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Gamification must be specifically targeted to be effective

Gamification is about accomplishing one of three key factors, validation, completion or prizes.

Gamification is coming to the workplace in a big way, but if it isn't used properly it won't have the beneficial effect companies are looking for. The concept that game rules, strategies and principles can be applied to non-gaming situations in order to boost user engagement and interest is already taking hold in the business world in consumer-facing and internal ways.

Companies like Target are already making use of the concepts according to an interview Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel conducted with Adam Penenberg, journalism professor at New York University. The retail giant is using a gamification in it's checkout procedures. The terminals used by employees track the cashiers' speed at ringing up the people who come through their lines. Tellers must have more than 88 percent of their transactions make the speed cut, and things like promotion and salary decisions are made using the employee's scores.

The idea of turning regular work tasks into a game is the future of many jobs according to Penenberg and will likely become increasingly prevalent. 

"Gamification is about accomplishing one of three key factors: validation, completion or prizes."

But adding gamification doesn't mean turning everything into a game, and it certainly doesn't mean the addition of fun to a task, it's more about accomplishing one of three key factors: validation, completion or prizes. TechCrunch columnist and game designer Tadhg Kelly says that in order to be truly successful in any attempt to gamifiy a business practice, a company must accomplish at least one of those things.

The concept of validation in gamification best exemplified by a medium like Twitter. As a user tweets more, and specifically shares more interesting things, their follower count goes up. The more followers a person has, the more popular and validated they feel. That quest for more popularity, more respect and more validation drives engagement by the user. This style of gamification can be somewhat of a double-edged sword for a business however, as it almost always involves giving up control over what the content is. Users create content in a validation system, and that can be both good and bad for a company seeking to leverage the behavior, according to TechCrunch.

The best example of completion gamification is the LinkedIn interface. As a user adds more to their profile, a progress bar tracks their percentage complete. The process guides a person through the creation of their online resume and ensures that more users have a more complete profile. People on LinkedIn are engaged by a desire to finish their profile and will keep adding to it in an attempt to reach 100 percent complete, TechCrunch reported. Companies looking to use a completion-based gamification model have to be careful that the actions that bring the user closer to completion benefit the user in some way. Too often completion models involve accomplishing tasks which benefit only the creator of the game and do not have any value to the user.

This is the perhaps the easiest factor of gamification to understand. It is best exemplified by things like airline miles and lotteries. By participating in a specific way, users can get themselves a prize in the form of free flights, money or other valuable commodities. In this method people will continue to contribute to the system and play along because they are lured by the payoff that is the prize at the end. It is a very effective form of gamification but it can be dangerous if a company is not completely committed to it. Users who start a in a prize-giving process will be turned off if the prizes stop coming, so a company that wishes to leverage this type of system must be willing to continue to give out prizes as long as it exists, TechCrunch noted.

Gamification is a powerful tool that a business can leverage to create deep and lasting engagement both from its workforce and from its clients but it must take care to do it the right way. Games for the sake of games will not bring about the attachment that companies seek when applying these processes.

Corporate Learning & Performance

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