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Gamification of the enterprise

How to successfully add game features to corporate processes

By Maria Korolov, Network World
September 10, 2012 12:09 AM ET

Network World - ILLUSTRATION: JUDE BUFFMAN

Can badges and scoreboards really make employees work harder, for no extra pay? Or will IT departments be stuck spending time and money "gamifying" work processes - only to have to undo everything once the fad has run its course?

According to Gartner analyst Elise Olding, 25% of all redesigned processes will include some form of gamification by 2015.

Top 4 gamification apps

And the size of the gamification market - estimated at around $100 million last fall - will grow to more than $2.8 billion by 2016, according to M2 Research. The company also predicts that the enterprise segment will account for a quarter of that total, the single largest market segment.

But companies need to make sure they avoid the pitfalls of corporate gamification.

Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!

Seattle-based Slalom Consulting had 2,000 employees in offices around the United States. To improve internal communications, the company decided to create a mobile application that would help employees learn the names and faces of their colleagues. To encourage participation, the application included a "leaderboard" showing who had the highest scores, says CEO Brad Jackson.

The tactic backfired. "We found that only 5% of the people truly cared about being at the top of the leaderboard," he says. The prizes - gift cards - weren't enough, either.

"What changed for us is when we transformed to teams," he says. "Whether by organization, or randomly assigned teams, there was a dramatic shift in the engagement of the game. People didn't want to let their team down."

Participation grew from 5% to 90%, he says, and recognition scores went up from around 45% accuracy to 89%.

"In an environment where collaboration is so key, we saw some great wins come out of it," Jackson says. "I saw people getting on more projects they were excited about. Our new employees were called by name. And it's so wonderful when you are recognized when you walk into a company event - it increases career satisfaction."

Depending on the gamification project, badges, leaderboards and other rewards might not be needed at all.

Insurance giant Allstate solicits innovative ideas from employees with the help of a gamified social innovation tool from Pleasanton, Calif.-based Spigit two to three times a month.

"We don't necessarily use the reward system in the tool," says Matt Manzella, Allstate's director of technology innovation. "We have in the past, but people just want to participate." The key, he says, is to pick challenges that resonate with employees.

"We do turn away concepts," he says. "If we feel that a challenge statement is not compelling enough for the crowd to get excited about, we'll turn it down or ask them [the company's business units] to come up with better challenges."

One successful blitz resulted in changing the process of how claims are scheduled in an office.

"It sounds like a mundane process, but leadership didn't recognize how complex it was and how much stress it was causing employees," he says. Changing the process saved the company $18 million a year in adjusters' time.

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