As a matter of fact, the scope is quite broad. Although the concept and its business value have already been well-described and confirmed, I see that many organizational stakeholders are still not sure whether introducing gamification methods in internal initiatives is something the company really needs and would be well-received by its employees.
I’ll try to help you decide whether gamification is something relevant for a digital transformation project at your organization and what you should consider when introducing it for your employees. All conclusions are based on our Capgemini Digital Adoption team experience and research.
Gamification as a disruptive method when a company transforms – why it works
Every company must implement innovative solutions in order not to fall behind the competition. That seems to be cliché, but it is true. Gamification can be used as one such disruptive solution. The well-established change management ADKAR model consists of four phases: awareness, desire, knowledge ability, and reinforcement. Gamified elements are perfect when it comes to raising employee awareness of the changes, fueling their desire to be a part of it, and increasing their knowledge and skills. In short, they are a good way to ingrain changes in the organization. We tested this by delivering projects with different scopes and technologies, and for companies from different industries and with different organizational cultures. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to read the article on adopting digital solutions at Capgemini.
Gamification methods can be used in projects during which we want to strongly engage our employees and increase their experience, which is crucial especially during company digital transformation initiatives.
Gamification is a solution whose popularity is still emerging. More and more companies are discovering its value and applying it in different internal contexts. It helps to develop employees’ competencies, design new behaviors, and streamline them in a desired direction. If you want to learn more about the value of gamification and its applicability in the corporate environment, I recommend reading these Gartner articles: Gamification 2020: What Is the Future of Gamification? and Motivate and Engage Learners with Gamification.
Only a good beginning leads to a desired result – when and how gamification works
Gamification, just like many other disruptive initiatives can be misinterpreted, postponed, or stopped right in the middle. How can this happen? Let’s imagine that after the internal agreement (often after countless meetings), management finds a budget for the new initiative in, for example, the Digital Workplace unit. We see all heads nodding, “this is an innovation we do need to do.”
When we get into the details, stakeholders who weren’t included in the decision-making process from the very beginning might raise some concerns. I’ve heard these statements a few times:
“We don’t have many Millennials at our company, so it’s not relevant to our employees.”
“I want my employees to focus on their tasks, not on games.”
“We are currently going through big changes at our company, so it’s not good timing.”
“It just does not match our values; it doesn’t seem right.”
It can happen that these concerns completely stop long-awaited projects with innovative gamification elements
So, what should we do? What kind of questions should we address before we even hear such showstoppers?
My answer is that only carefully planned initial activities and properly chosen gamification mechanisms will lead to the desired results.
Below, I will present the subject of successful gamification implementation by dividing the topic into two main areas: organization context and gamification elements.
Clarify the main goals
Indicating the precise goals of the whole initiative is crucial. This may seem to be a truism, but the perspective can differ completely depending on the scale of the initiative. For example, gamification can be planned as a way to support trainings or as a part of a strategic program. No matter how we want to use it, we need to define the idea behind it and how our initiative is going to resonate with the goals of other initiatives. It is important to keep the goals in mind and to determine whether these goals can be met with gamification, since it is quite easy to miss an excellent technological opportunity instead of focusing on what is needed.
Ensure consistency with organizational culture
These large-scale changes (e.g. company transformations) that we want to make smoother for employees by using gamification may entail a profound organizational culture change and the success of these initiative greatly depends on a proper addressing culture aspect. This is frequently forgotten when everybody is busy focusing on different pieces within their area of interest instead of on the big picture.
It is important to remember that these are not just one company unit (e.g., IT department) changes or tool changes. Digital transformations are not just technical challenges but people’s related problems. Many of these changes need an organizational culture change as well. Employees’ overall attitude should be altered; different behaviors should be promoted while keeping what is both valuable and well-established in the organization. To manage that successfully, HR engagement is necessary. Who else is closer to employees? Who better understands workforce needs and attitudes? That’s why HR should be at the forefront of these changes and help define the processes and their alignment to organizational culture and company values. It can happen that planned transformation has a scale, making it much more impactful on organizational culture than was initially perceived. The earlier we engage different stakeholders, such as HR, the earlier we notice that. With this knowledge, we can better plan for our success when introducing gamification campaigns or innovative tools in general.
Have strong internal support
Even if our project is reasonably planned and aligned with other initiatives, a strong support in the form of engaged sponsors is always needed. This can be a formal or informal leader who openly supports the initiative. Even when the financial sponsorship comes from a different end of the organization, a well-known name that can open doors is always beneficial. A strong sponsor attracts the employees’ attention, make them more interested, even willing to engage more, which is especially important when it comes to relatively new solutions, such as gamification, in the corporate field.
Ensure good timing
One key reason why gamification can be successful as a disruptive method is that it provides the opportunity to attract the attention of the targeted audience. If there are critical employee-related initiatives scheduled for a similar timeframe, it is more than likely that our gamification will be postponed or deliberately rescheduled, depending on the scope and goals of the other projects. Also, if the competing initiatives are, for example, the company restructuring process or significant HR changes, we can be more than sure that our efforts will not get as much interest as we initially planned. In big organizations, there are always ongoing initiatives targeted at employees, so it might be difficult to anticipate certain changes. However, having a good network and a “strong sponsor,” can be a huge support here as well.
Learn about employees’ workstyles and needs
Choosing gamification mechanics should be a deliberate and careful process. Not all elements will be appropriate for your company. In our Digital Adoption team, we start our project by detailed assessment just to learn what would be suitable for the employees. The outcomes are personas – typical groups of employees with specific needs and pain points. Based on that, we learn what worked in the past, what will be welcomed by employees and what might not be so well-received. Only in-depth information will enable us to design a perfect journey and deliver the experience that is tailor-made for our employees. If you want to know more about our user-centered approach, read my article on the subject.
Adjust to national culture
When working in an international organization, we might forget about subtle differences between the nationalities comprising our workforce. It is important to pay attention to the cultures that are part of our organization. Important elements of gamification are for example: collaboration, competitiveness, social elements, animations, and plot, with for instance, a main hero. All these elements should be embedded in a specific context to make them resonate in peoples’ minds. To give you an example, the Swedish word “lagom” describes the importance of “just the right amount” in different life domains. It also defines how the gamification campaign should be adjusted to this culture. On the other hand, and based on my experience, Italians appreciate cooperation and social elements, while utility and competitive elements might enhance Americans’ engagement. These are just examples, but the whole topic is fascinating and must be taken into consideration when choosing and adjusting gamification mechanics. But be careful of stereotypes! They don’t always work as they seem.
Adapt to organizational culture values
Successful gamification initiatives require employees’ full engagement. In order to make gamification appealing, so that it really resonates with employees, it must have elements that just feel “right,” and are coherent with what is emphasized and valued in the organization. These valuable and encouraged behaviors and attitudes are nothing else than organizational culture. Organizational culture is something that is invisible during daily business, although it affects decisions, interactions, and employee perception.
Project team members responsible for the creative aspects of gamification should be especially careful when it comes to choosing relevant mechanisms and elements. It is easy to make grave mistakes. Let’s take a look what might happen if a project team let their imagination run wild and does not consider organizational culture elements. For example, they succumb to alluring technical opportunities and they focus purely on competitiveness elements that seem to perfectly match their gamification concept or planned story. They decide to choose not anonymous ranks or give prizes only to a small group of top leaders in the ranking, thereby “defeating” other groups or individuals. That approach might just not feel right for the employees whose underlying values are cooperation, mutual-understanding, togetherness, etc. That might be still appealing and valuable, but not for this organization. Inconsistency of the chosen elements and mechanics with organizational culture results in lack of participation and contribution in gamification. Hence, without audience our goals will not be achieved. So, how to avoid this mismatch? After the initial alignment and assessment, I mentioned above, choose mechanics and elements that are consistent with the organizational vision of the culture. Refrain from implementing an interesting story with specific mechanics if you are not sure whether that would be appreciated by future gamification participants.
Consider digital literacy
I would outline two aspects here. First, when planning the introduction of new innovative methods, we should not assume that everybody is aware of gamification methods or how they differ from games in general. When presenting ideas to stakeholders to get their buy-in (and then to employees), we should make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to underlying concepts. Misunderstanding is easy and can cost a lot.
Secondly, a frequent concern is employees’ failure to make use of gamification technicalities (e.g. using a digital platform). I’ve often heard: “Our employees are not tech savvy enough for this,” or “We have many mature employees who might not be willing to use these modern methods.” These concerns are irrelevant because:
- Our current toolset at the workplace is becoming more digital and everybody is getting used to this new reality. These conclusions are presented by Altimeter Employee Experience Survey, which indicates that older employees use collaboration platforms not as often as younger generations, but only 13% of employees aged 45–54 and 14% of employees ages 55–64 reported never using any collaboration tools that were studied. That means that we should not exclude older employees as neither able nor willing to engage in digital solutions.
- Gamification works no matter what the generation is, which is proven by research conducted by Kappen, Mirza-Babaei, and Nacke on older adults. It is also important that different gamification elements have differentiated efficiency during our lifetime, which was proven by studies conducted by Altmeyer, Lessel, and Krüger.
- Although gamification methods work regardless of the generation, it is vital to think about accessibility aspects, so that everyone has equal opportunities to take part and enjoy participating in innovative solutions.
By keeping the above aspects, we will succeed in implementing digital solutions that will be remembered by employees and, at the same time, will help us achieve our desired goals.
If you want to learn more about our digital adoption approach and the gamification elements that are an important part of it, check out this short podcast.
If you want to learn more, contact me directly on Linkedin.