Managers are struggling to keep remote employees engaged. There is no more walking the floor or stopping by employees’ desks to encourage their efforts. Managers have to rely on people to get the work done in the isolation of their own homes. And if employees don’t have a natural drive or intrinsic love of the work, their quality and deadlines may suffer.
To keep productivity up, managers need to find more creative ways to encourage and celebrate positive behavior, says Kirk Plangger, associate professor at Kings College in London. He believes gamification is the answer.
“Gamification imbues fun and emotion into non-fun activities,” he says. “It provides extrinsic rewards to help employees get over the lack of intrinsic motivation that can be common in the workplace.”
Unlike the virtual happy hours and Zoom lunches that have become a common filler for face-time in the workplace, gamification blends competition and engagement into the work itself, says Greg Salvato, CEO of Touchpoint One, a contact center performance management software company based in Indianapolis. The goals of the game are tied to specific metrics and shared with the group to bring a sense of excitement to the workday. “It combines pride and competition with praise and rewards that align with specific work accomplishments,” Salvato says.
How Gamification Works
Gamification isn’t the same as turning work into a game. It’s about using game mechanics, like leaderboards, points and badges to turn certain tasks or behaviors into a competition to drive better outcomes. “It gets everyone focused on the things you want them to accomplish,” Salvato says.
He notes that business leaders have been incorporating game mechanics into work for decades. Any time a manager puts the team’s sales figures on a whiteboard, or announces the top salesperson of the week, that’s gamification. The difference now is the technology. There are dozens of apps and platforms with gamification tools that managers can use to make the experience more engaging, fun and much easier to manage.
For example, Touchpoint’s performance management platform offers a series of gamification tools that offer different environments, performance metrics and scoring methods to inspire customer reps to improve performance. Managers just pick the game elements and add the players’ names, and the platform tracks their progress in real time, Salvato says.
It’s totally worth it to do gamification, especially in a business where everyone works remotely. [...] People like to be recognized for their hard work, and this is a way to do it.
—Shaun Savage, CEO, GoShare
Moving gamification to an app eliminates the need to track daily results and manually update leaderboards. It also brings more transparency to how performance is judged. With technology-based gamification, everyone on the team sees their own performance data, as well as how everyone is performing in real time, so they can gauge how effective they are and who their biggest competition is.
Creating Friendly Competition
Creating a fun competition among workers can help eliminate the feeling of isolation that often comes with working in a remote work environment, says Shaun Savage, CEO of GoShare, a San Diego-based service that connects truck and van owners with businesses who need last-mile delivery on demand. Savage launched the company five years ago, and today the company has 7,000 independent contract drivers across the nation, all of whom work on their own time and with little supervision.
“We can’t force them to work, so we wanted to make it more enticing,” Savage says. So two years ago, his developers built a custom point system into the GoShare app that rewards drivers with points for every project they complete and the amount of money they earn. Drivers can see their own scores in the platform’s dashboard and how they compare regionally and nationally. Each month, Savage awards the highest point earners in each region and overall with cash prizes.
“It made the platform more engaging and it has given us an advantage over our competitors,” Savage says. He notes that his most prolific drivers love the game, and frequently post their scores in online forums, challenging other drivers to beat them. It has helped create a sense of community and Savage believes it may inspire them to take that extra gig. His team plans to expand the game this year to include additional points for five star ratings, as a way to further incent excellent customer service. “It’s totally worth it to do gamification, especially in a business where everyone works remotely,” Savage says. “People like to be recognized for their hard work, and this is a way to do it.”
How to Gamify Your Workplace
Savage, Plangger and Salvato offer this advice to business owners on how to use gamification to engage your own remote workers.
1. Share the data with everyone.
“Whether you are using a technology-based game or sharing a picture of your whiteboard in a Zoom meeting, make it public so people can see how they are doing,” Savage says. “People need to see the comparison to know how they are doing.”
2. Be clear about what you're tracking.
Gamification is fun, but if you want to use it to drive better business outcomes, you have to link the game to specific business results or performance metrics, Salvato says. Points can be ties to any element of work, from improved sales or increased productivity to attendance, teamwork or customer service. “Design the game around what you want to accomplish.”
3. Keep it simple.
“If the game or scoring system is too complicated it will become just another task to complete,” Plangger says. He suggests using a straightforward scoring system and putting a timeline on the game to keep people engaged.
4. Include a social component.
Add a chat feature or encourage point sharing on internal forums, Plangger suggests. “It adds a sense of camaraderie and competition to the game.”
5. Show you care.
When team leaders and managers promote the game and celebrate winners, it sends the message that this is important, Salvato says. “Engaged leaders create engaged employees who do better work.”
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