When keeping up with the way to engage employees in their work, or have read other articles within this blog, you would know that gamification is the way to go if you are looking to improve the efficiency of your workers while at the same time furthering their motivation and engagement towards their work.
What most people fail to realize though, is that improper use of gamification can instead backfire and may even prove disastrous to the working environment.
illustration via source
Consequences of reckless gamification
A good example of such disaster is when former Hedgefund Manager and CEO of the company: Sears, Eddie Lampert, introduced rewards for well-performing Company Managers, in hopes of skyrocketing the managers’ motivation.
Image of Edward Lampert via source
What Eddie Lampert did not anticipate, however, is it instead tore apart all cooperation between managers, replacing it with a heated rivalry. Which, in turn, did not increase their work activity but instead, decreases it drastically.
This mistake cost Sears over 40 percent of its stock value and many of its branches. All because the managers begin to undermine each other for their own personal gain.
Common mistake of implementing gamification
The most common mistake is not thinking far enough, the consequences of implementing certain gamification plans, but also because some remain oblivious that there is no mold that would simply fit everything. Just because a plan works for another company, does not always mean it would work for their company.
A better example is when Target implements gamification by adding a timer to their cashiers’ scanner. When the cashier scans fast enough, the scanner would give them a flash of green color, but when they don’t, it tells them by how much and with a simple flash of red. A simple, seemingly feeble change that actually helped the Cashiers by giving them instant feedback unlike how their regular feedbacks are only scolding from managers or the such.
Target employee image via source
But when the pharmaceutical software development company: Omnicare tries to do the same—timing their employees—they instead experienced major fallout with their employees quitting in bulks, customers are less satisfied and their stocks plummeting. But the question is why?
Variables to think about when applying gamification
Often times, after hearing how effective gamification is, a company would want to try to implement them without thinking much about the work environment that they have.
Image via Pexels
What happened with Omnicare was that, unlike the employees at Target who never knew how they were doing, the Tech-savvy employees at Omnicare instead felt like the timer and scoring system felt like a ridicule to them, as though they were being monitored instead of given feedback.
Before implementing gamification, the company should first consider variables that may affect the end-result of doing such a thing, such as:
- The types of employee they mainly hire
Types of employees can vary from company to company. And like Target’s Cashiers and Omnicare Techies, that difference can heavily impact which type of gamification would work on them and which would instead ruin them.
- The environment in which those employees work
Whether they’re used to hands-on work with other people or stuck inside and alone, could also affect how they would react towards certain gamification plans.
- The habituation levels of the employees
Another thing is the levels of habituation, Gamification would indeed pull your workers to be more engaged, but if they were already exposed to such a thing before, they might already be habituated and feel less engaged with the same level of exposure.
Finally though, going back to Omnicare, the executives learned from their mistakes and re-iterated their gamification plan.
Omnicare logo via source
Instead of focusing solely on timing and scores, Omnicare implemented an ‘objective’ system that begins at the start of a shift. Something like “Finish a report by the end of today” that, if done, yields a short-term reward, helped boost the workers’ effectivity and engagement at their jobs by up to 50 percent while completely negating the terrible outcome that their previous gamification attempt created.
So you see, gamification doesn’t really fail, they are only implemented incorrectly.