Would you be surprised to find that one of the most important elements for improving recruitment, skill-building and operational efficiency in your startup or small business is the element of fun? As more and more companies make gamification a part of how they work, having fun—in the context of game playing—is becoming a big part of building a successful company.
This week, I’ll be sharing some examples of the transformative power of gamification in the workplace, in hopes that you’ll be inspired to make this growing trend a part of your own company, if you haven’t already. And if you are using it in some part of your operations now, I hope you’ll be inspired to look for new ways to apply it to business improvement.
Of course, gamification isn’t all just fun and games. It appeals to the very creative, seriously competitive side of the people in your organization. And whether you’re hoping to take advantage of it to attract higher-quality employees or to motivate people you already have on board, there’s plenty of evidence out there that gamification can be a very powerful tool. Here’s what I mean.
Recruiting top candidates
Probably one of the best-known uses of gamification is as a talent recruitment tool. You can go all the way back to 1999 to see this at work with the U.S. Army’s “America’s Army” recruitment initiative that employs a training game to teach new recruits about military processes.
Gamification continues to be a valued tool for recruitment today. Earlier this year, I heard an NPR report about how companies are using “brain games” to determine job candidates’ risk tolerance and other traits that could determine how well they’ll perform in certain types of jobs. Beyond temperament, gamification can help assess skills and abilities for particular roles. For example, Saul Minkoff, one of the co-founders of the Pulse Active Savings microsavings company, created a business-case competition to allow job candidates to showcase their skills.
I think gamification is a great way to help ensure that you’re achieving the right fit between the job and the job candidate and that you’re not hiring someone who may end up performing poorly in a particular role. We’re using it to great effect at Umbel, the big data startup that I run. Our “Umbelmania” game asks developers who want to work at the company to write a program that plays a wrestling game against a series of opponents. The higher their score, the better they demonstrate their coding skills—and the higher their chance of moving through the interviewing process.
Engaging your teams
While gamification can have a tremendous impact on how you identify and hire people, it can be just as powerful—if not more so—as a tool for keeping them engaged after they’ve been hired. Engagement has become a hot topic today, with Gallup reportingthat nearly 70% of U.S. employees overall (and more than 70% of Millennials specifically) are not engaged employees, which the polling company defines as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” Given that ADP estimates that the cost to a company of just one disengaged employee is more than $2,200 a year, it’s no wonder businesses are looking for ways to encourage employee engagement.
Gamification is turning out to be just what’s needed to turn the engagement tide. For example, by making skill-building and training fun and competitive, companies like Cisco and Deloitte are engaging their employees in building strong teams that are well prepared to do their jobs. Cisco gamified its social media training program to help build social media skills among employees, while Deloitte gamified its leadership training program to motivate executives to complete the curriculum. Both have been extremely successful.
Gamification also helps with day-to-day operational challenges ranging from safety to efficiency. Walmart started using it in 2012 as a safety training tool, using game options like “Quiz Show” and “Simon Says” to engage employees and help them retain the safety information they’re provided. Google employs it to motivate people to turn in their expense reports. Every time employees travel for work, if they don’t spend their entire travel allowance, they get to keep it, save it or donate it to charity—which incentivizes them to get those expense reports in on time.
Those are just a few examples of how gamification is helping businesses attract and keep top talent. I think that as more companies discover its benefits, we’ll be seeing it used in more and more ways.