This article was written by Peter Grant, CEO of CloudApps.
Gone are the days of passive employee engagement techniques, such as coffee room poster campaigns and intranet information sites. They are simply no longer able to hold the attention of employees long enough to make any impact other than to waste HR budgets. The posters have become wallpaper and digital tumbleweed blows through rarely visited or used sites.
This is symptomatic of industrial-age top-down, hierarchical and, often, siloed management approaches. They are failing to provide the structure or cohesion that allows organisations to gain the most from their employees and deliver corporate goals. In contrast, in new, vibrant `bottom up` digital-age `socially-connected` businesses, networking is both encouraged and enabled, and flexible, cross-departmental teamwork is the norm. These organisations are now consistently able to demonstrate business success and out-perform the old guard.
Ensuring effective and efficient teamwork in this new world relies on encouraging and enabling individuals to interact across departmental boundaries; to take ownership of corporate challenges and be recognised and rewarded for their innovation and behaviour. Making corporate goals and employee rewards transparent to the entire organisation breeds the levels of engagement and innovation that not only create opportunities, but also delivers the potential to bring fresh thinking to rapidly solve problems across the corporation and its supplier and customer base.
But the reality is what individuals expect from their organisations is shifting rapidly. The entrance of Generation Y into the workforce is fundamentally changing the way that organisations have to operate. Concepts of rights and responsibilities evolve as the once hard boundary between what was once considered work and leisure time blurs. Company technology infrastructures are having to adapt as employees want the same devices in the workplace as they have in their home - they want mobility and they want apps. This is the age of BYOD – bring your own device.
The good news is that using such pervasive technologies in a way that people appreciate, organisations can continually engage employees and at the same time create real and measurable behavioural change that, in turn, generates significant business value. The key to this is another concept that has migrated from the home into the workplace – gamification.
The most important question to address is how businesses can take advantage of gamification, what is arguably a dreadful buzzword but, in reality, a compelling tool that can help drive business performance by allowing and encouraging 'intrapreneurship' at all levels of the organisation.
Gamification is defined simply as the application of game theory concepts and techniques to non-game activities, or expressed another way, the art of bringing the same dynamics of collaborative problem-solving found in games to business applications.
This is important as gamification can be a key component in harnessing the natural competitiveness of human beings and the desire to be recognised to improve processes, enhance efficiency and deliver greater work satisfaction. The evidence is clear, people of all ages working collaboratively to solve challenges in a virtual world is something we demonstrably enjoy – last year we humans collectively played more than three billion hours of games every week.
Such is gamification’s effectiveness in enhancing the world of work that leading industry analyst, Gartner, has predicted that by 2014, more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organisations will have at least one 'gamified' application being used by employees. [Gamification at Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit, March 12-14, 2012 in Orlando, Florida]
This may involve deploying mechanisms such as challenges, rewards, levels and leader boards. By creating a game environment among employees, they have been shown to be more productive, more aligned with corporate goals and more creative. Driving innovation and intrapreneurship throughout the business using technology to deploy games mobile technology and apps allows these mechanics to be distributed to employees no matter where they are based or their manner of working.
Revolutionary though it may sound, elements of this brave new world already exist. Traditional sales leader boards and employee-of-the-month schemes, being but two examples that have been around in isolation for some time in an attempt to achieve the same outcomes, encourage individuals to embrace challenges and collaborate to drive specific goals, both personally and for the business.
One of our clients wanted to align employees to its sustainability goals, and ultimately the operating costs of its business. By engaging its 8,000 employees through the use of game mechanics it saw a nine per cent reduction in overall annual travel expense costs, which equates to £1.35m saved a year.
In addition to the bottom line savings, the business also saw a 27,000 hour efficiency gain driven by the employees finding an alternative to business travel. In total, this equated to a 10 percent reduction in the company’s annual carbon footprint, the target set by shareholders.
So, gamification allows organisations to drive constant improvement in performance through the application of intuitive, social and mobile applications that enable, enhance and measure the impact of employee behavioural change.
Combining game mechanics with technology advances and mobility allows businesses to align employees behind corporate goals, enable cross-departmental collaboration, promote competition, ensure compliance and allocate compensation.
Every department can benefit from the use of game mechanics: for example, by encouraging sales and call centre staff to return customer calls and solve issues faster through by gamifying the customer relationship management process.
As well as ensuring gamification is used to improve the quality and impact of employees’ worklives, HR departments too can use the same systems to ensure that HR personnel are rewarded and recognised for innovations, such as new training schemes developed or improved induction techniques leading to a faster time-to-productivity for new employees.