Adi Ben-Nesher, an Organizational Development Consultant at Accenture, is a change management visionary with considerable experience in deploying gamification as part of the change management toolset . We met with him to discuss his views of gamification in transactional employment environments, adoption and change.
Gamification for the Transactional (and Transitional) Workforce
Q: Can you talk about the verticals in which you implement gamification?
A: Gamification is easier for workforces that are mostly transactional: sales, customer service, technology service desk or a field workforce. Some of them don’t even work for the company, they are what we call “the extended workforce” – contractors or managed services – so employment isn’t a necessity.
Actually, according to our research some of these jobs might even disappear in the next 4-5 years because the work will be done automatically by some type of machine or robot. Think about associated press, they have a robot that writes a lot of their articles, not by journalists. Think about bank tellers, what added value do they actually provide today to a customer coming in to the bank? If you just want to withdraw money or deposit, you can do it with a machine and most of the transaction is done electronically.
So, as the workforce changes, you need to shift people’s talents to different avenues. Once you’ve identified that, you need to make that shift very very quickly. Transformational journeys can’t take 3 years, they need to occur quickly. Gamification plays a critical part in how you do that transformation very quickly.
Gamification for Transformational Journeys
Q: How do you see gamification in the context of change management?
A: Gamification is not a new concept. I mean, as a term, it has been around for about five years. At Accenture, se’ve been doing change management for over 40 years. It’s always about changing, making something new or changing peoples’ behaviors or activities.
Actually you can say gamification is an old concept: brownie points, generals getting medals etc. Today, for the workforce, it is about giving challenges that you want to accomplish and then driving you through the journey to accomplish them, and breaking it in to very small chunks that are digestible. And giving you the right reward, which can be an actual reward or just recognition, for your achievement. So it’s not a new concept.
However, in the last five years technology allowed us to have more details of how you can actually operate at work and given us tools to track that and analyze it. At Accenture we use digital technology to accelerate that process, so we usually use the accelerator next to the thing we are trying to achieve. We have accelerated adoption, when we are trying to do adoption of behaviors, or systems, or processes. We have accelerated culture change, when we are trying to shift culture change, or when we are trying to merge two or three different cultures together in to one or creating a new one.
Sticks and Carrots?
Q: What’s your metaphor for gamification?
A: In performance management the metaphor is usually a carrot and a stick. So you have a carrot and that’s your reward, and you have the stick if you misbehave.
The truth is that there is no stick. You will not fire someone if they refuse to use software or applications if they do their job. You can’t use fear to create motivation either. You can’t force someone to do something, and you’re not going to get rid of someone just because they don’t want to comply with something.
This leaves us with the carrot. My objection is that the carrot is too healthy… It’s something for diet. It isn’t really motivating; a carrot gets you to only a certain level of performance. What you really need is a carrot cake, right?
Q: So the stick is this illusion of control over employees, control that doesn’t really exist.
Rules for Success in Enterprise Gamification
Q: What is special about enterprise gamification? Should it be long-term in its implementation?
A: I think that when gamification is not designed correctly, when you just deploy a system without doing the thinking behind it, or when it is looked at as just another tool without seeing how it links to other aspects of the workplace experience, there is a chance that it will fail.
I think that when you look at gamification, there’s a feeling that in consumer marketing it works, and in the enterprise it doesn’t. People seem to think that in the enterprise we don’t have gamification success stories, and I think there are a few reasons behind that.
- One is that many applications of gamification aren’t called gamification. We call it adoption, change journey but change management, but it is the same concept as gamification.
- Two, when you have an uplift of three percent in the KPIs relating to your consumer clients, it’s a great success. We’re talking millions of people and for a small investment you can a great change. In organizations, anything less than 75% engagement is considered a failure. If you didn’t capture 75% or 80% of your workforce, which covers the 15% of high performers and the 60% of the “frozen” (i.e. average performing) majority, you failed. You didn’t create a change. It didn’t stick.
This means there are more challenges to running gamification inside organizations. It requires more thinking and better design. This also means that the gamification campaign is longer running and you need agility to change it as you go. In marketing campaigns running on gamification, it’s usually a very short term plan which is very focused on a specific product or a specific brand or a specific loyalty trigger. And as soon as it’s done, you move on to the next thing.
In an organization you can’t afford that, you can’t run something and stop. Because of the inertia of the organization, projects must continue. That’s why enterprise gamification has to be something more sustainable, something which is more for the long term. You need something which can give you quick wins in the short term, show mid-term gains, and something that will put your organization in a better position in the long term.