And, no, I didn’t accidentally add an extra zero to that sales figure; it almost racked up a billion dollars of sales in one day. People love games. People love to compete. It’s in our genetic makeup.
If we could only take what makes games so popular and apply it to our businesses.
The Game is Afoot
Companies have long been using “games” to win customers and improve customer loyalty, and gamification for marketing purposes has been often covered. But today we’re talking about a different application. The idea we will discuss is applying the principles of games within an organization. Retail settings seem to be where the idea is getting the most attention right now. Walmart recently announced plans for a major gamification program to increase employee engagement.
Gamification combines employees and social media in a “game” environment to increase productivity, improve customer relations and boost knowledge, just to toss out a few applications we have seen so far. It uses two of the basic principles that make games such a popular activity for humans:
- Our desire to compete.
- Our desire to gain public recognition. (We won!)
Games are designed in which employees apply their knowledge and ideas to topics such as cutting costs or improving operations. They can be used as an adjunct to training. Questions can be posted in an employee-only social media forum. Employees give answers and then vote for the best answer and comment freely on the various responses. In a setting like this, the best answers would receive public recognition.
Commitment and Branding
One of the key principles that makes gamification successful is employee buy-in. For this reason, allowing comments and conducting surveys is very important. By building social media “games” around important company goals, management has the ability to encourage a much higher level of commitment from employees. Think of it as employee branding.
Instead of just drilling various customer relations policies into employees’ heads through mandatory meetings or reading required manuals, developing a “game” around the topics can be much more effective.
In an issue of “Incentive” magazine last year, Whitney Cook listed five benefits that social media based gamification can bring to the workplace. It can:
- Improve overall knowledge,
- Give employees an immediate measure of job performance,
- Boost staff achievement,
- Better engage everyone in the organization from top to bottom, and
- Encourage employee development and reinforce training.
The Video Game Generation
Businesses increasingly need to engage members of Generation Y to assure their success in coming years and this happens to be the first generation that has grown up with sophisticated social video games since their childhood. We’ve seen how gamification engages customers, it can do the same thing for employees.
While large companies like Walmart can hire firms to develop sophisticated games, smaller businesses may need to be more creative. A good place to start is by looking at various games and contests that businesses conduct on Facebook and finding ways to adapt them to engage your employees in a way that improves employee knowledge or performance. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing a game just for fun as well. It builds loyalty and enthusiasm.
Quizzes centered around company training materials could be posted online. Employees could be encouraged to draft a response to a difficult customer service situation. Employees would then “vote” on which response they feel is the best approach.
As this field develops, I’m sure we’ll learn about some very creative applications of gamification in the workplace. Why not be a pioneer?
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/85602616@N05/7851561168/ “V-10-1280” © 2012 ASLiberty, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
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