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Internal Gamification: You May be Missing the Point

Internal Gamification: You May be Missing the Point

Katherine Heisler


By Katherine Heisler, Account Executive, Bunchball /@katheisler

I recently wrote a piece about gamifying the work place with a focus on Gen-Y. The response was…mixed. Most of the vitriol was not a surprise considering the hostile attitude some people hold towards Gen Y—perhaps that’s a post for another day. What did surprise me was the belief gamification is out to turn work into a casual game where everyone wins and gets hugs and raises by doing whatever they want on their own terms. Say what?

One commenter writes, “It’s a demand for a perfect play job created by a loving parent figure. The company has to be 'cool', whatever work exists has to be playing a game, and you don’t even have to play the game except when and if you feel like it. If you do play the game at all you are showered with exaggerated praise of your specialness, or as you put it, “feedback'."

If this is how people conceptualize an internal gamification program then we still have some work to do here.  

Here’s what this person, and I think those who share this sentiment, miss:

Internal Gamification: You May be Missing the PointAn effective internal gamification program promotes valuable work behaviors and is designed to solve specific problems that cost or make businesses money.

Every venture into an internal gamification program starts with the question, “What are the meaningful work related behaviors we need to drive in order to solve for business problem X?”  Once those key behaviors are identified, we can then create a program to make those key behaviors more transparent to employees and incorporate gamification elements like real time feedback, points, badges, leader boards, and competitions to positively reinforce and drive said behaviors on any platform.

I also read a lot of, “Well it’s work! You are rewarded at work with a JOB and that should be enough. These damn kids need everything to be fun!” This mentality makes me sigh.

To those people I ask, do you feel good when you see a bonus in your paycheck? Do you want to try a little harder when your boss gives you a high five for a job well done? Do you appreciate it when pizza is ordered for the team during a particularly trying week? Of course! Gamification is simply the digital translation of these real world motivation tactics. Plus, thanks to supporting analytics, it offers more quantifiable results than a pizza party.

Employees aren’t flinging birds in their CRMs and getting points for it. Employees do not interact with the program simply when they feel like it or get false, throwaway praise when they do. I agree with the aforementioned commenter that "fun" is not what work is about, nor is it an effective use of gamification. However, if you are a company leader doing nothing to engage your employees in a positive way, then you are contributing to the $300 billion lost annually in the US due to employee disengagement. Now who’s playing games?

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