HCM Strategy Discussion: Gamification

April 9, 2014 Harry West


In their 2013 emerging technology Hype Cycle report, Gartner placed Gamification at the “peak of hype”.  Despite the hype, there are some solid cloud-delivered offerings that have matured, like Bunchball’s Nitro, Hoopla, or Badgeville.  Appirio has also developed its own gamification application on the force.com platform to motivate our team and reward positive behaviors. Of course, as Gartner’s model predicts, technology hype is soon followed by disillusion. As we approach increasing disillusion with gamification, it’s a good time to hear some of Appirio’s most experienced strategists weigh in on the subject.

In their latest video blog Appirio’s Wes Wu, Harry West, and Patrick Dodge discuss the use of gamification as a strategy, especially when it comes to increasing the adoption of Human Capital Management (HCM) systems. Using gamification for HCM is a twist on the traditional use of gamification, which has been an effective tool in sales and service competitions and other activities like corporate wellness programs.

Harry says “Gamification is a really interesting tool for employee engagement, and encouraging all kinds of collaboration.”  However, Harry doesn’t see gamification as a cure-all for HCM adoption issues. Harry finds that if an organization has trouble with HCM adoption, it can usually be traced back to factors such as:

1) Processes that are unnecessary for the employee to get real work done.

2) Poor transaction design causing employees to leave transactions incomplete or with errors.

3) Employees unaware of a system/tool or unable to find it.

And of course, every emerging technology at the peak of the hype scale will have its share of skeptics, and in this discussion that is Patrick. “How fun can you make mowing the lawn?” he asks.  “Make stuff simple, accessible and purposeful and the right people will do what they need to do to help the business and get back to work.” HCM tasks, however, can frequently fall off the radar of even the most conscientious employees.

Creating good HCM processes in the first place seems to be the main task for HCM technology implementations. The key question is whether gamification can improve employee adoption of sensible Human Resource processes.  The answer, according to Wes, is an absolute “Yes.”  Imagine, for example, the gamification of onboarding – where local offices can create tiers of missions for employees to accomplish.  Activities such as setting up a meeting with a manager (aside from their own), going to lunch with co-workers, or even just finding the break room could be turned into points-earning missions.

Managers will always be challenged to get employees to perform tasks that are necessary, but not fun or interesting. Gamifying certain HCM activities makes good sense as a design strategy, but can never be a substitute for solid processes.

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