How to use gamification for performance improvement

How can you use gamification for performance improvement? To answer this question we must first define performance. In every company, you will find indicators such as key performance indicators or objectives. The activities they measure will give you some indication of performance. The quantitative output is one side, then looking at the core reason for a business to exist is another and to make it relevant for an individual is the reason for a job to exist. Delivering on that core reason is another often more subtle measure of performance.

When it comes to an individual, you may some days feel like you can get through a massive workload and you feel highly productive. In stark contrast, there are other days where you feel like you can get nothing done or completed. The key difference may be interruptions or demands from other areas in the business that takes you away from your core business or even personal circumstances.

How can gamification help?

Gamification can add nudges in the process of your work delivery to get you started and it can give you gentle encouragement or reminders to complete or finish work. We see that when individuals are clear on their objectives and how that impacts the team, that they are most productive. Yet in a lot of organisations objectives for a team and the overall department or business are not necessarily transparent or cascaded across the company.

I would recommend starting by becoming clear on how each team impacts another and look for input from each team to see if they also see this as key. Any time I have held these kinds of facilitated workshops I find that what one department perceives they should be doing and may not be what other departments feel it does or even ought to do it.

In my work, I use a SWOT analysis technique (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). I ask each team to start with their own and then to pass it around to other teams to add to it. After each group has added their ideas, the original team receives their SWOT back. It is always insightful and in most cases also very respectful. My usual instruction is to only write down what you are willing to say face to face, it typically censors some nasty ideas if they have no foundation.

What the SWOT analysis really does is that it gives a foundation for understanding teams’ objectives and how they impact one another. In today’s’ open offices, we often find people hiding behind email to look for collaboration between teams. Making this an open discussion brings out objectives for each team and also an understanding of how their work is experienced by others.

Once the objectives and potential bottlenecks are identified, each team can address how they will structure their performance for the company to deliver its goals. I recommend that each team takes charge of its processes and its objectives whilst addressing the relevant feedback from the SWOT exercise. In most companies, where we have done this, we have seen an immediate impact on collaboration and performance.

Individual nudges

When team objectives and processes are clear, then individual objectives tend to be easier to form too. Each employee knows to some extent what they are expected to do and if that is not the case, it should be a conversation they need to have with their direct manager. As priorities shift or a persons’ ability grows, you may find that what you were hired for is no longer what you are now measured on and that may well be a natural progression and a positive thing.

Work practices vary per individual but there are gamification tricks that can suit. Some people love working in short concentrated spurts in what is also know as a Pomodoro technique. Take an egg timer set it for 20 or 30 minutes and work as hard as you can on a specific task when the alarm goes it is time for a break. Others love scratching tasks off to do lists. For most of us seeing what we achieve and how we impact the bigger team goal is motivational.

I worked on useful traffic light systems that indicate if someone can still take on more workload or whether they need help getting things done. This starts at an individual level and then escalates upwards towards team goals, department and company. I use a project management tool that has traffic like colour coding and with a largely remote team, we can see how jobs are progressing and projects being delivered against deadlines.

A daily reflection nudge to extract what went well, what you were grateful for and what you learned is a useful practice. I would suggest that these items are personal and not for sharing every day, but maybe weekly and fortnightly it may work for teams to explore these reflections. Setting them as nudges is positive.

Celebrating successful completion is essential. In games, we do receive these at micro-level for completing a small step. In work we often only celebrate big overall goals, it may leave long spells in between feeling like you have achieved something. It is in this space individual gamification may work at to do list or productivity list level. Keeping going for just one more item to earn a reward you have set yourself, which may be a cup of your favourite tea or coffee or a walk or something else.

Gamification in companies works when it is aligned towards the same goals and fits within the culture of the company. At the team level, it can generate team spirit and enhanced collaboration. At an individual level, I would promote freedom to choose your methods, frequency of reminders and nudges, but a celebration of performance is key for all of us to finish and do well at the game of work.


Motivational considerations for tracking behaviour

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