The idea of making ordinary tasks fun and engaging in an effort to increase productivity is not a new one. Simply look at the rich history of the work song. Nearly as old as recorded history, these songs – sung by prisoners, factory workers, farmers, sailors and more – illustrate quite clearly the role that distraction plays in getting people to do something efficiently and with little complaint. In fact, you could say it’s a key strategy.
So, put simply, games and songs doubling as training tools aren’t new. What is new is the role that video games – particularly social and mobile games – are beginning to play in employee training and satisfaction. And the idea isn’t limited to employees either. Companies are starting to adopt gaming as a retention and marketing strategy for consumers as well. The concept is known as “gamification.” Using games and gaming principles as a means of promoting a specific goal may seem unorthodox, but it has been proven effective over and over.
Clearly, there’s something to it.
Understanding the Principles, or: How It All Works
One of the simplest explanations for why gaming can help increase productivity in a work place is because it’s fun. In other words, you’re providing an employee motivation to accomplish his or her tasks (beyond the broader, more conceptual motivation of pay and housing – think immediate and present motivation). Whether a company opts to adopt gaming principles for training purposes, or as a rewards program for productivity, it’s incentivizing employees by making a task that might otherwise be menial or boring into one that is enjoyable. There are some ground rules, however:
Don’t Make It Just About Money – Companies are well-advised to reward employees through means other than cash alone. When cash becomes the incentive, people can start to feel taken advantage of – “Why should Bob make more than me when I’m fulfilling all of my work obligations?”
Don’t Make Employees Resent the Game – Mobile and social gaming can be fun and rewarding, but companies shouldn’t treat it purely as an efficiency tool. If the end goal is to squeeze the most productivity out of a worker possible, employees will quickly come to loathe the game’s role in the work place.
Invest Some Actual Dollars in Your Game – If people believe that the games are contrived, hokey, or a gimmick in any way, there’s no chance that they’ll be as effective as hoped. Adults are smart, opinionated, and not altogether easily won over. Companies that are considering implementing gaming into the work place should make sure it’s worth their employees’ time and energy.
The key to successfully implementing gamification in the work place is choosing training, reward, and productivity tools that employees will actually want to use. If this thinking guides the decision-making process, businesses can reap real rewards (and so can the employees).
Putting Today’s Technology to Use
It is easier than ever to incorporate mobile and social gaming into the work environment, as the underlying technology has become incredibly powerful. Advanced mobile technology, like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile processor, has resulted in laptops, tablets, and even smartphones that are more advanced than desktop computers from just a decade ago. Suffice to say, a simple trivia game or social program is now well within the bounds of reality. Mobile games in the work place simply make use of technologies that already exist.
And then there’s the numbers. There are more mobile devices on Earth than there are people. The odds are good that everyone in your office has more than one, in fact – a smartphone in their pocket, a tablet in their bag, and perhaps an office-provided laptop or tablet for good measure. Though the idea of people playing games during work hours may have seemed alien or even prohibitively expensive as recently as five years ago, in 2015, the hardware is the least of a company’s worries.
Finally, the culture is ready for it. People have been exposed to video games for more than 30 years. Young, middle-aged and old alike know how to play – there’s no barrier to entry anymore, as there might have been two decades ago. It just makes sense to re-work games for business purposes. Which is exactly what’s occurring.
Are Games the Future of Business?
That might be going a bit far. But gaming and business are quickly becoming intertwined. If your office hasn’t yet adopted video games for training or productivity purposes, or simply as a rewards tool, don’t be surprised if they pop up in the next year or two.