The game of gamification

JoystickLast week I supported and attended my first IOIC Conference in Bristol. The three days were brilliant and one of my highlights was the session on gamification. Hosted by Tim Hall from Cognify the room listened intently to his overview of how gamification can be used in business, properly. Then we played a little game ourselves and I asked Tim to pull together his findings to share with you here.

Over to you Tim:

The game of gamification

I had the pleasure of presenting some of the theory behind gamification at 2013 IOIC conference last week and was very fortunate to have a room full of friendly and professional communicators (especially for my first public speaking gig!). Also included for first time was an exercise that I created to demonstrate the effects that game mechanics have on audiences. So, a newly created gamification workshop and a hundred strangers, what could go wrong?

Well nothing….In fact, the exercise gave some startling results and insight into how people behave using even the simplest of game mechanics.

The exercise was in two parts – the first was an individual achievement activity that used a simple objective and a sprinkling of completive spirit to obtain an initial benchmark result.

The second part is where it got very interesting. In the second part, I introduced team achievement using the same activity, but this time thickly laid on the competitive spirit. In this half, each of teams could influence the outcome of the game through a team colour scoring mechanism.

My first observation was how eerily quiet the room was during the second activity; it seemed that the opportunity of influencing the whole game gave everyone so much focus and determination they had little room for conversation.

I then noticed the team on the table directly in front of me collectively agreeing to hide their results so they wouldn’t draw attention from other teams, and in turn protect their score. According to Bartle gamer psychology, these individuals displayed the classic ‘killer’ gamer trait, individuals who thrive on competing with others and bending the rules of play to ensure their success – it couldn’t have been anymore enlightening.

While I find my observations interesting, they are nowhere near as compelling as the cold hard numbers. The total room results showed a marked increase of over 61% in the second part of the exercise. Even taking a little poetic licence from self-scoring into the equation, it’s still a huge uplift in productivity. Time for gamification workshop mark II, I think!

The Golden Fortnight

A few months ago I was chatting to our Head of Learning and Development, Gill White, about the introduction of e-learning into our business and why we are asking employees to undertake some training before they formally join us. Why would someone want to do training before they actually start work? The answer, because it’s the golden fortnight…..

The first thing to remember is that we are mainly taking on GenY’s (mid-1970s[6] to the late 1980s, early or mid 1990s, or as late as the early 2000’s).

If you conclude that constant development is hugely important to them, it makes sense that they are prepared to start the psychological contract with their employer as quickly as possible.

 Research from the CIPD in 2009 proported that over 40% of new starters practically immediately start looking for a new job. Engaging them and setting the right first impression is therefore a necessity.

Certain companies such as Marston’s and Apple have made the most of the “post offer” but “pre day one” gap in time (known sometimes as the “Golden Fortnight”). Of course it’s a perfect time to “influence” the new employee. Research indicates that the employee is more committed to the company and brand at that stage then they are after they actually start working for the company. This is put down to their ideological “dreaming” of what the new job might be like.

These companies have used this time to send the new starter links to pre starter e-learning – ranging from induction information, company history, food safety training, health and safety training etc. The feedback from the Gen Y’ers is that they feel more engaged and confident after completing this pre start work.

What’s a Gen-Y?

From the research of Strauss and Howe (established as the most cited writers about Gen-Y’ers) this generation have central tendencies:

• Special

They have been told all of their lives by their baby boomer parents that they are special. This is the generation used to receiving a ribbon just for taking part in a sports day at school, even if they didn’t cross the line. This has led to them being extremely self-aware and not needing the comfort of “fitting in” – it makes them authentic but not necessarily astute. They seek continuous personal development, to further understand who they really are and are happy to go wherever they see that need being fulfilled the quickest.

• Sheltered

Gen-Y’ers have had their lives organised for them to give direction. They are used to being told what’s happening next and provided with support to achieve results. This has led them to be highly motivated individuals with no clear life plan. This is a particular issue for Gen-X’er’s (usually their line managers) as they are so independent and are used to going out there and making it happen on their own.

• Confident

Gen-Y’ers have come to expect good news and believe in themselves. They have been consistently rewarded for the most normal of behaviours throughout their lives and this has led to others perceiving them as having a sense of entitlement. They are confident of their ability to match the effort required to meet the expectations others place on them and are motivated to do so as long as their own expectations of beneficial outcomes are met

• Conventional

Interestingly this generation understand social order and have a healthy respect for authority – if they respect the person in authority. They value experience and what they can learn from it, but do not respond to being dictated to or lectured. When they join a company they are often most interested in understanding the CEO’s personal story and they are likely to respond well to his or her calls to action. If they lose respect for those in charge of the company, they are likely to leave. It is said they make heroes of those who they see as “leading people through the valley” and have aspirations of doing the same.

• Team-Oriented

Having spent all of their lives communicating 24/7 with their friends, Gen-Y’s prefer to work together. There is less pressure on them in a team and they enjoy taking collective action. They find it difficult to deal with difficult people or situations and expect to be protected by someone in authority.

• Achieving

There is a high need to feel a sense of achievement from this group. They have come to associate achievement with reward and will expect that any achievement will result in some type of recognition. They are very oriented around the value of “fairness” and comply with most requests unless they see that they are being treated subjectively. The communication and demonstration of clear and fair practices are vital to avoid their cynicism.

Schneider and Stevenson concluded in their study of “Millennial’s” at college in 1999 that:

“ There is a concern that high school grade inflation, combined with a decrease in study time, might be setting Millennial students up for unrealistic expectations for what it takes to succeed academically and to prepare themselves professionally”

In contradiction Howe and Strauss feel that Gen-Y’s are:

“generally hardworking, cheerful, earnest and deferential. However they are also recognised as messy, easily distracted, full of disappointment and also full of promise. Gen-Y’s have characteristics that are at once enjoyable and challenging.”