Gamification is the newest corporate buzzword. Organizations slap points, badges, and leaderboards on customer or employee engagement programs, many times only to see the initiatives fail. It’s important to examine the root causes of these failures, in order to learn how you can make your gamification program succeed.
What is Gamification?
Gamification, or the use of game elements in non-game settings, was famously added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2014. While it may seem to be a new invention, educators, trainers, and others know that game elements have been used in non-traditional ways for a long time.
Educators realized the power of technology combined with gamification as early as 1980, when Thomas Malone published “What Makes Things Fun to Learn: A Study of Intrinsically Motivating Computer Games,” where he found that computer games could use intrinsic motivation to make learning enjoyable. In 2009, Quest to Learn opened its doors as the first school with a game-based curriculum and instructional model. In that same year, Fantasy Geopolitics turned world news and geography education into fantasy football for high-school classrooms for the first time. Earlier this year, the IEEE predicted 85 percent of tasks in our daily lives will include game elements. So while it may be news to Merriam-Webster, educators, psychologists, and electrical engineers have known the value of game-based learning for some time.
Corporate trainers are beginning to discover the value of game-based learning when designing their training programs. Some companies develop in-house systems, with varying degrees of success. However, there are options: hundreds of gamification companies that specialize in employee training software. Case studies are made readily available by gamification app developers, who find that when game elements are tied to the right key performance indicators (KPIs) and supported by stakeholders, gamified corporate training can reduce costs, increase the amount of knowledge retained, and increase overall employee engagement when compared to traditional training methods. MySalesGame, from CallidusCloud, was used by a large computer memory manufacturer to build a sales training program that increased customer conversions and positive customer feedback, both of which had significant impact on revenue. Bunchball, maker of the flexible Nitro gamification platform, uses big data, game elements, and behavioral science to motivate specific behaviors; they’ve been used by companies like Pepsi, Playboy, Ford, USA Network, and others with wildly successful results. They secure positive outcomes for their clients because they know the secrets of successful game design; designers of games or gamification efforts must understand their users and tap into both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations to achieve maximum ROI.
Perhaps one of the most frequent uses of gamification in a corporate environment besides onboarding and general training is to encourage and train employees to use customer relationship management (CRM) software. As with any new process, CRM adoption takes training — 47 percent of CRM adoptions fail to meet expectations, according to Forrester Research. The reasons for this failure rate vary; from poor program design or industry fit — one size fits all solutions aren’t always the best — to taking shortcuts during implementation to save money, and many others. As a result, more and more companies are looking to consultants and gamification software vendors to help. There are even niche gamification companies that utilize CRM data to engage sales teams and call centers. Tie intrinsic rewards like the desire to track progress and see accomplishments to extrinsic reward like recognition and compensation to the software with a design that makes engaging with the system fun, and employees will happily adopt a CRM — Bunchball’s numbers above are proof.
Making it Work
Successful eLearning gamification efforts administered by a third party, even experts like Bunchball or CallidusCloud, can struggle if the client doesn’t provide good information about what makes their staff tick. Consultants and designers will often spend the first weeks of an implementation getting to know the team through surveys and meetings with leadership. This is time and money well spent, as tapping into the motivations of unique individuals is difficult. For an implementation to succeed, it’s important to create a company-wide culture of buy-in; negatively discussing elements of the program, trainers, or gamification in general will be detrimental to team member perception and participation, which can doom your efforts from the start. Good research will tell whether your team will respond best to serious games, competition through leaderboards, accomplishment through badges, or any number of other tools.
At the risk of using a cliché, with gamified learning — and most other things — you get out what you put in. Approach a gamified corporate eLearning program with halfhearted effort, no understanding of how to tie efforts to your company’s key performance indicators, and no knowledge of how you can leverage trainees’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivations most effectively, and you’ll quickly find your team considers the training to be “cheesy” and the subject of ridicule, resulting in minimal efficacy. Instead, talk to the experts, and seek out information so you can become one yourself.
This interview was provided by Gsummit media partner TechnologyAdvice, an Inc. 5000 company that is dedicated to educating, advising, and connecting the buyers and sellers of business technology. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner.