Gamification Basics

On July 26th, we held a webinar with Yaniv Corem, (mis)chief design officer at YCXD and Roni Floman, our VP marketing. You can access the replay here, the recap of the first part here, or read the webinar recap below. The comments below were made by Roni Floman.

Digital Motivation

I think that the question really is: How do you digitally motivate a faceless crowd of people and what is digital motivation.

What is the “faceless crowd”? Imagine that you are in charge of a hundred people that do loan processing. You have to make sure they know how to do their job well, you have to engage them, you have to communicate what’s important and what’s not. People need to think about pace and quality and use their judgement. They also need a great deal of motivation and engagement. Digital motivation is about powering all of that. If you can do this and harness intrinsic motivation to drive your employees, you will get better engagement and better performance.

Gamification and personalized goals

The next question is how you engage personally with each member of the “crowd”. The answer is Gamification. Gamification 1.0 was about people competing against each other. All of us know that there are the same ten people at the top, and that’s incredibly discouraging.

But what if you have a personalized target for each employee? Something that connects with their status, past performance? Then you’re helping them form intrinsic motivation. The employee knows that the goals are realistic goals and that she has this activity tracker for work that helps her focus on them. The bottom line is that you’re aligning goals and objectives by setting the targets, you’re connecting behaviours to targets and you are letting the employee experience the satisfaction of the job well done rather than the very short term victory of getting to the top of the leaderboard and then perhaps not being there a while later.

Work is changing

Gamification or GamEffective are not operating in a vacuum. Companies are looking at alignment and engagement, data about performance is becoming real-time and what could perhaps ten years ago be a once a week report about employee performance can now happen in real time. What’s interesting is the impact of goal setting on culture. If you set those fair goals that apply to each employee and you broadcast them across the organization, you’re starting to create transparency and culture change where everybody has goals and nothing is very subjective and I constantly see what my goals are and I reflect on my performance.

Trust is a must

I want to talk about the marshmallow test book by Walter Mischel. If you’re not familiar with the marshmallow test, the idea is that children were given the option of getting one marshmallow now, or sitting in a room alone with that same marshmallow and not eating it for 15-20 minutes, and then getting rewarded with two marshmallows. The experiment was held in Stanford, I think in the late 60’s, and later on they discovered that children that could delay gratification at the age of 4 had better SAT scores, better BMI and better emotional wellness.

However, certain groups of children did not wait and snatched the marshmallow right off in the first minute. Some of them came from homes with missing parents. Mischel said that when people have an experience with a promise maker that fails to keep his promise, they are less likely to wait for two marshmallows. There’s no good reason for anyone to forgo the “now” unless there is trust that the “later” will materialize.”

And I think that there is a rule here for gamification – Gamification needs trust & culture to work. If I have been setting goals for employees, they need to believe that that is fair, that that is correct, that that is objective. There is enormous transparency that comes out of gamification, because you know that not only you have goals, but other people have goals, and that has a lot of influence. If you do it right, there’s a very good outcome in terms of emotional wellbeing, but you must have the underlying trust, or that marshmallow will be snatched.

Beware the hidden costs of quantification

I recently read an article in the Atlantic, stating the fitness trackers make leisure more like work. If you count how many steps you have taken, you may enjoy step taking a little less. Self-measurement, self-reflection and setting of targets does work, you will take more steps. But the activity may be perceived as less enjoyable.

This means you need to gamify carefully and not kill people’s intrinsic joy or give them empty rules. And then again, focus on intrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation is wanting to do something well, and choosing your KPIs carefully.

Applying gamification properly

If you think about the classic approach to gamification or the old gamification, then you have a leaderboard of sales people. But what you’re really doing is making poor performers feel horrible and good performers feel great, and you leave your average performer somewhat not encouraged. If you look at gamification applied properly, the way that we think it should, then what you are trying to do is to have your average performer work like a top performer. You do this through e-learning, through coaching and through real-time feedback and self-reflection, and that’s where you get the real performance gains or the engagement gains in the company.

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