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Will Hutton

Will Hutton

Principal, Hertford College, Oxford University and chair of the Big Innovation Centre

Tuesday 29 Apr 2014
The Game is afoot!

The Game is afoot!

Why are generations X, Y, Z and beyond addicted to Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans and similar simplistic games?  Why do we pay money to accelerate through games? Most of us want to earn points, gain badges and move up levels. Most importantly, we like this to be visible to the people around us. The online and gaming industries make billions of pounds because we love to compete, achieve and enhance our status and public standing.

An interesting question is how can businesses harness these compulsions to drive efficiency, increase engagement and create customer interest.  “Gamification” is the key to unlocking these powerful human instincts and benefit from them in the workplace.

Many businesses use gaming techniques in their worlds already, some know it and other are doing it by accident (a survey by IBM for the Metro newspaper found that gamification in the workplace is experienced by 23% of people in Britain).  The sales chart on the wall, the abandoned call metric on a dashboard, etc.  However, most examples do not leverage the power of gamification fully.  To get the better results you need to think a bit deeper about psychology and how people behave in groups. Some things worth considering include

  • having targets at multiple levels,
  • having time bound breakpoints where you start the race over again,
  • measureing progress in virtual real-time,
  • making the progress of teams and individuals very visible
  • rewarding people based on their contribution, as well as their results.

At Ceridian we have used these methods with and without knowing it for a number for years.  Just last year, we employed gamification while migrating 2,000 customers to Real Time Information (RTI) over one weekend.  We used a horse race theme (the weekend coincided with the Grand National) and as colleagues converted customers their horse moved along the whiteboard, at each break there was a winner and we started again. That simple visualisation transformed the weekend, we beat the plan and everyone enjoyed the work.  You can apply the same methods day to day using existing metrics in a more visible and fun way to drive behaviours.  Have league tables, allow people to earn points, badges and move up levels and recognise people based on these measures.

There are pitfalls! Get gamificaiton wrong and people are driven to earn the points and win prizes so much so that they forget the business goal they are trying to address.  People will find loopholes and cherry pick easy activities to move through the game faster.  Because of this any attempt to gamify a process, like any incentive programme, internal or external must be well thought through.  Some questions we have found to prompt good discussion include

  • Is the need short or long term
  • do you need a ceiling on the rewards people can achieve
  • how is quality measured and maintained
  • is the process fair and equitable.

If implemented properly,  blurring the boundary between work and leisure can revolutionise the way you and your people work by bringing what inspires and drives them in their private lives into the workplace and fulfilling people’s basic need to achieve and be recognised.  Your people will become more engaged and involved in the work they do which is proven to lead to a more efficient and profitable business.