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Gamification: Using play to motivate employees and engage customers

Robert Strohmeyer | Aug. 29, 2013
Turning business goals into games, with points and prizes, can boost results—if you do it right.

A well-structured recognition system such as this can create a Las Vegas-style atmosphere in a worker's limbic system, stimulating the amygdala and conditioning the brain to pursue ever-greater acts of sales accomplishment.

Businesses play along
Making business more gamelike has become an industry unto itself. Companies such as Badgeville and Bunchball offer a variety of products and services aimed at integrating recognition and achievement systems into websites for both internal and customer-facing gamification. Salesforce.com, meanwhile, has integrated gamified features into all of its products for sales management and customer service.

Education sites such as Khan Academy and Codecademy compel students to continue their learning by celebrating every element of a student's progress through a course, awarding badges for key achievements and encouraging students to share them on social networks. It's an approach that not only drives users to remain engaged but also promotes the site itself, as students share their accomplishments with their Facebook friends.

"There's no question that it works," says Michael Fauscette, who leads research firm IDC's Software Business Solutions Group. In his June 2013 study of gamification in the enterprise, Fauscette found overwhelming evidence that the practice drives engagement. In one representative example, Deloitte Learning Academy used gamification to boost participation in its professional development programs. By adding a series of fun "missions" to the program, in which participants accrued points and unlocked shareable achievements as they studied, Deloitte managed to get busy executives to spend a lot more time engaged in its programs.

"Return rates increased to >46% daily and >36% weekly," says Fauscette in a summary of his report. "Active users unlocked an average of 3 achievements and some of the top users exceeded 30 achievements."

Daniel Debow, senior vice president of Salesforce.com's Work.com group, which creates gamified elements for all of the company's products, was an accidental convert to gamification. As a cofounder of a company called Rypple (acquired by Salesforce in 2012), Debow sought to make an employee-review product that would make the performance-evaluation process less grueling for managers and more engaging for employees. That was in 2008, when gamification was young, and badges and achievements were only beginning to emerge in the world of Web apps. "We were just trying to make an app that people would actually use," says Debow. "And in my mind, what people call 'gamification' is just good application design."

Indeed, elements of gamification are now ubiquitous on the Web. Facebook's interface is full of gamified cues, from the number of replies and shares on a status update to the number of people on your Friends list, the whole site is brimming with achievements and points of a sort.

 

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