Level Up! Gamification and HR

Gamification In The Workplace - Mitchell Denton

People love games and getting rewarded for their efforts, but it wasn’t until 2010 that this strategy gained a name – gamification. In recent years, the idea of gamification in the workplace, specifically within Human Resources, has gained a lot of traction, and that’s what we’ll be focusing on today. In this episode, we are joined by Mitchell Denton. Mitchell is an account manager at Archy Learning, and he is a content creator and producer for Gamify. Here, he explains:

  • What gamification is, and why it's come into its own in recent years
  • How gamification fulfills fundamental human needs
  • How Gamified Learning and Gamified Operations can help businesses make work feel lighter; and
  • Why gamification shines brightest during hiring and onboarding!


If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


What is Gamification?

  • The basic principle of gamification is the application of game mechanics and elements to non-game activities in order to improve engagement.
  • Gamification has made its way into numerous industries, including marketing, business, health & fitness,and more.
  • Gamify’s definition of gamification can be found here.

Mixing Games With Business Is Nothing New

  • The term “gamification” has been circulating for the last decade or so, but the concept itself has been around for as long as there has been a group of people where something needs to get done. 
  • The goal of gamification is to make what otherwise might be tedious work into a fun and engaging experience. 
  • Gamification has really been able to come into its own in recent years with the advancements and growth in popularity in mobile gaming and gaming in general, as people have become more open to game mechanics in other aspects of their lives. 

A “Spoonful of Sugar” Or Boost To Achievement?

  • The process of gamification can often be seen in two different ways: A “nice” message (“spoonful of sugar”) to encourage productivity or as a true asset to success.
    • For short term projects, even the “spoonful of sugar” view can be all that is needed to boost success.
  • The true purpose of gamification is to motivate users to complete an action, meaning it really must be a framework that assists users in achieving certain outcomes long-term.

Gamification In The Workplace

  • Depending on the industry, gamification can take on different forms, but the core principles remain the same. You must:
    • Meet the requirements of human motivation through the familiarity of game mechanics; and 
    • The experience must be attractive enough to make people want to participate and find success. 
      • The incentivizing rewards and a system to track participants’ progress throughout the process are the keys to creating that exciting experience
      • Users tend to be much more involved when they can understand and visualize where they are and where they want to be, and gamification helps with that.

Why Does It Work?

  • What it boils down to is that people have fundamental needs and desires for reward, achievement, social recognition, etc. and these needs can be met with game elements such as points, badges, levels, and leaderboards.
  • The team at Gamify support the ideas of psychologist Martin Seligman and The PERMA Model (AKA The Happiness Model).
    • PERMA stands for Positive, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments. 
    • Gamify looks to hit every one of these aspects when helping businesses implement gamification in the workplace. 

Business Gamification

  • Business gamification consists of two main sub-categories:
    • Gamified Learning
      • This comes in the form of things like onboarding new employees, training programs, and updating employees on new business practices.
      • Interactive tutorials, courses, and games can all be utilized for these processes to improve the experience and incentivize employees to really learn the material required. 
    • Gamified Operations
      • This is the use of games within teams to help make work feel lighter and to provide immediate feedback systems and encourage more out of employees. 

The Benefits of Integrating Gamification In The Workplace

  • One of the biggest benefits of implementing gamification in the workplace is its ability to bring about a “flow state.”
    • When people have clearly defined goals and objectives along with an ability to track that progress, all of the uncertainty and randomness is removed from the workplace. 
    • This results in employees needing less instruction and allows them to get “into the zone.”
  • The same principles can also be applied to making a game out of work in general.
    • For example: A sales team working to hit a daily goal for outreach can seem daunting, but when that goal is turned into a friendly competition amongst team members that features rewards and incentives, work becomes less stressful and more fun. 
      • This also adds a social component to the workplace and not only challenges employees to compete with each other, but also to compete with themselves to beat previous personal highs and records. 

Voluntary Vs. Mandatory Participation

  • Giving the people the option to buy into a gamified experience often yields much better results, but mandatory participation is not disqualified by this notion. 
  • While gamified systems in the workplace are meant to add a fun element to the workplace, they are ultimately designed to gain the best return on investment from employees. 
  • Even if employees are having to adopt a gamified system that they did not personally choose, it is still structured in a way to help them better track their work, increase their interaction with coworkers, and notify them of their standing in regard to their goals and targets.
  • Overall, gamification is not a distraction from the task at hand, it is rather a tool to help gain traction within that task. 
    • Gamification should never feel like an unnecessary tool added onto a given task. 
  • Gamification should be beneficial in all cases as it should be an enhancer to the workflow of the business. 

Making Hard Work Joyous

  • The quote “Gamification makes progressing through hard work joyous”  is found in part one of Mr. Denton’s article on “Gamification for Dummies.”
  • In the article, Mr. Denton references psychologist Brian Sutton-Smith who is quoted as saying “The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression.”
    • This is part of the reasoning why so many games are addictive, because they are able to produce that positive thinking through progression and incentivization. 
  • At heart, people love hard work. They enjoy the release of endorphins that come from achievement, knowing that they are succeeding and bettering themselves. 
  • We always find the first steps of a task the hardest because there are no often no motivators. This is why gamification in the workplace is essential for many people to achieve those goals. 

Gamification for Human Resources Departments

  • Gamification works best to enhance practices that are already in place. 
  • People are hesitant to adopt gamification in the workplace because they are worried that the systems that they are used to will be completely obsolete and that they will have to relearn how everything is done, which simply isn't true. 
  • Gamification should help to strengthen already in place office practices that may be treading water at the moment to bring about better results.
  • Whether it be an increase in engagement from employees, strengthening communication within/among teams, or a more interactive recruitment process, work is more joyous when everyone is on the same page and working together.
  • Gamified systems implemented within HR can help this sense of unity within the workplace to keep everyone on the same page and consistently on track. 

The Potential For Gamification In Mundane Tasks

  • Google recently gamified their expense report process -- which is an example of introducing gamification to reinvigorate otherwise “boring” tasks.
  • When there is an element of reward or incentivization, there is often no longer a need to chase down employees to get their completed work. Employees will want to complete that work in order to receive that reward. 
  • Gamification injects meaning into what would otherwise be passive work and turns it into an interactive experience that matters. 

The Role of Gamification Throughout The Employee Experience

  • Gamification shines brightest during the hiring and onboarding process.
  • Having a gamified hiring and training process in place can help new hires to better retain vital training with the use of visual media and interactive elements. 
  • Another thing that early-stage gamification can help with is the eradication of unconscious bias in the workplace. 
    • Adding an element of anonymously structured games amongst candidates can allow for an AI to score those candidates accurately and avoid any biases, and can be more substantial in predicting potential employee performance. 
    • This process can be embedded in the interview process which allows for a more well-rounded understanding of the candidates.

Should The Games Always Be Challenging?

  • There is a fine line to be walked in regard to the difficulty of the games implemented.
    • If the game is too easy, retention rates plummet. 
    • If a game is too challenging, retention will also plummet.
  • Gamification in the workplace is supposed to help facilitate growth and development, and if the bar is too high or too low, it can demotivate employees. 
  • The games should be just challenging enough that employees stress themselves to achieve their goals, but not so challenging that it negatively impacts their outlook on their work.

Essential Elements of Games

Intrinsic Vs. Extrinsic Motivators

  • An intrinsic motivator is a personal desire that drives someone to continue to explore and better themselves at a task.
    • Intrinsic motivation is often what gamification in the workplace seeks to tap into.
    • An intrinsic motivator is often seen as positive. 
  • An extrinsic motivator is any motivating factor that does not come from within the user, like rewards. 
    • These are usually tangible assets.

Game Mechanics

  • Game mechanics are the various actions, behaviors, and control mechanisms that are used to gamify and activity. These mechanics are what makes the gamification of tasks so addicting and fun. 
  • Mr. Denton explains ten prime examples of game mechanics in part two of his “Gamification for Dummies” article.
    • These ten examples are:
      • Meaning & Purpose
      • Leaderboards
      • Loss Aversion
      • Feedback
      • Points
      • Badges
      • Leveling Up
      • Goals
      • Social Network
      • Challenges
  • If there is no trace of any of these mechanics, there is no gamification.

Rewards

  • Rewards can make or break a system.
  • Rewards are viewed as a positive motivator that helps identify accomplishment, but too much of a good thing can be bad. 
    • This means that too much rewarding can diminish the effect those rewards have, and users could start to lose interest.
  • The gamification process becomes muddied and the intentions and success pathways for the people involved in the gamification process because much less evident when too many rewards are presented. 
  • The best way to avoid this is to keep the objectives and rewards simple.
  • The rewards also should match the action, meaning that the reward should meet the difficulty of the task. 

Possible Disadvantages of Gamification In The Workplace

  • Theoretically there are no disadvantages of gamification as a process, but implementation is everything. 
  • If the process is not implemented correctly by skipping over vital steps or ignoring specific cornerstone properties of a game, it can lead to negative reactions from employees.
  • A system that is far too complex can also cause problems.

Companies That Are Doing Gamification Right

Mitchell Denton Background

  • AA in Graphic Design from TAFE NSW
  • BA in Advertising from Macleay College
  • Diplomas in both Playwriting/Screenwriting and Creative Writing from the Sydney Writers Centre
  • Mr. Denton has a background in theatre and film, and has worked as a Music Catalog Consultant, Screenwriter & Director, Content Creator/Producer, Web Developer, and Script Reader/Editor.
  • Currently, Mr. Denton serves as a Content Creator/Strategist & Producer for Gamify. He also is an Account Manager at Archy Learning.

Archy Learning & Gamify

  • Archy learning is a gamified e-learning platform created for entrepreneurs, creatives, teachers, and more. 
    • This process is designed to help people build their own gamified online learning system.
  • Gamify is a gamification-focused marketing company that provides “snackable” games for marketing campaigns for brands. 
    • Gamify has also recently released a software subscription that provides marketing agencies to develop the tools to develop their own gamified campaigns.

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About the Author Jacqueline Gregory

As a creative, persuasive communications professional with extensive experience guiding projects from concept through completion Jacqui has produced custom communications for some of the world's best known brands. Producing ProjectHR has been one of her favorite ways to engage and delight HR and Labor Relations professionals!

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