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Gamification And Leadership: Characteristics Of A Successful Future Leader

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The future of work requires leaders to make a radical effort to transform their team's performance. Leaders must find innovative ways to bridge the gap between the expectations of the digital generation and the workplace structure. A nationwide survey by BetterUp of 2,285 professionals across 26 industries reveals that:

More than 9 out of 10 employees are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work. Across age groups, workers want meaningful work badly enough to be willing to pay for it.

In "The Legend of Zelda," the protagonist fulfills their destiny by bringing balance to the universe. Are there any cues leaders can take from this game? The most important cue here is that finding meaning in life and the workplace is not another fluffy, feel-good idea, but rather something employees want and need more than a paycheck to stay engaged at work.

In response to the trend of engaging employees to help them find fulfillment in their roles, gamification at work is gaining traction across industries.

A survey by Zippia reveals areas of employee life that can be enhanced with gamification in the workplace.


Source: Zippia

If you're wondering how playing Mario and saving Princess Peach from Bowser and the Koopalings will lead to positive long-term effects on your workforce, you've got it all wrong. Let's start with defining the concept of gamification in the workplace.

What is gamification in the workplace?

Gamification in the workplace involves elements of games like rules, victory conditions, rewards, statuses, and stakes to increase the likelihood of an employee's engagement in a task or activity and open the possibility of learning.

Some of the biggest challenges leaders face while managing teams include:

  • A low level of workforce engagement, with employees feeling miserable in their jobs.

  • High levels of fatigue, stress, and burnout.

  • Aligning company goals with an employee's individual goals.

  • Motivating employees to learn and prepare for future job roles.

Let's look at examples of gamification in the workplace that leaders can adopt to overcome these challenges.

Encourage Employees to Compete on Skills

Cisco gamified its social media training program by introducing levels of certification and badges for employees to encourage them to acquire social media skill sets that directly impact their job. For example, the sales team could learn social media skills to find prospective clients, whereas the HR team could use those skills to find the right talent.

The program promoted healthy competition, as employees competed for higher levels of social media expertise. Furthermore, it encouraged employees to collaborate through challenges where they could play as a small team or the entire organization.

Incorporate gaming elements to help teams learn dynamic systems that change with technological advances. For example, decision-making capabilities can be enhanced through changing variables in scenarios to forecast outcomes, and forecasting can be learned through card games, and so on.

Encourage employees to adopt healthy lifestyles

In Jeffrey Pfeffer's book Dying for a Paycheck, Pfeffer highlights a survey showing that,

61 percent of employees said that workplace stress had made them sick and 7 percent said they had actually been hospitalized.

Burnout has now been classified as an "occupational phenomenon" by the World Health Organization. To help employee well-being and overall health, Aetna has promoted personal wellness to its employees through an online social game.

This gamification at work included rewards, achievements, and sharing achievements of employees who scored high to promote healthy competition.

Introduce game-like structures to give employees personal responsibility for their health. Include aspects of play into wellness initiatives through fun progress management tools like prizes, badges, quizzes, and incentives that play into a larger wellness strategy.

Boost employee performance

A Talent LMS survey found an 87 percent increase in productivity and an 84 percent increase in employee engagement when leaders gamified the work process.

A good example of enhancing employee performance comes from McDonald's, which used the Nintendo DS to train new part-time employees quickly and cut training time in half. McDonald's customized a game to teach their workforce critical lessons to improve performance and productivity in a fun and comfortable environment.

Add gaming elements that help employees learn how they can enhance their performance and meet crucial deadlines. Games and competitions such as quizzes and time-bound puzzles can be used in training materials to help employees understand how to do things better with the least waste of time and resources.

Find the right talent

Gamification at work can be incorporated into many stages of the recruitment process. For example, Whirlpool, a manufacturer of home appliances, engaged with prospective candidates through cryptic puzzle games on their social media accounts.

This is a good example of using gamification to find the right talent. Whirlpool would upload puzzles that could test job-related skills on social media and encourage candidates to solve them to progress toward the next recruitment steps.

Gamify the testing of prospective candidates' capabilities, competencies, aptitude, and cognitive skills during the pre-employment period. You can enhance the process with the help of questionnaires, strategy-related quizzes, mathematical puzzles, or Pymetric games.

Helping employees upskill and improve compliance performance

EE, the UK's largest mobile network operator, created a gamified learning portal to enhance their staff's digital skills and compliance performance. The learning portal helped EE employees perform their tasks better, and EE could achieve its objectives quickly.

Tips to get started with gamification at the workplace

1. Add gamification elements that incorporate different job roles

Each gamification element helps to make certain tasks of a job role more fun and engaging. There is no one-size-fits-all gamification element, and the leaders must customize the gamification elements to match different job roles.

2. Encourage employees to set their own goals

Rewards systems, points, and levels are easy and accessible ways to encourage employees to set goals for themselves. Remember to create a balance where employees feel motivated to play and don't feel forced.

3. Set rewards systems, leaderboards, and points

An important element of gamification is to provide quantifiable performance indicators upon which employees can focus and base their goals. Badge systems can help employees perform tasks that are both valued and outside their usual scope of duties.

At the same time, leaderboards give employees significant information on how they perform compared to their colleagues, making them feel recognized and rewarded for their work.

It's important to note that these game elements can be conceptualized as intangible rewards. For example, you can show appreciation towards employees for having earned a badge or moving up the leaderboard, or you can introduce tangible rewards like a free lunch at a favorite café for having reached a certain level.

Recommended Resource: A Complete Guide To Employee Recognition

4. Prepare a feedback loop

Checking progress and gathering feedback about employee performance through various gamification methods serves as a mechanism to gather quantifiable data on what's working and what isn't. Leaders can then modify the intensity level, UX, or other factors to make the game elements more interesting. Real-time feedback can be a game changer for leaders and assist in decision-making.

5. Monitor and evaluate gamification techniques

The gamification program must be constantly evaluated and updated to keep things relevant. It's also crucial to determine realistic and measurable metrics to assess the objective's success.

To measure the objective of gamification, some common metrics considered are the number of registered employees, number of completed activities, top contributors, and performance benchmarks.

Leaders can gamify work to engage their teams better. Already engaged teams will likely see gamification as a way to improve themselves and add an extra fun element. Disengaged teams will most likely use gamification to offset workplace frustrations and as a means of personal improvement. Either way, leaders can create a win-win situation through gamification.

Zahara Sayed is a Content Writer focused on all things HR. When she’s not writing, she goes for long walks with her dog and reads classic literature. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com.

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