venues.
The Target retail sore introduced a gaming system into its checkout stations. “Cashiers were scored during the customer service and checkout process. Scores were based on transaction speed and accuracy over a certain number of transactions. A system of beeps and green lights were built into this system in order to create positive reinforcement, just like when reaching a new level or score in a game.” (Social Recruiting, February 27th 2012). The results from this gamification design showed increased cashier efficiency, lowered checkout times, and increased employee morale.