How gamifying your business will lead to more productive staff

This article originally appeared on Yahoo! Business NZ. By Vera Alves.

Imagine if your employees put as much effort into their daily work tasks as they put into Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds or any of those strangely addictive online games?

Humans are competitive beings – it’s in our nature and it’s always been part of our survival instinct. Companies across the world have realised that employees perform better in a competitive environment and when work is treated more like play rather than a chore. Gamification – the phenomenon of using computer game elements in non-computer game life situations – is taking over the workplace and the results seem well worth a shot.

Adding rewards, bonus points and other game-type elements to business has proven to drive up employee engagement and even creativity. Rewards aren’t a novelty in business – just look in your wallet for how many rewards and loyalty cards you have and how many businesses you are accumulating points with. The true game changer, however, is happening inside organisations.

According to Stephen Knightly, director of Auckland-based InGame, gamification is a business trend on the rise in New Zealand. “Gamification is about using other forms of motivation besides financial remuneration and responsibilities,” he says. “When you think about corporate culture, our employees are often ‘playing games’, so to speak, anyway, with all sorts of interesting dynamics happening in the workplace, with teams competing against each other and all that. That turns work into something interesting,” he adds.

Knightly believes that the predicted global boom of gamification in businesses is a trend that will be experienced in New Zealand as well and he says that more and more companies will look at using different types of rewards to keep employees engaged and motivated. “There are a lot of applications for gamification – common ones are in terms of sales incentives. Instead of giving your salesteam a set of steak knives, recognition and reward points can be just as effective – and less expensive,” he says.

Not all fun and games

Adam Penenberg, author of the book Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking, predicted in an interview to Forbes last year that ‘one day many employees will perform their jobs wholly in simulations’.

The list is practically endless: Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Deloitte, Sun Microsystems, IBM, L’Oreal, Canon, Lexus, FedEx, UPS, Wells Fargo and countless others have embraced games to make workers more satisfied, better-trained and focused on their jobs, as well as to improve products and services. Google and Microsoft have created games to increase worker morale, quality control, and productivity he added in the interview.

According to Knightly, gamification is also being applied to staff training. Creating a game and some kind of competition around this ensures that staff are more motivated to revisit information. “Also, on the simulation/role playing side, people are using games to practise high risk or high value scenarios,” he adds.

“Good managers have always realised they need to find good ways to manage and engage with staff,” concludes Knightly, adding that gamification breaks down the silos in the corporate world.

He recommends using internal company intranets and community boards as vehicles to keep staff motivated through gamification, creating challenges and games to spark community conversations.

“Don’t be afraid to challenge employees. If it was easy, it’d be boring. Often, what passes for corporate communications is not very interactive. If people can skip past it because it doesn’t challenge them to interact, they won’t,” he adds.