I think we’re now at the stage where “gamification” has survived its faddist phase, and is now here to stay. In an intranet context, gamification is most commonly executed as the ability to collect points for individuals for a range of behviours, most of which are based on online participation, or recognition for doing good stuff. Points might then translate into badges, leaderboard tables or even some types of reward.
Because the ability to assign points to users is increasingly being built into intranet and social enterprise platforms such as Jive, it is easier to implement this feature. Therefore I suspect point-led gamification will be used more and more as a feature to drive online adoption and engagement on intranets and in Employee Social Networks.
However before someone switches it “on”, careful thought needs to given as to whether its going to work, and how its going to be communicated I believe gamification on the intranet has to be:
- positioned in the right way – keeping it “light” and “fun” is the best way forward
- has to be culturally appropriate for the organisation or the user set
So for example where the company culture is new, youthful and dynamic, and where gamification is actually sold to employees as part of a game, I think it has every chance of success, and can work very well. A good example of this is the motivational game at Zappos-like Russian retail start-up Enter which I wrote about previously.
But placed in the wrong company culture and framed in the wrong way I think there’s some potential risks.
It’s going to devalue online participation
Points, badges and leaderboards aren’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, and in some cases are going to alienate some users. Online participation and collaboration has real business value. Does a points system which some employees might regard as “silly” deflect attention away from real “grown-up” business value and outcomes that social intranets can offer?
It’s not a reflection of activity or contribution
If a points system is launched to all employees, then all employees need to be on a level playing-field to be able to receive these points, otherwise the system may not be regarded as being a fair reflection of activity or contribution.
For example it’s generally easier for deskbound employees to participate online. Therefore if points are chiefly rewarded for online participation are non-deskbound employees at a disadvantage? Likewise are deskbound employees more likely to be sending online “thank you’s” to each other than their non-deskbound counterparts? Will very busy staff who may not have time to blog or answer a question online going to be picking up any points?
It may confuse HR processes
Organisations are already awash with “official” badges and points in the form of merit ratings, job gradings, job families, and even job titles. While most gamification efforts are clearly ring fenced from these, sometimes the detailed feedback about activity can be taken into account in more formal HR processes such as a performance review. Communication efforts need to ensure there is no confusion about what the number of points actually mean.
It’s going to play into the hands of the sceptics
There’s always going to be sceptics and grumpy luddites who regard online efforts with contempt, but it’s important to ensure a misdirected gamification effort doesn’t reinforce some of these negative views. For example in a law firm where online participation may be regarded as an activity which is of secondary importance to billable client work, a fee-earning member of staff with a very high points score indicating lots of online participation may be viewed negatively.
Other potential pitfalls also surround the rewards on offer and the danger of a gamification effort becoming more about extrinsic than intrinsic motivation, which are generally regarded as being less effective.
Personally I think all those potential pitfalls can be avoided, but gamification needs proper business analysis and dialogue with users before launch, as well as potential tweaking going forward. If it’s obvious that it is not going to work, then simply don’t launch. Points aren’t for everybody.