A game to be played at work: using gamification to engage your staff

One area gaining increasing interest this year when discussing ways to improve customer engagement is gamification. Google trend data shows that interest in the subject has jumped remarkably just this year.

Given ADMA’s recent content marketing survey showing the number one challenge facing marketers is finding content that genuinely engages their customers, maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. After all, gamification is all about using game mechanics to not only get peoples’ attention, but also keep them engaged with the business over time.

The business argument for pursuing innovative methods like gamification is clear enough. Most companies are finding that content that is received as genuinely valuable and drives stickiness to the business is usually time, resource and cost consuming.

But before making the investment in these opportunities, perhaps we should look inside the organisation first to determine how engaged the average employee is. After all, the team you have can be the greatest asset in improving customer service and generating ideas that help the business perform better.

Employees are just as disengaged

At the risk of making broad, sweeping statements, the majority of marketing efforts to internal audiences are lacking in insight, routine and, consequently are less than effective. How many companies can say that the investment they have made to-date in new technology platforms to engage people and share information within the organisation has delivered an adequate ROI?

Studies into employee engagement are not pretty. Gallup’s international research into organizations across many industries show that truly engaged staff make up on average only 33% of the company. This is closely echoed in an Australian and New Zealand survey by Right Management that again showed that seven out of 10 employees couldn’t really be classified as engaged.

Enter gamification. More specifically, the role for gamifying internal communications, learning programs and cross-company communities.

In an effort to leverage their own internal assets, companies are turning to game mechanics to get their staff motivated and contributing to the marketing efforts of the business.

Have a think about the areas within your business that can do with a change from top down communication where it is assumed that the people you are talking to are switched on and digesting what is being broadcast. To what extent do your employees actively consider the relevance of company communication to them personally in the roles they play? How much room is there for sharing information in a more fun, interactive and personally stimulating environment?

Lessons from customer gamification

The trap is that this can’t be simply a process of stitching some gamification software onto existing platforms and pushing some badges and leader boards at your team. What companies have found is that gamification will not succeed if it is poorly designed. In fact Gartner predicts that up to 70% of these initiatives will fail from poor design.

This is not a comment on the visual design of the program but on the means by which you have got people to play the game, so to speak. Does it motivate people at a personal level? Does it lead to a sense of personal progress in terms of learning and capability? Does it help them become more autonomous in the way they are working because they have new knowledge and confidence?

People, not puppets

Like all new initiatives, being caught up in the execution or pushing ahead for the sake of innovation is likely to end in disappointment.

As all marketers know, understanding your audience and ensuring you are talking to their heads and their hearts is key. In the work we have been doing with our clients we have spent considerable time researching and interviewing employees to not only understand them as a group but also individually. Invariably there are distinct personas with your organisation that need to be considered to ensure the design and content of the gamification work is effective.

This infographic may help to illustrate the importance of getting the balance right between extrinsic motivators, which may keep people interested for the short term, and the intrinsic motivators which are more likely to keep people engaged over time.

Forecasts are showing a continued rise in the use of gamification as an engagement tool appropriate for our over-communicated world. Perhaps if this were first applied internally, businesses would get a fast start to better engagement with their external audiences.

Peter Hosking
BY Peter Hosking ON 2 July 2013
Peter Hosking is Director of ghosydney.com.
gho works with organizations in retail, banking, education and the public sector. Increasingly gho is seeing more investment in new technology and creative communications to protect and grow quality people to, in turn, become strong advocates for their brands.