Gamification Basics

In today’s business environment, managers are constantly pressured to produce results. There are usually measured through the lens of industry-specific key performance indicators (KPIs). Management by Objectives (MBO) and Corporate Performance Management (CPM) is set to align managers with business goals. Feedback is collected through scorecards and dashboards.

Peter Drucker’s famous statements – “you can only manage what you measure” and “what gets measured gets done”, requires managers to constantly evaluate their employees, with the knowledge that they themselves are also constantly appraised.

Sucessful companies are good at setting goals and finding ways to make them happen.

Managers and the entire executive team should be part of the system that helps each employee set a goal, fully engaging the workforce. Reaching goals makes employees feel a greater sense of mastery and commitment, leading to higher performance. Engaged employees stay longer – improving retention, and are better motivated.

However, in many cases the goals and targets set for a manager aren’t aligned well with those set out for lower level employees. This is where gamification comes in, as a complement to performance management systems.

Performance Management Systems Motivate Managers Well: Let’s look at the manager above. They have undergone a thorough process that set KPIs, targets, a scorecard and forms of recognition. The manager is also expected, in a non-explicit way (that’s why we call it hidden, since it isn’t measured) to compete with other managers. If the manager does well, the process will go from alignment of goals straight to the recognition of a well-done job.

Employees are Often Left with No Effective Performance Management. Yet, the same process and detailed encouragement to hit targets is, in most cases, completely absent from the lives of lower level employees, such as sales rep or customer service reps. They are measured, in comparison, in a blunt way: actual sales, call duration etc.

Enter Gamification: A properly designed gamification implementation can emulate, succesfully, a corporate performance management system, and align the employee well. Games that are well designed have rules that provide employees with a clear call to action. Achievements can be presented as metaphors, using engaging narratives (such as sports, TV shows or city buliding) to guide employees to higher achievements that will be presented on private and public scoreboards. This type of real-time feedback encourages, improves and most importantly leads to measurable accomplishments.

Clearly communicating aligned goals ensures that valuable time is not wasted on unrelated tasks. It is important for everyone at an organization to understand how their work supports the short and long-term goals of the company. When employees execute individual goals that are aligned with the overall organizational goals, they are effectively sharing the responsibility for reaching the same objectives. When goals are aligned and someone misses their goal—managers can identify it simply and step in with necessary coaching or additional resources to get the employee back on track more easily.

With gamification, the inherent workplace competition is transformed into gamified public rituals such as races and games, keeping competition under control and ensuring it stays friendly and productive. Success is instantaneously awarded recognition by peers and management through leader-boards and system-wide bulletins.

Gamification facilitates the trickling down of business agendas and goals to every employee in a non-intrusive fashion, making it part of the daily routine. Instead of trying to convey to your employees what the organization is striving for using antiquated techniques, you let the game guide them seamlessly towards personal achievements that contribute to the business and to their own success.

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