Competition or collaboration for employee engagement: what should you choose?

Competition or collaboration are often seen as the polar opposites of gamification design. Making a choice between them may often be what determines the design. But how to make that choice is not always that clearcut.

competition or collaboration www.gamificationnation.com/blogWhen I receive enquiries I will always ask the question of what culture prevails in the company. Often followed at some point with the question of whether the client has a more competitive or more collaborative design in mind. Some companies are very clear on how they want their gamification project to pan out and others when questioned are not so sure. I have also had the situation where people come for a competitive design and after I raise some questions, completely change their mind.

Know your people

If you are not sure about which way to choose your design style, then the first port of call is user research. You can simply ask whether they prefer collaboration or competition. From a research perspective that may give you a clear answer, but in a work environment we can nearly predict that it will be collaboration. I tend to dress up the ‘what do you prefer question’ by asking what kind of games they already play as well as what gives them a feeling of winning and achievement. You can have a ranking in order of priority of statements.

If you receive answers where people play mainly team sports or board games, then you may want to consider team competition. If the main reason for team sports is the social aspect and not necessarily winning, then collaboration is a good option. If you have many competitive players, you will receive answers of needing to win and often more individual competitive sports. The types of games named will give you a good insight into the gameplay they tend towards.

What is your own bias?

We often see the project team coming with some preconceived notions on how people behave in the company. It may be based on what they would like to see instead or on one team or aimed at one team. We always recommend co-creating with some of your target audience and we also recommend extending your input through surveys and focus groups.

Knowing your own bias, however, is important to acknowledge. I typically ask people on project teams we work with to take the player profile questionnaire designed by Andrzej Marczewski. We then discuss how this may impact their design decisions. We then compare this with our research findings to see if we match or oppose what the majority of our target group is like.

Play existing games

Another creative way is inviting your target groups to play games. Observing their behaviour in collaborative games and observing their behaviour in competitive games is useful. It will tell you a lot about the spirit you will create when you introduce company-wide programs. You may have noticed some of the side effects of competition and some of the challenges with collaboration.

collaboration

The things to really watch out for is who opts in and who opts out. You will find that in both types of games some people will simply switch off. If those are the target audience for your game, find out what they enjoy and don’t enjoy about the game. The responses will be very varied and give you fabulous insights.

The kind of impact you want to create should be the ultimate decision point. If you want people to collaborate more, then it is an easy choice. If you want people to compete more again it is an easy choice. But I hazard a guess that it isn’t that clearcut as a choice.

Either way don’t assume that you know your people and their preferences. They may very well surprise you.

Keeping a gamification design fair for your intended audience

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How do you know whether workplace technology has really moved on?

Technology has a in the last few decades moved on quite rapidly. When we look at the nature and state of workplace technology especially in the learning and HR space this may be deceptive. In gamification, we speak to a lot to professionals in the corporate sector who just bought a new version of a big name platform and then find their users are not converting to it. Roll in gamification as the solution to make the experience better.

avoid computer frustration with gamification www.gamificationnation.comMy first question is always why did you buy said big-name platform if it didn’t quite suit your needs. Sometimes it was a decision made based on existing enterprise resource planning tools other times it was more a case of deception by the sales teams of big-name platforms.

So how do you know their technology is modern?

First of all you need to know what old and new looks and feels likes, before you can answer that question. If you look at consumer facing applications, most technology is tested there first and workplace tech follows about 10 or so years later in the big companies due to existing procurement processes and legacy system ties. Read up on what is new from toughtleaders in the field and what they recommend you look for, before you start courting suppliers.

My suggestion is that when you are still in the consideration phase with big-name platforms is to look for sandbox environments or playable samples that you can bring to your employees for user-acceptance testing. It is what we do several times in our gamification design process to ensure the solution is right for the audience. I would say go to those in your company that are least tech savvy, those that are very vocal when it is wrong and then a core group who will use it most. Find out from them directly what they like or dislike about this new option.

If the big name provider is only willing to give you a controlled demo and no access to a sandbox or playable sample, start walking away. It may cause the salesperson to be a bit annoyed, but at the same time, you have asked for what you need to make an educated decision that is right for your company.

Also, make sure if they make modern feature promises that they can show you how they work. I had a call a while back with a financial institution who had bought the learning management and employee engagement system from one company. The key reason behind it was that they assumed the two would talk to each other seamlessly, however in reality that was not the case, yet the buyer had been sold this very proposition. The big name platform had acquired another platform and they were still working on building the integrations. Not quite what the buyer was ready for.

What should you as the buyer have prepared?

It would be easy to put all the blame with the sellers, but buyers have a responsibility too. Buying a platform is a decision that will involve some layers of input and still I find that a lot of companies are happy with a simple beauty parade as opposed to truly examining if the tool will work for them. Here is my list of suggestions in what you as the buyer needs to prepare:

  • Integration requirements – what other systems does this new one replace or have to play nice with
  • Who will be the most regular users – have a few of them test the systems in consideration away from salespeople
  • What does the platform have to do – daily, weekly, monthly tasks
  • Prepare regular use scenarios and a few outlier scenarios from that senior exec that always wants more (every company has one)
  • What parts need to be future proofed? If your business is evolving how will the platform suit this, how would regulations changing impact, etc?
  • What are the minimum must haves
  • What are the nice to haves
  • What can you do without

In most companies when they reach us to fix their platform acceptance problems, some of the items on the list above were never tested nor explored.

What can gamification do to fix platform failure?

Gamification can fit over the top of existing platforms and create the more user-friendly interface individuals are used to from their social media. Effectively in some instances, we can hide the big name platform behind a better interface. The more integrations that are required to make this work the higher the price tag. In some cases basically, a different platform may have been more cost-effective.

In our work, we make sure we speak to your end-user and throughout rollouts, we also actively work on ensuring that what we create is validated to work. By engaging end-users in the design and then roll-out you also instil a sense of ownership and often a bit of excitement of what is to come.

The most typical gamification design we create for platform engagement are platform on-boarding quests, nudges to re-engage or update what needs to be updated and other people productivity driven processes. Where possible automate your platforms to suit what the end-user needs to get done to achieve their job outcomes.

When platforms make it hard for end-users

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Do you want to create engagement for your existing content?

In learning gamification we often receive the request to create engagement for the existing content. Either hosted on a learning management system, a website, SharePoint, or other content management systems. The missing information typically is, why are your people not using it? Here are the steps I recommend before even entering into any gamification design work.

Is it their objective?

In the corporate world, a lot of focus is put on achieving job objectives or key result, key performance indicators. Very rarely do they include, consume existing learning content. Nor would that actually make a lot of sense if the content is not specifically addressing performance outcomes the individual has to deliver on for their day job.

In most companies, you have a spread of individuals are at different stages of their development and for some, the existing content is not actually relevant or helpful. And for some individuals, it isn’t clear that a certain piece of content may address their performance issue.

In our work with larger organisations, we often find that this mismatch in objectives is at the core of content not being used. People just want to keep their head down and get their day job done. It is only when they are truly stuck and nobody is around that searching for content becomes a must do. Very likely their first port of call is not internal but rather a search engine online.

Can they find it with their search terms?

When the learning and development team is closely aligned with the business and working to provide specific support to create business outcomes, the problem is often findability. How learning describes a solution, may not be the way an employee searches for it and hence never finds. I personally feel there is a case to be made for find optimisation of internal content libraries, in a similar way how websites use search engine optimisation to be found for relevant content.

Social media platforms are training us to add in hashtags for findability. Most search engine tools have ways of identifying the most frequently sought after keywords, how about the same for internal searches?

When we do user surveys, I am often fascinated by how little the L&D team is aware of the search terms or way in which people in their companies consume content. Add to that the type of format people want the content in. It all relates to truly understanding your existing customers. You may have more than one user persona, either way, you need to know which persona they are, what their likely search terms are and their preferences in terms of content consumption.

If one nugget answers my question, why would I want to take a whole course?

Most learning teams by the very nature of how work is structured want to create wholesome packages. It is often how learning work is sourced with e-learning outsourced providers. Key learning objectives, length of content and then followed by iterations of a high-level concept into a storyboard and then it ends up in production. At this point, the original question and reason for the creation of the course may well be far lost in translation.

When the end-product is then uploaded in the content management system and presented back to the users, the response if often… Oh but that’s not what I was looking for. Sometimes a quick answer to a specific question is more useful than a whole course on a related topic.

If one first search, the end-user finds the exact answer to their problem. The chances of them coming back are not high unless they spotted something useful for later. Think about it in the same way as the Amazon recommendation system, where if you bought one specific book you may also want to consider a range of others. To me recommendations based on existing searches are a must have architecture in today’s content management systems.

Either way don’t assume that if they found the answer they are bought into coming back. And if they didn’t find the answer in your systems, they will be even less likely to come looking there next time.

What is engagement?

When we get asked about making our existing content more engaging, we need to understand what engagement actually means in the client’s eyes. We also need to know what it means in the eyes of the end-user. They may be totally different concepts. As a gamification company, we don’t always suggest gamification as the only solution and if there is a better other one way then that will form part of our recommendations.

Let’s assume for this purpose that engagement does equate to adding gamification into the mix. Then my first question is still “why does your learner learn?” followed by “how does your learner learn best?”. Most of the time this becomes a user research piece.

Gamification as a way to increase engagement can only work if the content is relevant and presented in a way that appeals and fits the learner. A rating mechanic for content may help you get the answers to what people find relevant and useful a lot quicker. Creating pathways with game elements thrown in can prove very effective if the learner has the time and space to follow this, if they are out for a quick fix, gamification may just frustrate them.

Engagement, as well as gamification design, require a solid approach. Finding out what is truly troubling your learner and their lack of interest or time should always be the starting point. Their performance indicators for their job matter more and if learning doesn’t support the performance indicators they will not go there voluntarily.

 

Is experiencing consequences the key to gamification design for learning?

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What if social media allowed dislikes and peer ratings?

Social media is one of the reasons why more and more of us are becoming used to gamification in our applications. The likes and emoji are like a social ranking system, the daily prompts are calls to action, the endless scrolling feeding our curiosity, etc. All of these could be classed either as game mechanics or game dynamics. The fact that it has social built in from the outset helps matters enormously because most humans are sense makers through their social networks.

dislike on social media www.gamificationnation.comOne thing that most social media doesn’t yet create is a dislike or peer rating system. I think YouTube is the exception and has dislike buttons, but Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn don’t at all. The emoji give us a range of feelings to express on Facebook, but not quite a disagree or dislike option.

From a business perspective and a reputation management perspective, this may be tricky and lead to online unsavoury behaviour and bullying. Some people unfortunately live and die with their social platforms.

Would you want honest feedback?

I do however wonder if a system where honest feedback was actively sought could work in these environments. A little bit like a stack overflow style system where peers give feedback on the quality of a question or comment. Those using social media to help other or share useful and factual material rise to the top, those doing the opposite slowly fall down. Maybe it is too much to ask for because you can imagine abuse of dislikes for personal gain. One would hope that real people would call out dishonesty.

At a very minimum people should be able to question the validity of facts through the same ease of access as a like or an emoji. I also feel agreeing to disagree should be an option. The more our politicians are setting bad examples of being polarised on ‘their way or the highway’, the more we need to find ways of disagreeing gracefully. There is space for multiple views and there always will be, teaching people that it is ok to agree to disagree and tease out each other’s facts from fiction can be helpful.

One of the reasons it is on my mind is how I saw the commentary on one post to do with the very divisive issue of Brexit escalating into a bashing of opinions where some of them had no grounding in fact and others were so close to the bone emotionally that I refrained first of all from taking part in the discussion and secondly looked one with interest to see if anyone would call out the ones spreading known untruths. Sadly only one or two tried and were shouted down.

This is the very point where a one-click request to fact check would come in handy. In the same simple way as I can like or emoji a post. the fact check request would then need to be processed, an ideal job for investigative journalists for example. If it is verified to be true then it shows as fact verified in green and if not factual ‘fact checked returned = untrue’ in red. Or even a fact rating for the dubious cases where it is neither here nor there, but based on research you can say likely to be true ot untrue.

I think it could work for many purposes from advertising claims to opinions and it has the potential to weed out the nonsense from reality. Many young people are consulting social media as their key news source, by the very nature of the algorithms behind them or hashtags chosen for you, your feed is tainted by your preferences and far from neutral.

Peer rating or ranking for messaging

Another pet hate of mine is the amount of direct message and connection requests especially on LinkedIn where the sole objective is to sell you something. I had a few in the last couple of weeks where they must have done a search on job titles and then upon connection, sent me, and likely 100s with the same job title, a message tailored to my assumed needs. Assumptions in the very nature of the word make an ass out of u and me….one wise mentor told me some time ago.

I have challenged a few of them lately about when did connecting on social media gave them permission to spam sales messages at me? What happened to getting to know me and building a relationship?

In any case, I usually disconnect from the culprits, seen that in my gamification terms they have now earned that right and if they are particularly pesky I also report them for spam. Some even then add you to their mailing list (without your permission) aka a big GDPR no-no! or start pestering you on the phone because they can now claim they had sent a message and are following up. If I took the time to report them each time, I would lose an hour per week easily, the SEO, web design and app design people seem to be the worst contenders.

But here is the thing, as a business owner, I appreciate we all have selling to do. Having a simple button in the messaging section that indicates not interested in your services would save a lot of time or a quick link to disconnect from that person. I don’t mind exploring something I am in the market for, but I will decide what that is and when. Blind assumptions are useless for both sides. Because this practice is on the increase, I would think a ranking system for direct messages may already go some way to alleviate the problem.

I would suggest the following system:

  • 0-star rating equals no interest,
  • 1-star equals maybe this lifetime
  • 2-stars equal maybe down the line
  • 3-stars equal could be useful
  • 4-stars equal close enough to something I am looking for, please tell me more
  • 5-stars equal please talk to me now about what you have to offer

In my view, it would make the direct messaging system easier to manage or at least I would hope so. And I would add that similar to what happens now on the recruiter side of LinkedIn if your approach gets marked down too often your rights to send messages is revoked for a period and ideally, you are sent on a course for what to do instead before you are given your access back.

I apologise if it comes across a bit ranty today, but this week I really have had it with social interruptions. I just hope that some of my suggestions fall on listening ears. Social media has a lot of good sides, but also a heck of a lot of bad ones.

Gamification trends for 2019

 

 

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How can gamification be used to enhance e-learning?

Gamification in e-learning has had some bad rep lately, probably because people are finally starting to see for what it is. The hype and shouting that it would fix all engagement issues are thankfully coming to an end. It is making way for real projects with realistic goals and intentions. Unlike some in the gamification industry, I have always maintained that on average between 10 to 20% of improvement comes about from gamification in user engagement, knowledge retention, etc. But that happens only if and when the basics are also covered,

What are the other basics that need to be in place to make gamified e-learning work?

The learning experience always starts by exploring what your learner already knows and where they may benefit from improving. Based on this starting point a learning designer would map out content and work with subject matter experts to generate an engaging learning design. The learning designer in tune with learning science will know when to create theory and when to build in practice.

Prove it framework of learning gamification www.gamificationnation.com
Prove it! Learning gamification framework by An Coppens (2014)

In order to create a gamified learning journey, you need to understand why the learner learns and what level of proof they want. When you know this, then you can start applying game psychology to encourage them to repeat steps and explore how their choices may result in outcomes that may be different from what they intended. Content gamification can make the content more interesting through the use of narrative, scenarios with choices and consequences, insights and feedback as you go.

When you are then moulding the content into a learning module, the design and functionality become the next focus. Today’s learner is used to great user experiences from the apps they use for personal use. Anything less will drive them away and will basically make them go to social media or other online resources to learn about the content. User experience, graphics and ease of access are critical for your e-learning to succeed above and beyond gamification.

In my Prove It framework for the gamification of learning, I include a number of elements that allow for first-person learning, which is a departure from passive click through e-learning where you are merely an onlooker. In games you are the active player, this should be the same when you apply gamification to e-learning. You may still have instruction happening, so one doesn’t rule out the other by default.

content gamification in the prove it framework www.gamificationnation.com
Prove it! Learning gamification framework by An Coppens (2014)

 

What get’s them started rarely keeps them going

When you are new to a subject, you may have the enthusiasm of a novice and look for anything and everything about that topic. Once you have reached some level of mastery, you may need nudges to revisit materials or to continue levelling up. It is here that systems gamification can help you forward.

The underlying assumption here is that your e-learning also increases in difficulty to match the learner’s expansive mindset or it has a good reason for repetition to be critical. In the language learning app Duolingo repetition is seen as a good thing, to encourage this they have included login streaks for daily practice and energy levels to indicate when you last went through some vocabulary. Keeping the energy up is encouraged, just like keeping an unbroken streak.

If you try to apply the same game mechanics to e-learning that requires less practice and where the learner really doesn’t see the point in it, is missing the core learning science behind it. In my learning gamification framework, I listed some of the learning reasons behind game mechanics which I see as essential to applying the right gamification mechanics in the right place for the end-user.

Here are some of the gamification elements that may enhance the process of systems gamification. Normally I would expect to see them in your learning management system or learning experience system for best effects.

Level 2 or systems gamification to enhance learning through gamification www.gamificationnation.com
Prove it! Learning gamification framework by An Coppens (2014)

How will you know they have learned?

e-learning in most companies needs to deliver business results. A lot of learning teams are now working with business results in mind. When you have these the level of proof required from learning will also become easier to find. If these business intentions then match the personal intentions of the learner, you have a win/win learning scenario.

If only it was that simple, I can hear some of you thinking. And yes, it is true that what organisations want their people to learn doesn’t always match what the individual wants to learn. Equally in some companies giving the business reasons for training is not yet standard practice and I would strongly suggest that you look for it regardless of whether it is given. Knowing the ‘why’ from both angles can help you create a way more meaningful and impactful learning experience.

In my 3rd and final level of the Prove it! learning gamification model, I included some of the ways proof can be established. Also, know that some people actually don’t require proof they just want to know how to do something. For example, an accounting student may have forgotten how to add a particular formula to an excel sheet, so a quick answer or cheat sheet will do the trick. you don’t need them to take a whole e-learning module no matter how gamified it is.

Level 3 evidence of learning in the learning gamification framework of An Coppens
Prove it! Learning gamification framework by An Coppens (2014)

Some of the levels of proof in learning are what you would like to see from learning management or ticking boxes perspective. I would urge you to look at it from the learners’ point of view instead. Did they get what they came for? If yes, you have achieved the learning objectives from the learner.

Learning outcomes on an organisational level may still be there and then become part of the larger performance question. Are your people buying into these outcomes? For best results, they at least should be willing to consider them as important enough to invest the time and effort.

I hope we went some way in explaining how gamification can be used to enhance e-learning. In any case, we would love to talk to you further about your learning related gamification projects, you can contact us any time.

Is mastery just a matter of hours spent at a topic?

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