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Gamification: Bright, New Business Tool or Expensive Time Waster?

A new trend that’s captured the attention of business leaders is the use of gamification—applying game mechanics to non-game activities to shape and motivate behaviors by engaging participants—to help drive business results. Much is being written on the topic—its uses, its promise and its drawbacks. Proponents tout gamification as a refreshing new approach to sales, customer engagement, performance management and other processes. Critics label it “a modern-day form of manipulation.”

i4cp’s new white paper: Gamification for Performance: A Briefing for Business Leaders, available exclusively to i4cp members, helps business leaders cut through the noise to evaluate gamification as a potential business tool.

Gamification takes core elements of games and applies them to work and learning. Employees participate in a structured process designed to help them develop or refine skills or activities to optimize performance. They receive real-time feedback within the context of the game and earn recognition and rewards as they try to achieve specified goals.

If the elements of gamification (performance/skills, measurement, feedback, improvement and recognition) sound a lot like the components of performance management, you’re onto one of the leading uses of the approach. In addition, gamification lends itself to learning, leadership development, employee wellness initiatives, sales training, team building, innovation, HR processes (retention, engagement, recruitment), and other applications. In fact, many respected companies already are using gamification in various aspects of their work: Toyota, Ford, Cisco, Marriott, Adobe and the U.S. Army are a few examples.

i4cp’s Gamification for Performance points out a number of potential negatives raised by gamification naysayers. Poorly designed applications, significant expenses, lengthy design times, data-related issues and the risk of negative perceptions by employees are a few of the most-often-cited drawbacks.

Certainly, careful planning by qualified professionals is a crucial element in designing an effective gamification application. The white paper offers these additional critical success factors:

  • A commitment to quality that necessitates financial investments, along with the time and staff resources required for design and execution.
  • Acknowledgement that ongoing effort will be needed to ensure continued relevance and to monitor and adjust gamification applications.
  • Sufficient capabilities to capture, accurately interpret and apply gamification data.
  • Meaningful content development and valued rewards that help overcome concerns about superficiality.

Because the jury is still out on gamification and ROI results are sketchy, many companies remain cautious about testing the waters. Business leaders who want to take an informed approach to examining the potential for applying gamification in their companies will find i4cp’s Readiness Assessment Checklist—available in Gamification for Performance: A Briefing for Business Leaders—a helpful tool to guide their exploration

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.