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Can gamification solve enterprises' engagement problem?

Katherine Noyes | April 28, 2015
Big data and other new technologies are fueling the use of gaming principles in the workplace.

Aiming to increase engagement in its Community Network, meanwhile, SAP launched a new gamification module in 2013 that adds the ability to design missions that track activities it wants to encourage as well as assign badges and designate feature-topic experts in leaderboards. Among the results: a 400 percent increase in activity along with a 96 percent rise in community feedback.

At its heart, gamification is about tapping into users' deepest needs and finding the right incentives to motivate them to take the actions the company wants, whether it's selling more widgets or choosing a preferred supplier in their purchase decisions.

"We have transitioned from the agricultural age to the industrial age to the information age, and are now in the conceptual age," said Kumar. "We measure productivity not by the number of crops we produce or forms we fill out, but by the number of ideas we generate. For this, employees need to be engaged in the mission of the company."

There are four primary motivators driving most people, said Steve Sims, founder and chief design officer at Badgeville's Behavior Lab. Some, for example, are motivated mainly by a desire for success -- they're a competitive bunch, and leaderboards can work well to fuel their drive. Others are more motivated by a need for affiliation, however, while still others get the biggest boost from feeling smart. (Stack Overflow, a Q&A site for programmers, is a prime example of the power of expertise recognition as a motivator for some, he noted.) Then, too, there are those who seek out a sense of structure, or the alleviation of uncertainty -- even just visual bars indicating progress toward a goal can be helpful there, he said.

Of course, to be effective, the motivations put to work through gamification need to be intrinsically meaningful. Otherwise, they amount to what's commonly referred to as "chocolate-covered broccoli," or a simple sugar coating over what still remains inherently distasteful.

"I can't get you to do something you don't want to do, but if I can figure out something of interest to you and use that overlap, then we both benefit," Sims said. "That's the goal."

One of gamification's best uses in the enterprise may be simply getting people to use the software the company has invested in.

"There are many benefits of gamification for enterprise software, but if I had to pick one, it would be adoption and engagement with the software itself," Sims said.

Usage rates for enterprise software often aren't much better than 50 percent, he pointed out. By tapping into the right motivations, gamification could increase those numbers considerably.

It's important to understand that effective gamification is something of a moving target. Not only will the company's priorities likely change over time, but what motivates employees probably will, too. "You have to look at the numbers to see what people are doing and adjust the programs over time," Sims said.

 

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