Has Gamification Software Become HR Software?

by | Dec 2, 2015 | Blog, Thought

Has Gamification Software Become HR Software?

This guest post on emerging workforce management trends was written by Zach Watson of Technology Advice.

Though the term may not be en vogue any longer, the legacy of gamification lives on in several notable HR software solutions. Referring to the tactic of adding game elements to non-game scenarios, gamification offers businesses some of the most intriguing methods for getting employees engaged with their work.

Given that Gallup’s latest research on the subject revealed that only 31 percent of employees are engaged at work, it’s simple to understand why the concepts inherent in gamification continue to intrigue the human resources industry.

Work vs. Play

What cost do businesses pay for increased engagement? After all, if gamification introduces game elements at work, will anyone still take their job seriously?

The answer is yes. People will still take their jobs seriously.

Gamification certainly has its pitfalls, but rarely does it steer employees completely away from their tasks. Rather, it makes repetitive work more palpable by introducing novelty and a sense of progress.

For example, Slalom Consulting, a Seattle-based company with more 2,000 employees in the US, needed to improve their internal communications. To solve the problem, they created a mobile application that included scores and a leaderboard that displayed top performers.

Although the strategy initially failed to live up to expectations, once Slalom shifted to a team-based approach, participation shot up to 90 percent. Recognition scores jumped from 45 to 98 percent accuracy.

Overall, Slalom’s gamification app increased collaboration between employees and helped new hires more quickly integrate into the company.

How HR Can Apply Gamification

Slalom Consulting’s name recognition app is just one example of gamification. From a broad perspective, the industry has several major branches:

Customer Loyalty

Employee Training

Sales Competitions

Wellness Programs

If we had to classify Slalom’s app, it would go under employee training, even if name recognition isn’t the typical form many would think of when considering employee training.

The flexibility of gamification means it can be applied to both customer-facing and employee-facing scenarios. As the technology has evolved, businesses—and by extension HR departments — are seeing the greatest return from gamification when it’s used to engage employees.

In fact, Brian Burke, Research Vice President at Gartner, reckons employee-facing gamification now outnumbers customer-facing gamification.

While sales contests are popular applications of this technology, it’s the HR department that’s discovering new ways to harness game elements to create a better office culture and engage more employees.

Here are some common examples:

1. Peer Recognition Systems

These platforms apply the newsfeed layout of a social media network, but keep the focus squarely on company updates. For example, when someone hits their goal or gets a promotion, the platform empowers other people to congratulate him or her.

2. Learning Management Applications

Whether it’s onboarding or ongoing professional development, company training courses don’t have a great reputation in terms of engagement. Adding game elements like progress bars and rewards for completing different modules are simple ways to make the experience more engaging.

Deloitte famously added gamification to its leadership academy training programs and increased the number of returning users by 37 percent week over week.

3. Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs are a good idea. Employees get subsidized access to a gym so they can improve their health, and employers get healthier employees who miss fewer days of work due to illness.

However, making exercise a habit is notoriously difficult, so HR managers are turning to gamification to encourage employee participation in wellness programs.

4. General Engagement and Employee Retention

Employee surveys are important, particularly when HR is tasked with building a business culture that the company can use to attract talented candidates for new positions. Unfortunately, rolling out a 20 question survey isn’t the most strategic method for gauging the mood of the office.

As a result, “pulse surveys” or short questionnaires are becoming a popular method for gathering valuable feedback from everyone around the office.

Now, those examples only cover what’s already available on the market. But that’s not to say gamification has crept into every use case or feature of HR software.

Workforce management and administration are two aspects of HR that have yet to be widely gamified. In contrast with the elective uses of gamification above, recording employee hours and time off requests, working through payroll, and scheduling vacation are prime examples of central job duties. Though gamification could make these tasks much less monotonous, it isn’t vital to software adoption because HR will use these functions regardless.

In other words, just because it can be gamified, doesn’t mean it should be.

What’s in a name?

When the gamification industry first came to prominence a couple of years ago, a cadre of gamification experts would staunchly defend the term “gamification.” But the novelty of the term has worn off, and a number of gamification providers refer to their products as employee engagement software, sales productivity platforms, and so on.

In truth, gamification will exist less and less as a standalone platform, and will likely become part of well-designed software due to an increased focus on user experience.

This is good news for HR professionals because it means the proliferation of new HR software solutions will likely include game elements in their design. However, having a standalone use case—like employee wellness—for gamification isn’t out of the question.

If you do consider standalone gamification, just remember:

  1. You must have a sound business reason for implementing it.
  2. You need to understand what motivates your employees before choosing a solution.
  3. Don’t slap leaderboards or points on a problem and expect it to be solved.

Employee engagement is the responsibility of HR, and creating an inviting environment where people are passionate about their work has become a business advantage. Gamification can go a long way to making certain tasks more inviting, but it’s only a piece of keeping your employees captivated with their work.

Pick your spots, and you’ll find success with gamification. Overuse the tactic, and you’ll lose the interest of the very people you’re trying too hard to win over.

Zach Watson is marketing operations analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers marketing automation, healthcare IT, business intelligence, HR, and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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