Whoosh! The winds of workforce change continue blowing in every direction. Are you feeling it?
First, the pandemic forced employers to go all-in with remote work. Then by 2021, forward-thinking leaders rolled out hybrid work models, hoping flexibility would keep the “Great Resignation” at bay. No such luck. By last year, turnover reached record highs as employee engagement continued to sink.
What’s next? Well, now, in the face of broader economic troubles, many employees are choosing to stay put. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy. Not at all. In fact, researchers say the “Great Gloom” is upon us. Oh my. Yet another buzzword. And this one doesn’t sound promising for anyone.
What exactly should we make of this current wave of workforce discontent? It seems we’ve arrived at a sort of no man’s land, where people are neither engaged nor disengaged — just discouraged and disheartened. But that won’t steer anyone in the right direction. So what’s an employer to do?
This brings me to a topic we’ve discussed before — gamification.
Why It’s Time to Get Serious About Gamification
After so much disruption, some employers may welcome this pause as a moment of relief. But no one can afford to get too comfortable. If the past few years taught us anything, we know this isn’t over. Profound shifts will continue, even if we can’t see what’s around the corner. So, how can teams move forward and perform their best, while rolling with more organizational twists and turns?
I think gamification is part of the answer. I’m not just talking about fun and games, here. I’m talking about thoughtful strategies that fit into everyday work culture and tap into innate human traits, like curiosity and the desire to perform at our best.
We know from experience that gamification works for everything from recruiting and onboarding to team building and talent development. And these capabilities are within nearly every employer’s reach. So what are you waiting for?
What’s at Stake
Gallup estimates that employers lose $1 trillion each year to voluntary turnover. A majority of those former employees say their manager or organization could have done something to keep them. But companies aren’t asking, “How could we keep these people onboard?” until they’re already gone.
And now, even though more employees are staying, many are as disengaged and unfulfilled as those who left during better economic times. That’s not a good sign for business.
Success depends on productive teams — and productive teams depend on competent, committed employees. But building a high-performance culture isn’t easy, especially when remote and hybrid work schedules make communication, trust, and teamwork harder to manage. It sounds like a job for gamification.
Tips From a Gamification Expert
This reminds me of a previous #WorkTrends podcast guest who recommends that employers tap into the power of gamification to elevate the employee experience.
Lauren Fitzpatrick Shanks is the Founder of Keep Wondering Out Loud (KeepWOL), a game-centered talent development platform she developed after 14 years in leadership at five Fortune 500 companies. An accomplished, award-winning black entrepreneur and engineer, Lauren is passionate about leveraging gamification to improve performance among individuals, teams, and organizations…
So, what is gamification, and how important is it for companies to gamify their training and engagement initiatives? Lauren explains:
We’ve all played games before. But think of gamification as game elements and mechanics you can add to work situations that aren’t meant to be games.
Think about how games work. They have rules, they have a framework, they have a structure. And these fundamentals apply to everyone.
For example, when you play Monopoly, you can’t just make up your own rules unless other players agree. This means games give everyone an opportunity to start on equal footing, so each of us has an opportunity to win.
Why Gamification Is So Powerful
As humans, we all want to win. Even if we’re not competitive, no one wants to lose or fail. So games hack your brain. They typically require strategic thinking or quick decisions that disarm people and bring them into a competitive mindset. This taps into the brain’s reward center so you tell yourself, “I want to do well. I want to put my best foot forward.”
I think all teams can benefit from gamification. However, the results depend on the types of games or game mechanics you use, and whether it’s done well. There are many possibilities, but it’s important to be mindful about how you implement it.
How Does This Prepare Us For the Future of Work?
Gamification isn’t a new concept. But companies are on a mission to incorporate it into talent development initiatives, so they can bridge the gap between learning and doing.
Deloitte predicts that soft-skill-intensive occupations will represent 2/3 of all jobs by 2030, and demand for those jobs will grow 2.5x faster than for others.
That means companies need to improve soft skills among today’s employees. And these skills are hard to develop. They don’t come intuitively. You have to practice. But games, gamification, and simulations are fun, creative ways for people to learn, practice, and retain information. They help us grow more naturally. So they’re ideal for soft-skills training.
Why Gamification Wins
We’ve worked with teams of all types and sizes — matrix-based teams, C-suite teams, and multidisciplinary teams. People who work remotely, in-person, and a hodgepodge of both.
That’s what’s amazing about games and gamification. It’s more expansive than a ropes course or an escape room or trivia questions. These methods can bring together people from different generations and cultures to build trust, connectedness, and productivity.
My Turn: How Gamification Helps
Is it really worthwhile to integrate gamification into employee engagement initiatives? That’s a fair question. Here’s my perspective. If you look closer, you’ll find multiple reasons to invest. For example, with these techniques, you can:
1. Inspire Individuals to “Level Up”
Modern employees crave personalized feedback and recognition for their contributions. Game-oriented platforms help with real-time performance tracking. This often includes reminders and rewards that motivate people to keep moving forward. It also keeps managers in the loop with alerts and insights that enable them to intervene when coaching is needed or to celebrate achievements when the time is right.
2. Help Teams Run-Up the Score
In this case, “the score” is your organization’s overall success. Adding game-based logic to department or group projects demonstrates how employee contributions translate into measurable business impact. For example, you can drive team performance by awarding points to people who collaborate effectively and share creative ideas. Similarly, you can help people sharpen their skills by integrating game elements into employee training programs.
3. Tap Into Employees’ Competitive Nature
Gamification shapes behavior with incentives that spark friendly competition and help individuals become better versions of themselves. This is where employers must tread lightly to avoid triggering a cutthroat war among staffers. However, team-oriented strategies and meaningful rewards can build confidence, competency, and camaraderie.
4. Avoid “Game Over” Scenarios
HR and business managers can use insights from gamification platforms to understand and respond to employee development needs. Think of this as a form of workforce intelligence gathering, where employee performance metrics reveal red flags, as well as exceptional performance that deserves attention. When you actively support employee career growth, your team members are less likely to leave.
5. Appeal to All Generations
Younger employees tend to care about the purpose behind their role and they want more control over their career destiny. Gamification can provide them with a more satisfying, personalized work experience. For example, Deloitte’s Mass Career Customization program lets employees pick their work preferences. Another company, Valve, uses gamification to help employees choose projects they prefer. Methods like this offer younger employees the kind of instant gratification they crave but often miss in traditional corporate settings.
6. Boost Your Employer Brand
By improving job satisfaction, engagement, and retention, gamification can eventually transform employees into brand ambassadors. This elevates recruitment by demonstrating that your company culture is modern and healthy — and puts employees first.
7. Lighten The Mood
Let’s face it. When thoughtfully implemented, gamification is fun. And don’t we all deserve a little less friction and a little more fun in our lives these days? Positive emotion can help connect us more deeply with our colleagues and with our work. Sounds like a smart “gloom slayer” tactic to me.
Game On! Can Your Culture Outplay The “Great Gloom”?
Gamification isn’t likely to solve all of today’s workplace challenges. But it can give employees something new to be excited about. And when employees are motivated to engage, work together, and accomplish something greater, good things are much more likely to happen.
Honestly, it’s hard to think of any other talent management methods with the power to pull people out of a sense of gloom. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. So, what are you waiting for? It can be exactly what you need to get your employees more invested in their roles and engaged with your organization. Ultimately, that means you can build a winning culture. So get ready, set, go!
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more in-depth information about how to develop and manage successful gamification initiatives, visit the Keep Wondering Out Loud website, where you’ll find helpful resources for employers. And for more #WorkTrends insights, check our growing collection of episodes at Apple or Spotify and subscribe!