Chances are good there is some type of game that you have been (or are currently) obsessed with. For some, it’s your Friday night poker game; for others, it’s Candy Crush. Then of course there are the “serious” gamers who play video games like Halo or Madden. Whatever your game of choice, there is something exciting and addicting about using your skills to compete. In fact, studies show that the human brain actually releases dopamine (the chemical involved in our brains’ reward and pleasure center) when people play games. So it’s no wonder we’re thrilled when we unlock that next level or earn virtual coins.
Gamification — turning your job into a game
With the addicting properties of gaming, it makes sense that businesses want to harness that power to engage and motivate employees. With gamification, they can do just that. According to TJ Keitt of Forrester Research, gamification is the use of game components likes statuses, leaderboards, currency, and badges to accelerate or enhance things that aren’t actually games. The idea of gamifying in business isn’t exactly new — sales departments have been using leaderboards and prizes for years to spur competition. But as Keitt says, the term only seems new because only in the last few years have vendors begun automating gaming elements and providing APIs that integrate these gaming capabilities into enterprise applications.
Appiro’s Gamification Engine (AGE)
At Appirio, gamification is a big part of our culture. The Appirio Gamification Engine (AGE) was built on the Salesforce.com platform with the help of Topcoder™, Appirio’s global crowdsourcing community. (Topcoder also uses gamification for rankings, ratings, and badges used to showcase members’ accomplishments and skills.) By building the application in Salesforce and with the power of crowdsourcing, we were able to put it together quickly and exactly the way we wanted it. AGE has helped spur more innovation, collaboration, and fun within Appirio.
AGE is integrated with Salesforce Chatter, and by creating hashtags for different challenges and shoutouts, points are awarded to employees to use in the company store for Appirio-branded gear, electronics, and more. (Employees cannot simply go into the store and purchase these items with cash; they can only be obtained with AGE points.) People managers, directors, and project managers — among others — are given a budget of points that can be used for recognizing employees for completing challenges, getting certifications, or going above and beyond in their roles. Points are also awarded for doing things like community service. Appirio employees get 8 hours of paid time each year to be used for volunteering, and when they share their volunteer day on Chatter they receive 500 AGE points and the volunteering day badge.
Tie challenges to real business goals
Although gamification is a great way to inject fun and collaboration into a company culture, its ability to increase productivity is what makes it so valuable. Challenges can be created to solve real business problems or meet certain needs, and can be tied to measurable business goals. At Appirio, we had an initiative to get our consultants to focus more on asset reuse, so that they could benefit from each other’s previous efforts on past projects. By tying the use and creation of assets to points and badges, the organization saw a huge boost in productivity. Consultants can enjoy the friendly competition of earning as many or more badges as their colleagues, as well as the ability to showcase their level of work to the organization. When participating in specific challenges like this, new badges can be created — or requirements to earn them adjusted — as productivity increases.
Gamification can increase productivity and transform a culture, but that can only happen in organizations that value transparency. For it to be truly successful, people need to be empowered and willing to share their successes (and failures) with the rest of the organization. Gamification also works best with a real-time feedback mechanism, like Chatter. And it’s essential that company leaders see the value and are active in gamification, as it sets the example for the rest of the company by proving that although it seems like just fun and games, it’s also an important accelerator of the business.