Internal Gamification: First Steps to Winning Success

By Derrick Pope - September 30th, 2016

Derrick Pope is the Director of Enrollment at Colorado State University-Global Campus. He recently launched one of the first gamified enterprise experiences for higher education employees at CSU-Global. Throughout this monthly, 4-part series, Derrick will let you in on his planning and implementation process, objectives, successes, struggles, and advice on how you can use employee gamification to advance your workforce.

In part 1 of the series, “Internal Gamification: First Steps to Winning Success” Derrick identifies two questions you need to define before moving toward gamification. Then you’ll learn the 4 steps necessary before selecting the solution that best fits your organization’s goals.

gamification icons

For several years I’ve explored the possibility of using gamification in higher education administration. While most businesses implement gamification with the goal of motivating customers or users to complete a series of tasks, I wanted to apply this concept to further develop employee skills internally.

Luckily, I found CSU-Global, an institution open-minded and innovative enough to support me as I move forward with a gamified enterprise system within our workplace. This project meant so much to me that I brought it up in my interview for my current position almost two years ago. Now having launched the solution last month, I want to pass on what I’ve learned to help other businesses further develop their employees.

Through a series of articles published here on The Global Broadcast, CSU-Global’s blog, I will recount what I’ve learned throughout the process, provide guidance on selecting a provider, and discuss implementation and optimization.

Welcome to my road to employee gamification!

In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, gamification is the process of adding game elements to existing systems to encourage participation and engagement. Since this series assumes a basic understanding of gamification, here is a resource from Mashable explaining the concept in more detail.

Before you step foot on the road to gamification you need to clearly answer two simple questions…

  1. What are you trying to accomplish with gamification?
  2. How are you going to achieve those goals?

Sure, it’s tempting to jump in and start talking to vendors. You’ll find a lot of interesting and engaging software options, but if you don’t have a clear picture of what you need, you’ll end up with a solution that doesn’t truly fit your goals. This is your chance to create something unique for your organization and employees, so make sure the solution you choose can accomplish your goals.

Below I’ve outlined 4 steps I took when mapping out my gamification solution at CSU-Global. I’ve included some insights on the steps themselves as well as details on the specifics for my project. These details will be important as I review the rest of the process in later articles.

1. Define your goals. What exactly do you want your gamification solution to address? How will it help your business and your employees?

For CSU-Global, my overarching goal was to create a system that rewarded employees for conducting their normal daily activities and encouraged higher performance in those areas. I also wanted managers to be able to streamline their special team challenges and events.

Specifically, and most importantly, my main goal for gamification in the workplace was to create a system that would address employee learning and mastery of their position. Adding e-learning elements was the cornerstone of the project.

2. Identify the environment you are going to gamify. What systems are you looking to enhance with gamification? What do your employees use every day to complete their tasks?

Looking at our CSU-Global IT environment, our employees work primarily in 4 systems: Salesforce, Campus Vue, Adapt (phone system), and Schoology (learning management system). Most of the activities I wanted to gamify were handled in Salesforce and Adapt so I planned to start the project in those systems. Regardless of where you start, you want to keep your eyes open for chances to expand if necessary or beneficial.

3. Understand your users or players. In order to influence or change the way someone does something, you need to understand why and how things are done.

This might be the most important part of your planning. Gamification isn’t always a positive tool if done incorrectly. One of the more common pitfalls is designing a system that meets your goals without regard for the players or users. By designing your gamification solution with your players in mind you are much more likely to create a positive and effective experience. It should be beneficial to their work and entertaining for them to use.

For the first phase of my gamification project I focused on the enrollment team at CSU-Global. I have the highest level of expertise in their area and a very clear picture of their needs and processes. After working closely with our enrollment training manager for the past couple years I also have a lot of insight into the training needs for this department. Because training and mastery of role is a major focus of this project, the enrollment team was the perfect player set for the initial launch.

4. Determine how you’d like to execute your goals.

Now that you understand your goals, environment, and players you can start to connect those pieces and align them with the best elements for your organization. Choose the game elements you want include after researching best-practices. Multiple reports show the best systems rise above just points, badges, and leaderboards so take time to find the most effective game elements for your business.

After you’ve mapped out your needs and initial plan you are ready to move forward.

For many of you that could mean getting executive level buy-in on the process. If that’s the case I suggest you focus on the benefits of gamification for employee engagement, development, and performance. There are plenty of examples of the impact of gamification in these areas. Find some that fit your situation and industry and use them along with your roadmap to present the idea to leadership.

Stay tuned for my next article in this 4-part series where I delve into picking the right solution for your organization. Do you build it yourself or buy? How should you evaluate your options? I’ll also discuss the choice we made for CSU-Global.

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