Gamification: what is it, and how is it changing the way we work?

Simon Jones

Thursday 15 March 2018

IT decision-makers can no longer afford to ignore the influence of gamification in their multibillion-dollar business. We cover the basics, and why ‘play at work’ is such an important – and successful – movement for the modern workplace.

A recent forecast of the gamification market predicts it will be worth a whopping US$11 billion by 2020 – that’s a 500 per cent increase from end-of-2016 figures. So, while the term gamification might be seen as something of a buzzword – particularly in tech-savvy industries that thrive on the cutting edge – it’s no longer just a fad that ITDMs can ignore.

Rather than seeing gamification as ‘play’, employers should consider the fact that creating a performance-based system of work means staff have a hard target to focus on day in, day out. Reframing standardised work in this way means employees can strive for goals and rewards. Whether it’s exceeding sales benchmarks or using lateral thinking to find solutions to problems, developing a system of ‘wins’ does away with the daily rigmarole and instead pushes employees to always be seeking ways to improve the business.

What it all comes down to is engagement. And with only 31.5 per cent of American employees actually being engaged at work – a figure that’s even lower for millennials, who will make up three-quarters of the global workforce by 2027 – it’s imperative that ITDMs and those in the C-suite find a solution to productivity decline.

See the concept of work differently

Thankfully, for those in the tech space, offering incentives for increased sales is not the only way gamification can disrupt the workplace. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are set to explode in popularity this year, and it’s easy to see how the technology will become more common in the office.

From fully immersive headset-based office tours to assessing graduates’ problem-solving skills during the hiring process, VR can not only enhance staff recruitment and training, but the proposition of a gamified workplace can be a point of difference for employers in competitive markets.

“[Using VR for recruiting] signals to the applicant that the company is really serious about the position and making an investment in the person,” says Bill Macomer, CEO and CTO at Fancy Film and Fancy VR. “If you are in a competitive hiring market, it gives you yet another differentiation over the teams that are competing for the same recruits.”

Give your staff more time – so they can focus on what’s important

There has been a lot written about how automation will affect industries in the coming years and decades, with many concerned about mass layoffs and fully automated workplaces. However, the truth is that a world without the mind-numbing and repetitive tasks of yesteryear – now completed by robots – will give us more time to focus on creative and logic-based tasks.

Writing for Medium, creative technologist Albert van der Meer believes it is no coincidence that automation and workplace gamification appeared at a similar time: “Many mundane tasks cannot be gamified, but automation will lower and eventually remove those tasks, leaving only worthwhile pursuits and experiences.”

Gamification is evolving at pace

And it is these worthwhile pursuits – and the absence of repetitive tasks – that will ensure workplace engagement remains high, which should be every ITDM’s goal in an increasingly complex industry.

It is here that employers should consider how the basic premise of video games can be applied to their workplace. People don’t earn a salary from playing video games. On the contrary, they pay to play them. So, consider how gamifying your workplace – whether that involves a scores-based system, creating quests that can be quantifiably measured, etc. – can give your employees the impression that their actions make a direct difference to the company.

Some experts have even gone so far as to predict blockchain and gamification are a match made in heaven. And while it may be a while before blockchain is seen in workplace gamification – despite the clear benefits blockchain technology can have on business – there’s no denying that there is a push from certain professional sectors for the still-burgeoning technology to have a greater footing in the modern workplace.

The purpose of gamification in the workplace is ultimately engagement. We live in an increasingly complex world, with workers leaving jobs or being unproductive if they aren’t focused on their given tasks. Gamification may not be the solution for every industry, but for decision-makers in IT, it could be exactly what your employees need to revolutionise their working lives.

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