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Guest Post: Can You Use Gamification to Engage and Retain Hourly Workers? Learn From Applebee’s

Guest Post: Can You Use Gamification to Engage and Retain Hourly Workers? Learn From Applebee’s

Robin Jenkins


By Robin Jenkins, Marketing Manager, RMH Franchise Corporation

Hourly employees are notoriously difficult to engage and maintain –and perhaps no one knows that better than those of us in the restaurant/food service industry. I work for RMH Franchise Corporation, which operates more than 130 Applebee’s restaurants, and so I’m well aware that turnover rates for hourly employees in the restaurant industry can only be described as “crazy” or “insanely” high. Consider this: Turnover for hourly-employed bank tellers is labeled “high” when it reaches 30%, but the average turnover for hourly-employed restaurant workers logs in at 125%!

Fortunately, at RMH, we’ve discovered how to start turning statistics like those around – and the key to our approach is this: gamification.

On Thursday, July 10, I’ll be discussing lots of details about why we opted for gamification, how we implemented it and our results so far in a new webinar titled, See You Tomorrow: How Applebee's Restaurants are Retaining Hourly Workers and Driving Sales with Gamification, and I really hope you’ll attend.

After all, this webinar isn’t only relevant for the restaurant industry. Gamification solutions have proven successful for motivating employees in a wide range of business scenarios, so I know the information I’ll be presenting will be useful, particularly if:

  • You’re doubting the effectiveness of your current retention/engagement programs. About a year-and-a-half ago, we decided to take a long, hard look into Applebee’s employee retention programs. The system we had in place was more than ten years old, and even though we were pouring resources into it every month, our turnover rates remained sky high. We realized quite quickly that we needed to update our approach and do a better job of connecting with our hourly employees –most of whom (73%) are Millennials.
  • You’ve heard about gamification, but aren’t really sure how/if it applies to your workforce. When people first hear the word “gamification,” most assume it has something to do with playing video games. (I know I did!) But gamification isn’t about playing games. Gamification is about applying the same principles that have always inspired people – goals, status and rewards – to motivate people to accomplish high-value actions. Today’s leading companies, like Applebee’s, are using gamification to engage employees and make work more productive. They’re marrying big data analytics with research on universal human motivators, and they’re using that combination to generate real business value.
  • You’d like to hear about the nuts and bolts of implementing a gamification solution. RMH has made impressive strides with “Bee Block,” a gamified website for Applebee’s hourly employees. When logged in, employees can manage their profiles, review their own data and participate in contests –which are automated and broadcast in real-time via “Bee TVs” placed strategically throughout restaurant workstations. To get this new system up and running, we needed to identify what data we could pull from current systems vs. what we’d have to manually track (point of sale, Neighborhood University (our training program), employee behaviors, e.g.), and we had to get innovative and create a whole set of short-term and long-term goals to keep our employees motivated. I’ll go into much more detail about implementation steps during the webinar.
  • You’re curious about how employees react to gamification. Over the past year, we’ve learned that the top three things our hourly employees want are: 1) transparency; 2) feedback; and 3) recognition, and it has been extremely gratifying to hear how Bee Block is helping Applebee’s improve in all of those areas. Here’s what one employee told us: “I just wanted to say that I love the new Bee Block app. It’s really an incentive to do well and also to sell certain things!!! I feel like when I go to work now it’s exciting and we’re in a game and not only are we taking care of customers but we’re striving to push those things for extra points and it really makes it fun!! It just makes things more exciting!” Another wrote: “I’m really enjoying this new contest – great idea and a lot of fun! Thanks for your work in making this an enjoyable job.”
  • You want to hear about our results! By tapping into the motivations of our hourly workforce, Applebee’s has improved employee engagement, and early results show a whopping 20 percent reduction in turnover. I’ll dive into more results like these during the webinar, and I’ll also fill you in on our plans for Bee Block Phase II and Phase III. Bunchball’s gamification solution is scalable and responsive –and that’s essential because we want our system to always be exciting and adaptable to the wants and needs of employees and management.

Our success with gamification has convinced me that anything can be gamified –as long as you can break it down to a set of goals to be accomplished within a given timeframe. So, please join me on Thursday to learn more about how Applebee’s is using gamification...and why it can help you drive better performance where you work, too.

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