Internal Gamification: Lessons Learned and Summary Findings

By Derrick Pope - December 30th, 2016

In this fourth and final installment of our internal gamification series, CSU Global’s Director of Enrollment, Derrick Pope, closes the loop on setting goals, choosing a solution, design and implementation, and now, lessons learned and findings.

As Derrick and his team move forward with their gamification solution, you may think the hard work is over, but it’s only just begun. Keep reading to find out how to make launch day a success, see why the basics of gamification are always important, and learn from his cautionary tale around visibility.

gamification techniques

If you’ve followed the journey so far then you know how hard we worked to get to the point of finally rolling out the new gamification experience for our team. Remember, the whole point of internal gamification is to provide your employees with an exciting interactive experience while they execute normal daily functions. With the planning, vetting, designing, and developing out of the way, it’s time to put all that theory and prep work to the test. In other words, game on!

Celebrate Launch Day

Obviously the launch of your gamification strategy is very important to overall success. Make sure your team is well informed of the changes to their work environment and understand exactly how to interact with the new gamification system.

Part of your design process should have ensured an intuitive and interesting user experience. If you made the experience too complicated the launch will be rough as employees struggle to effectively engage with the new environment.

I recommend doing a pre-launch meeting hyping the new program and the benefits of it for your employees. When the solution is ready to launch, I recommend doing another hype meeting where you can demo the solution and get your team excited for the experience. Have fun with it and recruit some staff members to help with the launch.

Based on our experience, I would strongly suggest you go big here. Many team members will be resistant to any sort of change and others will be hesitant to engage with a “game” at work. In fact, no matter what you do, some of your team will always avoid this kind of activity and that’s okay.

You’re aiming for the majority of the team here, not the ones who are always outliers. Your excitement and the buy-in from a few team members will really help with initial adoption and overall team engagement. Buy some t-shirts for the launch and give prizes for early adopters. Be creative and have fun.

Ongoing Optimization

Hopefully you don’t think you’re done once the game is in motion, because you’re certainly not. You need to be prepared to start the next phase of maintaining and evolving the gamification experience. At this point you’ll need to keep your eyes and ears wide open and gather as much feedback from your team as possible.

Be responsive and welcoming to team member concerns and feedback. Remove obstacles quickly and implement suggestions where you can to show your commitment to the user experience. Your team members are your users so open the lines of communication to both improve your gamification strategy, and get them invested in the outcome.

If your gamification environment doesn’t evolve with your team and business needs, the experience will get stale and users will become less engaged. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.

You and your team have created something new and you need to keep growing it to fit your needs. If your gamification environment doesn’t evolve with your team and business needs, the experience will get stale and users will become less engaged. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.

Continually plan for an improved experience and focus on innovating the ways your team engages on a daily basis. This gamification program is going to become a central part of your culture and I’m sure you want it to continue to thrive.

Back-to-Basics

As I review our gamification techniques and continue to deal with the ramifications of mistakes or decisions we made, I’ve identified four of the most important aspects of the journey to this point. I’ve touched on these in earlier posts, but their importance is paramount so I think it’s important to review the following.

  1. ALWAYS keep your employee (user) in mind.

The gamification experience is for them. If you prioritize the need for performance improvement over their desire and ability to engage, you will create a system that is manipulative and ineffective. By creating an engaging system that encourages and rewards participation while helping the employee improve their job mastery and effectiveness, you will achieve something that benefits everyone.

  1. Design and implementation are critical to gamification success.

The process of design and implementation starts with choosing the right vendor partner. You need a solution that not only meets your current goals, but is also willing and able to grow with you as your needs change.

The rest of your gamification team needs to be diverse, highly motivated, and focused on successful employee engagement. Don’t overextend yourself or your team. Create roles where people can be fully engaged in the success of this project. This team’s involvement at every stage will either support or derail your success.

Whatever you do, I strongly urge you to include a front-end user on your design team, see number one above if you need a hint on why this is so important.

  1. Test, test, test.

Nothing impacts adoption like frustration. Data integrity is critical. If your gamification system isn’t clean at launch time you’ll spend hours responding to complaints about incorrect scores and other bugs. While you’re busy fixing these your employees will check out and move on. If the gamification experience isn’t engaging and enjoyable your users will lose interest and write it off as an unnecessary hassle.

  1. Never stop improving.

I mentioned this above, but I cannot stress it enough. The evolution of your game is just as important, if not more important, than the initial design. Give users something to look forward to. Let them know when changes will go live, publicly thank and possibly reward users who provide useful feedback, and continually request feedback a means to improvement.

As a successful leader you know how important it is to reinvent and re-tool to continually achieve success. It is no different here. Pay attention to the needs of your employees and organization and adapt your environment accordingly.

Increasing Visibility and Why It’s a Must.

Users can’t incorporate a gamification solution they can’t see, which is why visibility is crucial to engagement. Game elements must be obvious and easy to use with the programs already in place.

We’ve struggled with visibility because the game elements of our solution are on a separate tab from the main page that employees use for daily work. Just the fact that there is no visible insight directly into the game from the main work area has challenged adoption and participation.

We have an option for a wall monitor showing results at all times, but that solution isn’t really congruent with our culture so we’ve had to find other ways to showcase results. Here are three ways we’ve combated low visibility:

  1. Recognition strategies

The gamification solution itself recognizes users who are excelling, but I recommend you also incorporate this outside of your gamification system.

Here at CSU Global we’ve dedicated a portion of our team meetings to recognizing and rewarding employee success. Because we’re in higher education we are very limited in the kinds of rewards we can give so we’ve had to be creative. Instead of just verbally recognizing employees, we’ve created a special “Let’s Make a Deal” game show experience that makes recognition fun for everyone. We award non-monetary prizes for accomplishments and high scores.

Be creative based on what works for your individual team, company guidelines, and culture. Leverage what you can to help you give the appropriate rewards for employee engagement and success.

Be creative based on what works for your individual team, company guidelines, and culture. Leverage what you can to help you give the appropriate rewards for employee engagement and success.

  1. Social features

Another strategy we implemented to increase visibility and adoption was to turn up the social aspect of our gamification solution. We utilized the community features by asking one member of each team to be the “community leader” for their group. The community leader’s job is to drive engagement by posting interesting and entertaining material in the message boards.

Topics don’t necessarily have to be work-related, but they do have to be appropriate. In addition to funny memes and that sort of thing, we hosted a holiday photo contest that required participants to post in the community. Getting your team to use the gamification features that will most help their success with the solution is key to integration.

  1. Notifications and invitations

We continue to work with our vendor partner to create notifications and communication that drive employees back to areas where we want to encourage more participation. Some specifics include:

  • Increasing notifications from the community area
  • Broadcasting user scores over email
  • Sending reminders about updates and new functionality

We’ve certainly put a lot of time and effort into implementing this gamification strategy for our employees, and we know that in the end, it could result in a glorious failure. However, I firmly believe that it is okay to fail as long as you’re working towards a better tomorrow. Moving forward, the gamification team, our users, and I will continue refining and optimizing the solution to promote employee success and skills mastery.

Hopefully my insights will help you avoid failure and too much frustration as you work toward a better future for your organization and employees. After a few months have passed and we have sufficient data to share, I will follow up on our gamification strategy and the techniques we’ve employed. Until then, as Miyamoto from Nintendo used to tell his people, “find the fun.”

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