If you have been in the business of software product development or just paying attention to technology press, then you’ve likely heard the term, “gamification.” This is just a fancy way of describing the idea of giving small rewards for actions, usually within a digital environment.
However, you could easily say that gamification has been around since the early days of bribing your child. Remember back to your childhood. Think about the times you were offered a treat for cleaning your room, or desert for eating your vegetables. You weren’t receiving a monetary reward, rather a gift that had value to you. Some gifts are easy to identify as valuable, like ice cream to a child. Other gifts may be more difficult to assign value to, like a digital sticker on an iPad app. The underlying correlation is the value the recipient gets from the reward, be it physical or virtual.
This biological desire for reward is being baked into all kinds of things in our life. Every video game ever made gives its users some type of reward for playing. Casinos have mastered the art of coaxing us out of hundreds of dollars so they can “reward” us with a free buffet.
Rewards are also very common in the business world. Sales people live and die by the monetary and status rewards tied to hitting sales goals. Non-monetary rewards are just as common. Think about the “Employee of the Month” award, the “Preferred Parking Space” award, or simply ringing a bell when something good happens. It’s all designed to stimulate workers to work harder for the company to receive a reward that they perceive as valuable.
As today’s worker spends more and more time using software tools, businesses need to find a way to motivate workers beyond giving them more money. Monetary rewards are difficult to give to workers that don’t drive revenue for the company, as it can be very expensive. There are lots of people inside your organization that work very hard processing information, fulfilling orders, answering customer questions, and otherwise making the business work.
The challenge is to create virtual rewards inside business software applications that make the average worker want to do a better job while working inside the software. This is where gamification plays an important role. Oftentimes a worker performs the same set of actions over and over again in a software program. As expected, this can become quite boring very quickly, leading to mistakes and reduced performance. Depending on the sets of actions performed within software, the appropriate gamification mechanism will vary.
Business software typically involves actions such as; data entry, document retrieval, information processing, order fulfillment, information retrieval, reporting, etc. Each of these actions can be tracked for rewards based on speed or accuracy against a set goal. Or if there are multiple workers performing the same task, those workers can compete against each other.
Regardless of the function or method of defining success, the important things to keep in mind when designing gamification into business software are:
1. Alert the user immediately after an action that points are being added or subtracted based on the performance. This is important to remind the user that things are being tracked and will be used in the “game” to reward them.
2. Show the score of the user and their competition. A user should know where they stand against the stated goal or how they compare to fellow office workers. This information should be openly accessible to all workers so that peer pressure and competition drive improved performance.
3. Translate success inside the application to acknowledgement and reward outside the application. Let everyone know who is winning the “game” and reward them accordingly. Rewards can take any form, even a simple congratulatory email distributed throughout the organization. Recognition is a sincere reward to the recipient.
Business owners shouldn’t think of gamification as a gimmick. Instead it should be seen as a productivity tool that keeps workers on task and boosts morale throughout the organization. These techniques can be used in any industry across almost any job function. Let’s get gaming!