Collaboration. Engagement. The Consumerization of the Enterprise. Today, global businesses are beginning to realize that driving and sustaining an engaged workforce is a necessity to increase efficiency and profits. Yet four out of ten employees worldwide are not engaged, according to an AON Hewitt study, and this lack of engagement is crippling business growth potential.

Software Isn't the Answer

Companies are under immense pressure to find new, effective ways to engage employees -- and keep them engaged -- to spur growth, reduce turnover, preserve talent and maintain a competitive advantage. Many have turned to software to help create the spark and transform into true digital operations, but a large number of these projects are failing.

Why? Because despite enormous investment in enterprise applications, adoption remains low: this year alone, Gartner claims businesses will spend nearly US$ 300 billion on enterprise software, yet according to a survey by The IT Adoption Alliance, usage of this software is only about 50 percent. That means that some US$ 150 billion will be essentially wasted on software investments.

In the meantime, employees are for a variety of reasons becoming even less engaged. One of the primary causes of employee disengagement is failure of the organization to provide proper recognition for performance, desired behaviors, compliance and contributions.

Another issue: there are many behaviors employees must perform to support a sustainable, efficient workforce, yet businesses have no scalable way to explain the necessary steps to reach optimal performance, nor do they have the tools to reward employees for completing these tasks. 

Why Gamification? Why Now?

While 70 percent of business transformation efforts currently fail due to lack of engagement, gamification provides the antidote that can help stop to the hemorrhaging. According to Gartner, gamification addresses engagement, transparency of work and the connection between employees’ actions and business outcomes, which is why the firm predicts gamification will be the primary mechanism to transform business operations for 70 percent of Global 2000 firms by 2014 and 40 percent of Global 1000 companies by 2015.

Regardless of employee demographics, gamification programs can be customized to incentivize their behavior. For example, younger workers specifically demand more frequent feedback and recognition. Cindy Ventrice, employee engagement researcher and author of Make Their Day notes,

Those 25 and under have a significant preference for daily feedback. This is challenging for managers. Gamified enterprise software can provide a portion of the feedback required to keep these employees engaged. This gamified system also allows managers to track and reinforce critical behaviors and provide the personal recognition that employees also crave.”

But providing an engaging environment must be cost-effective. Gamification resolves this challenge as well.

Research has shown that once basic needs are met, additional cash rewards do not help motivate employees. In her research, Ventrice found that when employees were asked to estimate the dollar value of workplace recognition, 57 percent reported that the most meaningful recognition cost the organization nothing.

Instead, employee engagement and motivation is better driven by manager and peer recognition. But being named Employee of the Month just doesn't cut it in today’s digital world. Global organizations -- from consulting firms Capgemini and Deloitte to major oil, retail and finance businesses to big technology firms -- are investing heavily in gamification systems to drive employee productivity and engagement.

Modern businesses must embrace digital transformation across all aspects of their business to thrive in the next decade and beyond," said Maggie Buggie, VP, Digital Transformation, Capgemini Consulting. "Gamification is, at its core, an actionable strategy which analyzes customer and employee behavior across your organization and then creates sophisticated programs to actually change this behavior to benefit the business. If executives are serious about building the Digital Advantage, they should investigate the ability of gamification to play an important role in their business case realization."

Where & How to Gamify Your Business

Virtually every side of business operations can use gamification to drive employee engagement and performance. In fact, many are discovering that the greatest value of gamification is creating a holistic reputation system for their employees that is connected across all touch points.

There are several area of the business that make good starting points, enabling the business to expand to other areas as they experience the great rewards of the program in driving employee engagement.

  1. Training & Learning -- Gamification programs are a natural fit for corporate training programs. Rewarding employees for completing learning tutorials and guiding them with missions through related educational experiences improves retention, time spent and results. This is helpful for onboarding new employees as well as training older employees on new products and policies.
  2. Support & Services -- With gamification programs, you can reward the best support team members based on speed, efficiency and quality of support. Motivating knowledge sharing behaviors helps reps solve similar customer tickets more efficiently.
  3. Sales -- Sales representatives are naturally competitive. But, there are a lot of steps that lead up to a deal which aren't rewarded, but are statistically just as important as closing a deal. Gamification enables sales directors to reward compliant performers, and can even help increase collaboration among sales representatives.
  4. Collaboration -- With gamification, you can instantly motivate employees to share, learn and grow together across geographical locations. For example, Deloitte Consulting has used gamification to significantly increase collaboration amongst management consultants worldwide.
  5. Marketing & Social Advocacy -- Gamification can be used to drive employees to share information and be advocates for the company on social media. It can also be used to make marketing automation programs more efficient.
  6. Order Management and Warehousing -- Gamification can be used to incentivize correct processing and shipment of orders across all channels to eliminate errors and ensure Six Sigma operational quality.
  7. Human Capital Management -- Gamification provides an efficient system for conducting and tracking performance reviews and providing peer recognition for professional accomplishments. This can be tied to a professional advancement track program enabling employees to see a clear path to their next level or role. Gamification is also extremely effective in recruiting, both in incentivizing employee referrals and keeping recruits engaged in the process from submitting their application through the final interview.
  8. Product Development -- Integrating gamification into product tracking software enables you to reward employees for completing projects on time, working together as a team, launching faster and quality deliverables.
  9. Ideation / Innovation -- Drive innovation within the company by rewarding top ideas and innovation across all departments.
  10. Corporate Culture -- Gamification can promote a positive company culture, rewarding employees for cross-departmental collaboration or company-wide volunteer programs. A gamified platform can be used to track available opportunities, make these transparent to the employee, and provide a history of all employee engagement in the programs.

Across multiple departments, any industry and even the largest global enterprises, gamification is becoming a powerful strategy for fueling motivation and employee engagement to drive real bottom-line results.

Image courtesy of marekuliasz (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Interested in another perspective on gamification? Read Jason Silberman's The Gamification of Organizational Learning: Two Opposing Theories