Enterprise Gamification – Approach With Caution

Lauren Carlson, CRM Market Analyst for Software Advice the Austin TX based advisory firm has recently posted an excellent article entitled Gamification: The Key to Preventing Support Agent Burnout on the company’s CRM blog.

I found this post of particular interest as Lauren has suggested what I believe to be a highly appropriate use of gamification, Help Desk Software.

The support team environment is a demanding one, where support agents can get easily burned out, leading to a high turnover rate.

Lauren quotes Richard White, CEO of customer support software vendor UserVoice

“We found that part of the reason for the high turnover rate is that there’s no sense of accomplishment for the agents. If you ask a guy in support, ‘What did you do today?’ He’ll say, ‘I answered support tickets.’ If you ask him, ‘What are you going to do tomorrow?’ He’ll say, ‘I’m answering support tickets.’ They have no concept of, ‘Am I getting better at this? Am I achieving anything?’ Many feel like they just get on a treadmill and run every day.”

Clearly this is fertile ground for a gamified system! However not all Enterprise environments are so suitable.

As Lauren notes around a year ago when she first posted on gamification

At the time, the idea was fairly novel. Today, gamification—the process of adding gaming elements to a non-gaming activity to encourage action and participation—is an idea that is moving beyond acceptance and into development.

I couldn’t agree more, back then talking to large corporates about using gamification to increase employee engagement and productivity was a difficult proposition. At that time the vast majority of organisations were extremely skeptical.

How times have changed… in just a few short months it seems the doors have been flung wide open, now everyman (and his dog) appears to be embracing gamification and investigating ways to incorporate game mechanics into their systems, but why the sudden change?

Quite simply gamification is becoming “big business” with an increasingly high level of investment from VCs. Great news! Well, yes it is, in a way. However the problem with these investors is they demand growth and ever increasing returns. This growth imperative means that many of the emerging “plug and play” platforms are tantamount to corporate exploitation systems. The danger here is that some unscrupulous purveyors of gamification goodness, with their requirement to please their investors, end up completely ignoring motivational theory and the “science behind gamification” leaving them peddling purely carrot and stick driven systems.

On the corporate side one can imagine executives rubbing their hands in glee at what they perceive to be “proven” ways to increase employee performance and engagement that are suitable across the entire organisation. And once they hear that non-monetry rewards are perceived as more valuable than cash? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them skip off giggling into the sunset.

Which is why I found Lauren’s post interesting. You see gamification does have a place and a function in the Enterprise, it does have the potential to be an incredibly powerful tool for driving engagement, loyalty and productivity. HOWEVER, let us remember gamification is about extrinsic rewards, if a task is intrinsically rewarding adding an extrinsic reward system is often counter productive and will almost certainly have a demotivational effect. Therefore the best, most appropriate uses of gamification in the Enterprise are where it is used to drive engagement in tasks with little intrinsic reward, job functions where

“Many feel like they just get on a treadmill and run every day.”

So I  recommend reading Lauren’s post for an excellent example of an appropriate suggestion for a gamified system.

To be sure, you cannot simply add gaming elements to a system and expect success. You have to take a closer look. Who is your user? What is their motivation? How does that align with the success of the company? When coming up with our ideas, this is where we started, and as software vendors begin to embrace the idea of gamification, this is where they will need to start, too.

This entry was posted in Enterprise, Gamification and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *