When Does Gamification Work in HR Software?

by | May 26, 2015

When does gamification work in HR software?

As far as usability concepts go, gamification is a media darling. Pundits are fans and vendors are scrambling to incorporate gamification elements in new product releases. Yet, for all the fanfare, gamification isn’t always a perfect fit in HR software.

Why not?

While gamification can solve some important problems related to software adoption, not all applications face the same adoption hurdles.

Gamification can create an extra incentive for employees to use applications that may not otherwise be central to their job responsibilities. For example: if an organization rolls out a knowledgebase and wants to spur their subject matter experts to record best practices and techniques there for collective use, then adding in some sort of point scheme, badge system, or other ‘game’ has a strong value. Anecdotes of early successes have prompted predictions that HR gamification will be mainstream very soon. And there are several areas where HR gamification makes sense, including peer recognition systems, intranet forums, and learning management applications where contributions are elective, rather than central to your job duties.

Workforce management applications (products that record employee work hours, time off requests, schedules, vacation balances, and related info), however, do not fall into that category. In most cases, workforce management solutions are central to an employee’s work day… literally the first app they use upon entering a work site or leaving for a meal break. In other instances, they are the method of submitting a time off request, or swapping shifts with a peer to get an important weekend off.

In short: gamification helps prompt people to use a solution, but features for recording time and requesting leave don’t require an extra push to encourage adoption, so gamification isn’t vital to design.

Accepting the limits of HR gamification begs an important question, though:

What is fundamental to HR software ease of use?

In our experience, “ease of use” has two core components:

  1. Knowing what to do, and how to do it
  2. Completing tasks quickly and correctly

I can’t stress these two fundamentals strongly enough, because in an era of RFP-driven vendor selections, there can be a ‘checkbox’ mentality about features. “Can an employee submit a time off request?” is a good question, but “how easily can an employee submit a time off request?” is a much better one, especially when that ‘simple’ transaction may occur dozens of times daily across a population of thousands of users. The same holds true for clocking in and out… a design that allows marginally faster punches and marginally lower error rates can deliver substantially better results for your business because of the sheer volume of uses (and, more importantly, because of the improved perception of thousands of users).

When you’re looking at applications that employees must use, and may use regularly, I strongly suggest walking through the ‘basics’ like time entry and time off requests. You may find significant differences between products, and that alone can have a major impact on how employees respond to the tool.

If you’d like to see how we address these usability goals, just let us know, or feel free to request a demonstration. You may not find trendy badges, but you will see a product that gets all of the little things right. And that, we think, is a big advantage for your users and your company.

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