Considering their long-standing ability to engage and motivate people, it is no wonder leading organizations are looking to games for increasing employee engagement, aligning employees with company goals, driving adoption of desirable behaviors and increasing the efficacy of corporate training programs.

Gamification has become a bit of a buzzword in the past few years and is used interchangeably with different meanings and derived perceptions, I'd like, in this piece, to lay the basics of what enterprise gamification really is and what it's actually good for.

What Is Gamification?

As Karl Kapp, professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University, puts it, "Gamification is using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems". Following this definition, the idea behind gamification in the workplace is not playing games at work  but taking useful elements from games to get desired results from your clients and employees.

How Does Gamification work?

Understanding what keeps us engaged in games is key for implementing game mechanics with your workforce. Gamification guru Yu-Kai Chu suggests 8 core drives leading human decisions and activities which games commonly tap into. These include the desires for accomplishment (e.g. winning coins or passing levels), social influence (e.g. brag buttons or foursquare badges), an epic sense of meaning (e.g. a compelling game narrative) and loss avoidance (i.e. the fear of losing your achieved game status).
By understanding these drives and using the relevant game mechanics to channel them, one can take mundane tasks, such as answering calls in a service center or learning about a new product line, and make them much more interesting, yielding better business results via a more engaged workforce.

Another important aspect of gamification is understanding your "player's" personas and building the game to cater for their personality, focusing on the drives that appeal to them. Leading gamification consultant Andrzej Marczewski describes 6 player personas, each one with a different set of motivations.

Player PersonasPlayers – Motivated mainly by rewards and the game itself and less by the goals behind it. They will try to pass levels and get more and more points.
Achievers – Want to be masters and leaders and are inspired by challenges as a means of self-improvement.
Socializers – They are in it for their friends. Their motivation in the game is to socialize and interact to feel part of a community.
Philanthropists – Their motivation is an altruistic sense of purpose. Their goal in the game is to be better to the company and their peers and they don’t expect any reward.
Free Spirits – Their source of motivation is the potential of being self-sufficient and the ability to explore and create.
Disruptors – These will look for ways of breaking the status quo and gaming the system. Their motivation is stirring things up and detracting other users

Enterprise Gamification in Practice

Let's look at a basic example of how a gamification platform can be used to tap human drives and improve performance in a call center.

During their work day agents are measured, among other things, on how fast they resolve customer issues. The speed of resolution is strongly effected by whether agents follows a certain process (e.g. asking specific questions, reading relevant customer info or recording details for future calls).

To motivate the agent to follow this process the gamification platform can distribute points or game coins for performing the desired activities e.g. whenever an agent fills out a call log properly. Once the agent gets a certain amount of points or coins, suggesting that he has understood and adopted the process, the platform can add a "Superstar" badge to his avatar or unlock new game prize. This will cater to his sense of accomplishment and will be relevant for both players and achievers personas.

A notification about the badge win can be added to his teams social feed, where his colleagues can see it and congratulate him. Also, his points can get him a spot at the top of a team leaderboard where employees who successfully adopt desired processes or habits are displayed – This caters to the desire for social influence.

Now, let's say we want the agent to also learn during the job about the product, so that he can be more proficient and answer customers faster. To do this, we occasionally quiz the agent on various aspects of the product with multiple choice questions. Wrong answers will result in a point/coin loss and right answers win points. This will cater to the agent's fear of scarcity and loss avoidance drive and will make sure he will take the questions seriously and will take the best efforts to answer correctly.

Though this example is focused on a specific use case for enterprise gamification, the idea behind it can be easily applied to other settings. Recent studies show that lack of engagement is one of the leading issues in today's workforce. Disengaged employees, i.e. employees who feel dissociated, unmotivated or disinterested in their work can be disastrous for a business. They are less productive, more prone to accidents, deliver poor quality outputs and create an acrimonious atmosphere in the office. This is exactly the type of issue where gamification shines.

Enterprise gamification is a great tool for aligning employees better with their goals. Keeping them motivated and increasing productivity. Hopefully, now that you're armed with a better understanding of it, you can decide whether it can be relevant for you.

To learn more about implementing game mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics in an enterprise setting, click here to watch this free webinar.