Companies should not attempt to jump into gamification all at once. Here are four specific applications that are excellent places to start your gamification program.
1. Call Centers
Leaderboards are just the start of what companies can do to gamify call centers to improve morale and results.
"For call centers and IT support desks, gamification can provide real-time dashboards in a fun and engaging manner," says Siddhesh Bhobe, associate vice president at Persistent Systems, a global software product development company. The result, he says, is better productivity.
2. Social media and knowledge sharing
Participating in corporate social media networks isn't usually as much fun as consumer-oriented social networks, where people can see pictures of their grandkids, check on high school crushes, and catch up on the latest puppy videos. And employees might need some incentives to share information and expertise that they previously hoarded.
For example, Bluewolf, a management consulting firm in New York City, uses Salesforce.com's Chatter platform as its internal social network. At the beginning of the year, the platform was gamified, with employees getting points when they post comments - and more points if that comment sparks a conversation. They also get points for sharing reports to their outside social networks, or publishing a blog post, or making presentations on weekly knowledge management calls.
Employees earn points, says Natasha Oxenburgh, Bluewolf's social programs manager, which can be redeemed for flight upgrades, lunch with the CEO, and trips to the Salesforce.com annual conference.
"The difficult part is trying to adjust the points," she says, "And trying to provide rewards that are of interest to all our employees, for the youngest to the more mature."
And the program needs to be adjusted frequently, with new challenges for participants, to keep it interesting. As a result, however, participation in the company's social network increased 57% during the first quarter of the year, she says, and the growth continued to scale up in the second quarter. Inbound traffic to the corporate website increased as well.
"We've basically given a megaphone to all our employees," she says. "This is really helping us build our brand."
NTT Data, Inc., a global software company, saw participation in its internal social network go from a "few hundred" people to over 5,600 after gamification. Employees get "karma points" for participating, says CTO Imran Sayeed, and each month those with the most points get prizes like lunch with the CTO, or a new iPad.
Appirio is a 500-person Silicon Valley cloud solutions vendor that was trying to compete against much larger consulting firms, like Accenture and Deloitte. Two years ago the company launched CloudSpokes, an online community that now counts around 45,000 developers as members - developers who compete to solve programming challenges.
To make it work, the company involved the developers themselves in making sure that there were no loopholes in the contests and in judging the results, says Narinder Singh, the company's chief strategy officer.
"Now all of a sudden the community is owners," he says. The result is an environment that lets people learn, and work, in a different way. "It's very different from being 'gamified.' Who wants to be gamified? I don't want to be gamified. I want to participate in something fun."
Learning games and simulations are great for teaching complex skills and conveying large amounts of content - and today's companies are going far beyond simple quiz-style games.
"We're building a massive territorial 3D immersive sales game," says Andrew Hughes, president of Franklin, Ohio-based Designing Digitally, which works with government agencies, universities and corporations, including the U.S. Air Force and TD Ameritrade. "It's like a multi-user Grand Theft Auto, but with salesmen."
Some companies think it's enough to take existing learning material and put it into a "Jeopardy!"-style quiz game, he says. "We don't see that as gamification. We won't even go down that route."
Instead, he recommends that companies look to today's best-selling games for inspiration. "If they can analyze how those systems are structured, those structures can be used with any type of content."
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