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Business-oriented gamification may be key to employee recruitment and retention

September 03, 2013

For many businesses, gamification serves as a way to quickly onboard workers into the organization, maintain company morale and encourage certain types of behavior among clients and employees. By offering incentives or recognition to employees, organizations can increase their workers' productivity by turning their work into a more enjoyable, but purpose-driven endeavor. Sources such as Business 2 Community have recently suggested that gamification can be an attractive incentive for millennials, and that it encourages communication and company loyalty. 

With companies' pressing need for IT support professionals, gamification's ability to attract and retain employees may be key to an organization's success. A lack of trained IT professionals has been widely reported by a number of sources, and every edge that businesses can gain to stand out from their competitors could assist them in attracting the top talent. With millennials poised to dominate the workplace environment in a few short years, recruitment and training tactics suited to their desires will also enable enterprises to make the most of a limited IT staffing pool. 

A number of enterprises have also wised up to the need for gamification in the workplace, and Business Insider recently predicted that the global market for it will expand to a $400 to $500 million industry by the end of 2013. While the source noted one of the most popular gamified apps, Foursquare, is reducing its gamification elements, it still believes that the trend will continue despite the expectation of some that Foursquare's changes herald the end of gamification. 

Gamification should serve a purpose
Business Insider explained that Foursquare's shift represents apps moving away from superficial gamification that is primarily fueled by gimmicks. Rather, decision-makers including gamification elements in their organizations must integrate user value to the software. This means that the app should foster certain types of behavior and enhance loyalty, and the news provider noted that some of the most successful gamified apps that do this are Zamzee, Nike+ and SessionM. While these apps are geared towards consumers, they can serve as a source of inspiration for how to include the technology in company settings. 

Business Insider's thoughts on gamification were supported by a recent Investor's Business Daily article that suggested that these efforts should align with business goals. This will differ from one industry to the next, so organizations should factor in their needs to the design and implementation process. If these tools fail to enhance recruiting efforts for IT jobs, assist with training or otherwise engage workers, then they may need to be revised or eliminated. Although Gartner predicted that 70 percent of Forbes Global 2000 companies will include gamification in their workplace by 2014, it also expects 80 percent of these endeavors to fail due to poor design. 

Employees want more than physical rewards
Notably, gamification efforts should not necessarily focus on monetary incentives. So long as employees feel fairly compensated, prizes and money are often not great motivators. Investor's Business Daily mentioned that this can lead to cheating and other problems. Instead of offering material goods, the news source suggested that gamified apps should include recognition. This can be in the form of badges or less tangible rewards that let workers reveal their value and noticeably show off their workplace efforts. 

"It's really tapping into what truly motivates us as humans," said Kris Duggan, co-founder of Badgeville, according to Investor's Business Daily. "How do we let this person know they're successful? How do we show their performance relative to their peers? How do we give them feedback on their progress?"

Business gamification rewards should appeal to the psychological needs of employees, which can increase their job satisfaction and productivity alike. The news provider highlighted that pride can be an important motivator to workers. However, it also warned that meaningless achievements can be off-putting, counterproductive or otherwise unlikely to serve a purpose. 

Although these projects will need to be customized from one company to another, they can learn from the past successes of similar organizations. Decision-makers unfamiliar with gamification can also enlist the aid of an IT consulting firm that has more experience with the process and how to implement it. This can assist businesses in avoiding the failure rate some experts anticipate for gamified apps. The issue is not that gamification doesn't work, but rather that it is not always designed in the most effective way possible. Although gamification is intended to be fun, organizations should take its creation seriously to ensure it fits within their company culture. They should also decide what they want from it, whether it be providing IT training to the staffing, maintaining company loyalty, acquiring new employees or another goal, as these may not all coincide or work well within the same gamified app.  

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