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How to use gamification to engage employees

Rich Hein | June 7, 2013
More companies are adopting gamification to improve engagement with both employees and customers. Learn why gamification is an evolution in management practices, how to get started and where career opportunities lie.

What Gamification Isn't
"Gamification is a word that just throws a lot of people off. The thing you have to make clear to people is that it has nothing to do with games. Gamification is about driving business objectives and motivating people through data. It's not new but it has suddenly become more powerful because we have all this data available to us," says Paharia.

Gamification Penetration
"Gamification has been going on in the workplace for a long time. What's really changed in the last three years has been the new set of tools, technologies, design disciplines and frameworks that are allowing us to do gamification in the workplace in a more scalable and repeatable way. It's also about understanding the evolving science of human engagement and interaction in a way that produces better long-term results," says Zichermann.

3 Examples of Using Gamification to Engage Workers

One of the most classic examples of gamification is Target's approach. Being a cashier can be a disconnected job—the only time you may get feedback is when your drawer count is off, but what Target has done is engage employees by encouraging them to get in the flow when checking out customers by making it more game-like.

Target stores have implemented a little game cashiers play when checking people out. It shows the cashier in red and green based on whether the item that was just scanned was done so in the optimum time. Then they see their immediate score on screen and know how "in-time" they are with the ideal time.

This, according to Zichermann, illustrates a great point—that gamification isn't about turning everything into a game. It's about using the best ideas from games, like loyalty programs and behavioral economics, to drive the behavior that businesses are looking for in their employees.

"The bias that people have to win something is how achievement-oriented people tend to view the world," says Zichermann. People who are achievement-oriented want some sort of pay-off or prize, but people who aren't as achievement- or winning-oriented—which according to Zichermann, is the majority of people—are rewarded through a feeling that they control their own destiny.

Before, as a cashier, you didn't know how you were doing. You just checked people out and if you did something wrong, your boss would come and yell at you. "The idea here is to bring the feedback as close to the action as possible and make the feedback as constructive and positive as possible," says Zichermann.

Zichermann's group also worked with Omnicare, which is a more IT-centric organization that produces pharmacy management software —a kind of outsourced helpdesk for pharmacies.


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