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A real example of gamification and employee engagement

Darryn and Bronwyn Van Den Berg

As gamification grows in the world of business, organisations are being encouraged to engage in more exciting opportunities. These opportunities link gamification with behaviour change - increasing employee engagement across an array of workplaces. The question is how do you get gamification going on the ground?

Don't treat gamification like a game

In the organisational development space, we often hear: "We've been using gamification for years"... followed by "Yep we have designed the most engaging game for our leadership training programme" or "Our induction programme is now a game and it's brilliant."

But if you dig a little deeper into these claims, you find that these 'games' have to overcome these challenges:

  • Poor uptake,
  • Unsatisfactory completion of the set outcomes, or
  • No staying power, meaning that participators drop out over time.

These challenges can be avoided if gamification is taken seriously

The launch of Rapper Jay-Z's book is a great example of a successful gamification strategy, highlighting the difference between a 'game' and a real and powerful gamification strategy.

What makes a gamification strategy successful?

A successful gamification strategy needs to have set mechanics that link to business applications. A good example is the following video gamification strategy which has these 11 mechanics.

1. Collaboration of strategies

(WHY): In this initiative, the first gamification mechanic used was "collaboration". The collaboration achieved was two fold:

a. Two different quests were combined into one (see #3 for explanation),

b. Engaging with players once to achieve two strategy's.

This links to the business application because one of the key searches in businesses these days is establishing ways to move the company away from department or business siloes to a collaboration of strategies and business drivers.

Business often wants to deliver the messages from two strategies at once, and so they bombard the employees with too much communication.

Most of this gets lost on the notice boards and they could have communication the 2 messages creatively only once.

When building your gamification strategy it's SMART to get different minds from different department and areas into the build.

2. Quest 1: "drive the trial of Bing Search and maps – and increase their relevance with the younger audience

Quest 2: Launch Jay-Z's book to widest reader population

This links to can be applied to business because organisations want change, OD, plans and growth, yet the actual "quest" is not realised. The question that needs answering upfront is "WHY"? Why do you want what you want?

"More money" and "business growth", "less absenteeism", "acceptance of the new Culture", are the behaviours or outcomes not the real "why".

If you can answer the WHY for yourself AND your people, buy-in will be much more successful!

3. Use of symbols:

For the Bing quest they combined their launch with Jay-Z. He is a symbol of success and an Icon to culture for the younger audience.

According to Forbes: "He is one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs in America. In 2014". We have learned that people relate best to symbols. And often these demonstrate status. STATUS is the most effective element to increase and sustain motivation.

In your businesses there are many symbols and icons that demonstrate success and HOW you want others to act. Too often the "performance people" are rewarded and the "hidden hero's" are neglected.

One of the HUGE success factors of this campaign is that the icon/symbol was presented as accessible to EVERYONE!! We can ALL be involved – we can ALL win...

Businesses will do well to find the symbols and icons of success and build campaigns around these.

4. Narrative:

Every page of Jay-Z's book was inspired by the story of Jay Z's life. And these were positioned in specific places as the storey unfolded "Narratives are powerful because they speak about and shape our realities, who we are, how we relate to others and who we can become as individuals, communities and companies. Leaders in business play a very important role in the "narratives" that are told about the company, the work we do, the teams and the business."

Yet narrative and story telling is not given enough time in business. "Is it REALLY counter intuitive?"

5. Immediate feedback:

People were able to track their progress on Bing Maps. They were able to see immediately how they were doing, and then win a digital page from the book.

Every major news outlet and culture influencer became involved Feedback in business is mostly linked to the "performance management system." This gets done at best quarterly, in a way that is most often not overly engaging.

Then there is the annual engagement survey, as a snap shot of time, to measure the entire year's result of employee satisfaction.

Businesses should investigate and apply new ways of feedback, making it consistent, current, quick and effective. If your change management, OD, engagement, performance management strategy is to be realised effectively – feedback loops need to be frequent.

6. Social engagement, progress, and reward:

Clues to find the next page in the book were posted daily for people to find. They were posted on Facebook, twitter and Radio. Every day millions of people gathered to engage We live in a social revolution, and yes social media is here to stay. Of course it can be distracting, and take time from people.

However if harnessed correctly, (or your enterprise software is configured with a quest in mind) the most amazing group collaboration, innovation, problem solving, transparency, growth and engagement will be experienced.

The other success factor here was autonomy. The player could choose on which platform they WANTED to engage

7. Status:

Before the launch of the hard copy, the learners could build the entire E-Book

Power: being able to boast and be seen above the rest

Stuff: getting the actual book Status is the most effective reward element, most sustainable and least expensive in relation, to Stuff, Access and Power. In the business currently the main focus on Status is your position in relation to the MD/CEO or the Unions.

Businesses predominantly reward with stuff (13th cheques, pay raises and gifts), and mostly the power experienced is from people who shout and scream (or play the passive aggressive role).'

Businesses will find far more effective employee engagement when they apply the status element in a larger effect for jobs well done... Investigate ways to do this creatively!

8. Progress:

Every day for a month, info was strategically placed from on huge iconic bill boards to unique collectable icons. The progress demonstrated here was the journey toward the completion of the books or just the journey down memory lane, with Jay-Z.

In business, upward promotion (toward the MD seat) is the progress of the 80's and 90's which was during the knowledge and technology revolutions.

We are now in the social revolution and the millennials are here. Progress is different and how people experience progress has changed.

9. Mystery:

Clues were released daily that people had to solve. What is exciting about my workplace after I have been here for 5 years always doing the same thing?

What is intriguing here, is that this engagement was pure intrinsic motivation. There were no monetary, or visible rewards other than maybe getting the book for yourself before launch.

10. Guilds or groups:

Every day millions of people gathered to solve the clues. These groups/guilds were formed as and when, without enticement or pleading.

In the workplace, there are many required groups and committees, however, the opportunity for employees to form their own groups where there is not much control from the company, and serving the purpose of what the group is formed for but that is left to the group is a great place for innovation to grow.

11. Pages were placed in a specific location:

To gain a context of Jay Z and then be able to walk through Jay-Z's life This was another bit of genius. The followers could take the content and place it in a specific context.

Interesting that often the Standards Operating Procedures are written and then stored in areas that are so far removed from context, the reader takes ages just to contextualise the meaning.

Then when something goes wrong the company employees receive the "updated policy" for immediate effect that everybody MUST sign.

WHY and context of the policy in this would increase acceptance in unprecedented measures.

The above strategy achieved the following results:

a. Average player engagement on the webpage: 11 min

b. Increase in Facebook Fans grew+ 1'000'000

c. Decoded bestsellers list 19 straight weeks

d. Covered by every major news outlets and culture influence

e. 1 month 11.7% increase in visit

f. Good media impressions

If you could convert your success rate of one of your OD/Change or HRD initiatives to achieve 11.7% of ALL the combined initiatives you have implemented, can you just imagine what the ROI would be?

Remember: Always plan your gamification strategy with a focused objective

A strategy needs to have clear, measureable behaviours before you add the fun so that you can track what works and doesn't as well as measure ROI in the process.

You could use some of the above ideas or brainstorm your own: The sky is the limit!

Darryn and Bronwyn (husband and wife team) are energised, passionate and excited to teach gamification in a practical and real way, using fun, to link business, education and life. Combined with 19 years of international and national organisational development, behaviour and change management expertise, they love to share and enable business growth into new and uncharted territories. Come and join their adventure! Visit their website at