Designing and executing an effective, sustainable company culture takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. If done well can create an environment where people thrive. A strong company culture has been proven time and time again to have a direct impact on profitability and long term company success.
Company culture is a team sport and requires the whole team to show up every day and work on it. Behavioural and motivational tools, like gamification can be very effective in supporting the early stages by assisting with traction as well as making it sustainable by recognising and rewarding appropriate behaviour.
The “Gamification Gimmick” Image Problem
Today, many see gamification as a gimmick, and you can’t blame them. There is a perception that it is as a shallow attempt at solving more systemic company process or culture issues. Will gamification alone help improve your company culture? No. It won’t. Without a strong foundation, employees will quickly realise that gamifying the workplace experience is a way of ignoring bigger issues. But if the foundation is there, if the goal is clear and there is effective communication, gamification can be an extremely effective tool to support company culture.
Gamification in the workplace has been used in two predominant ways: to improve company culture or to aid in performance management. However, gamification has come a long way. There are now examples of strong gamification interventions. This piece answers the question: how can good gamification can aid businesses in both the enshrining and maintenance of their company culture?
If it’s been so Unsuccessful, then Why Bother?
There is a huge problem that faces the professional world today – widespread resignation. The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ has seen qualified people starting and leaving jobs within the same year. Forbes reports that in April 2021, resignation rates in the US were higher than they’ve been in two decades. Companies need to develop unique strategies of engaging and motivating their staff. They need to implement ways of solidifying a strong sense of culture. Gamification can work. If a company has strong foundations in place, turning some aspect of employees’ working days into a game can help to bring teams closer together.
What does a Strong Foundation look like?
Managers and executives feel frustrated and powerless in the face of widespread resignation. People seem to come as fast as they go. Company cultures are inescapable. They either exist by default or by design. This is good news because it means that a strong foundation can be intentionally built. A good company culture must promote psychological safety in employees. A workplace that has employees psychological safety in mind is “one in which employees feel safe to voice ideas, willingly seek feedback, provide honest feedback, collaborate, take risks and experiment”.
In addition, there is buy-in from team members, who are executing meaningful work. Clear communication from leadership, as well as fair compensation and benefits also help with work-life satisfaction.
With these elements in place, a gamified workplace experience can be the cherry on top of the employee wellness sundae.
What Exactly is Gamification, and why does it Matter?
Effective gamification uses behavioural mechanics and a strong understanding of different kinds of motivation to attract and retain engagement. Coupled with some game theory, gamification can be a subtle tool for applications. Many that many might not realise they are playing a game at all. Strong gamification interventions take into account positive and negative motivators, as well as extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.
Applications that use gamification have the potential to improve employee job satisfaction and productivity. In order to do this, apps need to bring benefit to the user in some way. It has to make their work-life more engaging. If an app fails to answer the fundamental question that employees ask themselves every day: “What’s in it for me?”, then it could have potentially disastrous consequences: like employee dissatisfaction at work, a loss of trust in management, and consistent resignations.
How Gamification might make a Company Culture Worse
People are unique. As a result, they have different motivations. A catch-all gamification approach that tries to reach employees with a ‘one size fits all’ solution, is bound to be counter-productive. This is why the points, badges, and leaderboards’ model didn’t work. The ‘Great Resignation’ – in response to the pandemic and other factors – has made employers realise more than ever that understanding what motivates people and what makes them feel fulfilled is crucial in keeping them engaged and motivated. An app that fails to talk to these needs can further alienate workers. If the company culture is already toxic, gamification can make it worse.
What does Effective Gamification look like?
A simple example of good gamification exists in the form of an app called Hi5. It allows users to send high fives to their co-workers for any (often not work related) reason. If you haven’t sent a high five in a while, you’ll receive a gentle reminder to acknowledge your teammates. Alternatively, if you receive more high fives than you’ve sent, the app prods you politely. This is a brilliant example of how gamification can play a little part in bringing teams together. A bit of public praise and recognition can go a long way. This app manages to cater to people who are extrinsically motivated to send out as many high fives as possible, as well as people who are intrinsically motivated to bring joy to those around them.
Subtle gamification in HR software has also been effective for the same reason: consistency and recognition. Two examples are staff management applications from Sage HR and Vega HR. These apps try to embrace a culture of continuous feedback with rewards, shoutouts (like Hi5), and coupons. This helps employees to get consistent feedback on their daily tasks, as well as on their overall career progression. Knowing where you stand in a business, and what opportunities you will be able to work towards in the future, are huge motivators.
How do you know if a Gamification Intervention has been Successful?
App developers should keep in mind that teams are diverse. In other words, individuals on teams have different motivations. If gamification is done well, it can result in: a bit of fun through healthy competition at work, stronger relationships within teams, as well as improved employee engagement. Paired with a strong company culture, gamification can be a tool for reducing resignations, and potentially even attracting new talent. If you get good engagement and feedback from employees, you’ll know quite quickly If a gamification intervention has been successful.
Most importantly, gamified experiences can help to take already strong company cultures to the next level.