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No Child's Play: Gamification in Corporate World Gets Serious

Gamification is proving to be an ideal tool for engaging, motivating, and training employees, and engaging customers. Increasing sophistication in game design has created a powerful means for driving desired change.
— By Esther Burt

Gamification may sound like child's play, but it is a serious organizational tool with expanding purposes. It is the application of game mechanics, behavioral elements and design techniques in a non-game setting, like the workplace. Gamification is a form of experiential learning because the tools require people to become active participants in their learning and development, helping them become more engaged, better problem-solvers, and creative thinkers.

Realizing the power of gamification to influence human behavior, companies are using it as a force for driving real and sustainable change in the workforce, and increasingly in the marketplace to strengthen the brand and attract customers. Gamification is a modern approach to the modern workforce and marketplace in which people must be highly engaged through innovation.

Dynamic Learning for a Dynamic Environment
Gamification is a perfect fit for the dynamic workplace, which is increasingly made up of people who must manage constant change, understand the value of networking, and are attuned to technology's ability to offer interesting opportunities.

Traditional training and development efforts, like workshops and printed manuals, are increasingly ineffective. Workshops can only be offered periodically, and people used to fast-paced learning are going to be mentally distracted. One-off training programs also lack dynamism, failing to reflect the real world of work which is complex, dynamic and managing new problems on a regular basis. Gamification overcomes these issues and helps organizations achieve strategic goals.

As organizations strive to create adaptable, agile workforces, they are using gamification as a change management tool. Gamification can be designed to drive new skill sets or new behaviors needed to meet strategic goals and objectives. Since it is interactive, it is high-impact training and development. The development tool can be custom designed from scratch to fit the organization's needs, though there are companies like Gameffective that have developed platforms that can be customized to meet specific workforce performance and/or learning needs.

As companies apply gamification to different aspects of talent management processes, from attracting qualified talent to developing new leaders, a variety of gaming options have appeared. The typical game for e-learning purposes has a story line that presents challenges relevant to the organization. They usually have leaderboards for presenting analytics and offer rewards, like badges or points. The sophisticated gamification enables users to interact with each other to problem-solve in a collaborative manner. Instant feedback, competitive play and levels are various common elements, but it also can include higher tech aspects like virtual reality videos, 3D virtual elements and social learning elements.

Gamification is also applicable to all types of organizations – businesses, nonprofits, higher education and government agencies.

Finally, gamification can serve different purposes internally and externally. Domino's Pizza added gaming to its app in which customers can earn points that are used toward free pizza. This promotes their brand and engages users.

Going Higher up the Levels
The psychology of gamification is that people have control, are motivated by the ability to earn recognition or rewards, and are put in a competitive position of trying to reach goals.

SAP created Roadwarrior, a gaming app that uses real-world data and situations to train sales representatives. The user can participate in a simulated meeting with potential customers or current clients. When the sales person correctly answers questions posed by those in the meeting, he or she earns badges, competes against other sales representatives, and pursues higher levels.

Cisco uses gamification in several areas, including in its social media training program. The program helps contractors and employees develop strong social media skill sets that benefit their work, and thus the company. Sales account managers learn to use Twitter for customer engagement. The human resources representatives use the gamification programs to learn how to effectively use LinkedIn for attracting and recruiting potential job candidates. Marketing personnel and product development staff members also develop social media skills. This particular program has three levels of certification – Specialist, Strategist and Master – and sub-specializations, such as social media for executive communication managers or internal partner teams. Each level has a set of courses that cover different topics. At the highest level, users develop a social media strategy or a case study demonstrating an integrated social media initiative. The players can form teams or an entire organization and complete challenges.

Deloitte has been using gamification for years for all types of employees. In fact, the company turned to gamification when it wanted more senior executive participation in and completion of a training program. Badgeville Technology, now owned by CallidusCloud, gamified the training program by adding things like status symbols and leaderboards. After gamification, participant time to complete the program was reduced by 50 percent.

Broad Applications
Gamification can be used to train waiters and waitresses, sales people, customer service representatives, product developers, executives, potential leaders, and all other types of employees. However, gamification value is also used to accomplish goals like engaging customers, improving employee participation in health and wellness programs, improving marketing efforts, personalizing mobile advertising, increasing employee feedback, onboarding, and strengthening the organization's values-based culture.

Examples are plentiful. SCM Globe offers a supply chain simulation tool with gamification elements for students. It uses realistic interactive simulations so students learn how real supply chains operate.

Microsoft uses gamification to change agent behaviors to increase sales and drive outcomes and innovation, improve agent satisfaction and retention, and develop an internal centralized communications method for measuring compliance.

Gameffective uses simulation customer interactions and enables agents to learn and then immediately apply the new knowledge by taking calls.

Google runs Code Jam, a global coding competition, to find top programming talent. Competitors work through a series of online algorithmic puzzles.

One of the keys to effective use of gamification is making sure it meets the organization's particular needs. Doing a needs analysis comes before gamification design and implementation. Is it for internal HR training, closing an employee group's skills gaps, developing a values-based culture or brand, driving sales, or increasing employee performance? Also important is developing methods for measurement.

Gamification appeals to employees across generations, teaches new business behaviors in an interesting way, and increases employee engagement or strengthens the brand in the marketplace. It is a strategy that can work for businesses of all sizes.