This is the fourth article in Prialto's Managing Happiness in a Global Workplace series, in which we aim to describe how and why to manage employees so that they are happy, motivated and engaged from a distance.
Gaming is big at large companies. And no, we’re not talking about the foosball tables in Google’s employee lounges. Over the past three years, corporate giants from Nike to SAP have been moving to gamify their employee programs and training materials. A study by Saatchi & Saatchi concluded that US companies will spend $1.6B on gamification by 2015. In 2011 alone, $25 million in venture capital investments went directly into gamification projects.
All this gaming at work not only keeps workers productive and motivated, but it does wonders for their happiness levels. The best part? Gamification works regardless of the employees’ geographic proximity to HQ.
Gamifying the Offshore Workplace
Gamification – or setting up game-like rewards to motivate people - hits nearly every one of the factors on the happiness at work list: ambition, challenge, a sense of purpose and mastery. Walmart’s program, for example, gives associates an “on the sales floor” game experience to teach them about the company’s products, processes, and culture. Gamification engages while training the workforce, especially remotely.
With a global workforce, though, gamification has benefits beyond learning. When managers aren’t onsite to witness their team’s struggles, dynamics and innovations in person, it becomes harder to get a sense for who is or isn’t motivated at work. By moving employee engagement to the electronic, gamified space, managers achieve several important goals:
- engaging employees through self-selection; and
- making that level of engagement apparent throughout the company and leadership.
For example, here at Prialto, we employ three primary methods of gamification with our overseas workforce, coupled with a comprehensive feedback loop. Each of these is designed to simultaneously encourage team-bonding and learning. Employees who engage and excel at these exercises have a strong incentive to continue training and teaching others. When any overseas employee reaches these goals, the results are visible and broadcast throughout all levels and offices of the company.
- Quarterly Bonuses: Our teammates receive quarterly bonuses based on whether they’ve achieved a company-wide learning and development target. To encourage workers to adopt our new wiki, for instance, we created training materials and an online quiz on the topic. Bonuses are based on how many people have taken the quiz and how well they’ve done.
- COILS awards: Teammates nominate each other for a COILS award that shows the employee’s commitment to our company’s core values – Commitment, Ownership, Integrity, Learning & Service. Awards are announced in our monthly employee bulletins and our internal newsletter. Winners also receive a gift card as part of the award.
- Mentor program: Prialto assistants who have shown a strong commitment to their team and their position can apply to become mentors for new trainees. Being part of the mentor program comes with a badge icon designating the person as such.
Tips for Cross-Border Gamification
The strategies laid out above are a starting point for your own company’s gamification techniques. Each company, though, needs to come up with gaming strategies that are in line with its own culture, product and employee base.
Nevertheless, there are a few rules of thumb to ensure the success of your company’s gamification process.
- Explain the goals of the game during regular feedback. Doing so will help managers gauge both the interest in and efficacy of the program, and it will allow the employees to understand the context of the new process.
- Shout the rules from the rooftops. Every team member should know that he has an equal chance of making it to the top of the heap. In a global scenario, there’s no physical office bulletin board to refer to. In its place, technological communication is an easy and effective way to democratize everyone’s chances by announcing the competition to everyone at the same time and in the same way.
- Use the game to introduce and ally different offices with each other. If it’s a team game, don’t divide along office lines. Try instead to divide across departmental or project lines, thereby breaking down common boundaries.
- Make the game obviously related to every day work: Prialto hands out quarterly bonuses based on learning and training for typical Prialto PA tasks. By tying goals into daily work, employees remain immersed and loyal to the game.
- Use gamification as a mid-step between positions. Employees should get the idea that winning a particular game or badge is an indication of how well they’re doing at the company. In some cases, for example with Prialto’s mentor program, employees know that their badge means that they’re doing something that will likely be later recognized with a promotion. These sorts of games can also be helpful for a manager to identify and build pipeline for senior staff.
- Make badges public to your customer base. If you allow workers to incorporate badges into their email signatures or website bios, the stakes and the rewards for these games will go up exponentially.