Gamification sounds like the latest fad, maybe even a lot of hype with not much substance behind it.

However, with the so called 'Facebook generation' joining the workforce, gamified processes could be an important element of reward and recognition initiatives in the office.

Consumerization

Most people are part of the consumerization of technology in one way or another, be it online gaming, managing the kids' iTunes account from the family computer, or keeping in touch with loved ones on Facebook. The workforce in general is becoming more engaged with IT.

Long gone are the days when people only use a computer at work. Staff often expect to be able to use the same technology at work as they do at home. Never has this been truer than for the current generation joining the workforce.

The so called 'Facebook generation' (also called Millennials or Gen Y) expect to be able to use social media at work; they expect software to look and work in a certain way, be consumable on a variety of devices, and they are completely turned off by the staid user interfaces of older business applications.

Only recently, Mark Hurd, President of Oracle stated at an industry conference that companies need to radically re-think the way they manage their workforce as they start recruiting the next generation of employees. We need to keep in mind that many of the business applications we use today were designed before the rise of social media and smart phones.

Productivity – Employee Engagement is Key

Getting the best out of staff, which tends to cover productivity, engagement, quality, and consistency of work, is key for organisations to prosper. It is no secret that motivated staff are more productive, provide a better service, and generally are happier at work.

However, the difference in productivity between those that are motivated or engaged, and those that are not, has been reported as high as 90%. While this seems a very high figure, even if its 50%, that is still a significant difference, and a potential opportunity to improve.

According to a 2012 Gartner survey only 29% of employees were engaged at work, with 52% identifying as unengaged and 19% as disengaged. The stakes are high, and gamification has the potential to improve employee engagement, thereby improving productivity.

Gamification for the Service Desk

Add to this equation the fact that many workers start their careers in a Service Desk, Customer Support Desk or Call Center environment makes these the ideal places to harness gamification techniques. Not only does the more modern style of working appeal to younger staff, but it also helps to keep staff motivated.

Gamification for the Service Desk integrates components often more typically seen in console gaming like leader boards, badges, challenges, quests and leveling. Service Desk agents can gain points and badges as they close incidents, meet customer SLAs, gain positive feedback, or complete projects.

Typically, systems are completely configurable allowing each organisation to incentivize staff as they see fit, celebrating both individual and team achievements.

Gamification can also be used more strategically, for example, to reduce calls to the Service Desk, you may wish to encourage customers to visit a knowledge base. This could be achieved by giving extra points for sharing useful information in knowledge base articles, and for explaining to customers how to log their call online using self-service.

How Gamification Helps

Gamification uses game theory to introduce a competitive element to work operations that use social capital, self-esteem and fun to appeal to the workforce. An important aspect of employee reward and recognition schemes is that they encourage and incentivize staff to work towards corporate goals.

Gamification is the ideal tool for this as it can be used to design collaborative or competitive games that maximize business outcomes, thereby recognizing everyone to some degree, rather than rewarding just a few top performers.

Employee performance feedback goes from being a top-down, periodic event – often once a year at an annual appraisal – to being social, peer-based and real-time.

The top business benefits of introducing gamified processes to employee reward and recognition concepts are:

Cost effective – points, leaderboards and recognition amongst peers cost a lot less than expensive incentives, and are more effective at increasing productivity.

Continual employee engagement – staff can compete within teams, against each other, or with themselves, aiming to beat their colleagues and peers. New games, goals, and quests can be devised to keep things interesting.

Improves knowledge – with clever design, gamification can encourage staff to read more, skill-up, help to train themselves and pass on knowledge to others. At a very basic level, processes for entry level staff can be scripted, making it quicker to get new staff up and running.

Business Goals – gamification can help ensure that everyone is working towards corporate goals. By engaging with their staff, organisations are far more likely to achieve their stated business goals.

Location Inclusive – employees can be based in any location and still take part, helping the team building process.

Motivating and Retaining Staff – improved recognition helps to motivate and retain staff as they feel more appreciated. Minimizing staff turnover improves knowledge retention, and in turn customer service.

In a business world where many organisations are looking to do more with less, staff productivity is crucial. Anything that increases motivation and reduces employee turnover will improve productivity, leading to the twin benefits of raising customer service and cutting the cost of recruitment.

While it may sound like the latest over hyped technology, time will show that gamification actually has a lot to offer.

  • Neil Penny is Product Director at Sunrise Software.