Gamification: The new mantra for customer and employee engagement

Thursday, 19 June 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Millennials are coming and they are different Did you know that sooner than later the world will be ruled by the Millennials? “Millennials” AKA Generation Y, are the generation that is just entering or is in line to enter the work force.They are typically those who were born between 1983 and 2003. Among the distinct characteristics of the subject generation as a whole contains recognition/reward obsession, short attention spans, high creativity, the desire for diversity and working with cross-cultures, born networking skills, an identity as technology savvy, ambitiousness, more fun loving, and more loyal to their career versus their employer. By 2025, 75% of the global work force will be made up of Millennials. In the United States alone, 28% of managerial positions are already held by Millennials. 60% of today’s Millennials use social media to rant and rave about companies and products. They account for US$ 1.3 trillion of what consumers spend annually. Deloitte, who is engaged in global research on Millennials found that they want leadership, and they want it their way. It also found that they are less interested in running your company than running their own. 70% of respondents in the research wanted to launch their own organisation with the highest percentages coming from Brazil, China, India (emerging markets), and Mexico In the same study, when Millennials busted many stereotypes, the leaders’ (Gen X’ers – born between 1964 and 1982, and Boomers – born between 1946 and 1963) perception of Millennials did not change drastically, as they continued to cite maturity and self awareness as key development needs of Millennials. They thrive on fairness and performance based appraisals, not tenure. So don’t expect long and loyal service; just results, with the right ingredients provided.  Cathy Benko and Molly Anderson’s ‘The Corporate Lattice’ may be just the right recipe for some of our corporate ills. It challenges the traditional corporate ladder approach of leadership development and reinforces the dire urgency of creating leadership opportunity at every layer of the ladder, making it look like a ‘lattice’. For those organisations with traditional models of management and leadership with a strict hierarchy, where Millennials are required to adapt to such strict structures, time may be fast running out. In fact, they may be pushing their organisations to the brink of extinction. Extinction because the labour force that is made of Millennials sooner or later won’t be choosing such environments for work, as you can now see that their interests lie elsewhere. According to Gartner Inc., the video game market place is supposed to see a growth of 18.3% in 2014, reaching $128 billion by 2017. This is a direct impact of the rapidly increasing video game addiction of Millennials, where it is estimated that by the age of 21, a Millennial child would have spent 10,000 hours playing video games. That is equivalent to 416.6 days. With that much of game play, Millennials are hardwired or addicted to the rush that a game delivers by the time they join the workforce. So creating game-like environments to engage your Millennial customers and employees not only makes sense, but has become a necessity.       Why is gaming addictive? In the centre of the very concept of games lies the need to win, the need to feel successful and be recognised and satisfied at the end of it all. From a psychological perspective, making work or any other activity similar to a game where winners and achievements are recognised will amount to a serious boost in motivation. This is scientifically explained by the chemical ‘Dopamine’, which in fact is a hormone the brain releases every time one achieves victory, which gives a momentary ‘high’ that makes the body feel good over such achievement. Dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter, meaning it is released by nerve cells in the brain to send signals to other nerve cells. Among several distinct functionalities of Dopamine systems, reward-motivated behaviour is one major role it plays and is responsible for, whereby as a result, the more the reward, the more dopamine that gets released. When achievement is amply backed by recognition, it leaves the person motivated not only momentarily but for the long term, more advantageously making him or her want to do more. This means it motivates the person to achieve and continue to want to achieve.       Gamification: Bringing game mechanics to non-game environments    Applying game mechanics to a non-game environment like the workplace, with a view to attaining behavioural change through greater employee engagement, has become a proven, powerful strategy today to improve influencing and motivating the workforce, not only to achieve their immediate goals but to use it as a tool for innovation. This concept has come to be known as ‘gamification’. According to Bunchball, a leading gamification company, gamification is the process of taking something that already exists – a website, an enterprise application, an online community – and integrating game mechanics into it to motivate participation, engagement and loyalty. Gamification takes the data-driven techniques that game designers use to engage players, and applies them to non-game experiences to motivate actions that add value to your business. Making the work place a fun-to-be game-like environment will motivate the Millennial employee to overcome the Monday morning blues as they will experience an addiction to Dopamine at work, making it an exciting proposition to look forward to work. Imagine a weekend of games to a work-week of games? A “well-gamified process” will create a near game-like engagement for employees and customers.  It creates opportunities for employees to accomplish regular small wins and earn a healthy reputation among peers in a fun environment, which is essential for a deeper engagement. Listed below are some key building blocks of enterprise gamification: Scoring is essential for games. A simple point scheme or a counting scheme will provide a way to keep score of accomplishments. Levels show the depth of mastery one has achieved pertaining to a certain skill, process or a in a new challenge. Levels provide a way to establish a sense of progress. Badges are the way to build one’s digital reputation. Badges symbolise skills, accomplishments or contributions and act as an intrinsic reward for achievement. Leaderboards provide visibility and ranking. They drive competition, thereby, improving overall performance and help build reputation. Above are some of the more visible elements of gamification, a proper design, however, requires a deeper understanding of the motivations in context to choose the right game mechanics and to even decide whether gamification is appropriate in a given context.       Virtusa – a ‘glocal’ success story Over 70% of the global Virtusans (Virtusa employees) are Millennials. Given this realisation, the company proactively adopted a strategy to engage this generation of the workforce using technology. To ensure co-creation of value for both an engaged customer and an engaged employee, their differentiation strategy meant innovation, productivity and agility to remain integrated. An important part of a three-pronged approach for Virtusa was gamification of employee outcomes. An internal social network pretty much similar to Facebook connects Virtusa communities innovatively.  A multitude of outcomes and KPIs receive immediate recognition through the award of well defined badges and points, which are visible to the entire organisation. With breaking work down to the smallest component possible and enhancing it by adopting gamification and social networks, they bring friends, fun and feedback in regular cycles to build a game like environment at work with opportunities for that Dopamine to work.       Gamification is here to stay By 2014, more than 70% of Global 2000 organisations will have at least one ‘gamified’ application, according to Gartner  Inc. analysts said that while the current success of gamification is largely driven by novelty and hype, gamification is positioned to become a highly significant trend over the next five years. “Gamification aims to inspire deeper, more engaged relationships and to change behaviour, but it needs to be implemented thoughtfully,” said Brian Burke, Research Vice President at Gartner. “Most attempts at gamification currently miss the mark, but successful and sustainable gamification can convert customers into fans, turn work into fun, or make learning a joy. The potential is enormous.”       Watch out for pitfalls Gartner also predicts that 80% of current gamified applications will fail because companies have not invested in skilled game designers. In other words, the games being used to motivate people get poorly designed, and are causing those efforts to fail. Rewards have the likelihood of producing an entitlement mind-set. The clarity of purpose and objectives is something that all parties must at times stay focused on. A reward may be given in order to receive one in return – reciprocity effect. Keeping the rewards fresh and current is important to make sure employees don’t find them a chore or a boring forced-to-do exercise they may find a drudgery.       What next? Work hard, play hard! Gamification is transforming business by creating new ways to engage customers and employees. It works because it leverages the motivations and desires that exist in all of us for belonging to a community and receiving feedback, achievement and rewards. With Millennials super heating their way to work and thereby customers, rolling the concept to gamify the business processes to customer, partner and supplier interfaces will be the next phase of the game. Get ahead now! [Deepanie Perera is Founder Director and CEO of Target Resource Ltd. ( and consultant for the Ministry of Public Management Reforms of Sri Lanka. She is a former Course Director of the MBA in Human Resource Management of the Open University of Sri Lanka. She is an academic, trainer, consultant, speaker, career and performance coach and researcher. You may reach Deepanie at Madu Ratnayake is Head of Digital, Senior VP and General Manager at Virtusa. He is also a certified Gamification Master from the Engagement Alliance.  You may connect with Madu on Twitter @MaduRatnayake.]