With more than 282,000 customers in 190 countries, few companies are as prolific and omnipresent as the German enterprise giant SAP But back in 2013, SAP had a problem: engagement.
And not just engagement in general, but how to leverage the 2 million unique users who frequented its social network -- the SAP Community Network (SCN) -- each month.
Despite its size, as Laure Cetin, SAP’s community manager wrote on a blog post "Engagement indicators were still low several months after the platform change, and it became clear that a little encouragement was needed."
SAP’s answer? Gamification.
In Cetin’s words, “Using gamification and particularly the concept of missions (a series of actions needed to receive a badge and points), we wanted to encourage members to log in regularly, provide feedback, contribute quality content regularly and be recognized as topic experts and influencers.”
The results were staggering. After just one month SCN, saw community feedback rise by 96 percent, overall activity by 400 percent, and point generation -- “an indication of quantity of contributions and engagement around content” -- by 2,210 percent.
So what is gamification?
Simply put, gamification is the integration of game mechanics into non-game related areas. It means taking job-essential tasks that can be mundane, repetitive and laborious and implementing game-like elements -- namely, rewards, competition, and storytelling -- to encourage participation, achievement, and productivity.
How does gamification work?
Gamification works through exploiting the natural human love of competition, trivia challenges, status building, sense of pride, and desire for rewards. Game-associated elements like badges, levels, challenges, leaderboards and rankings motivate those who crave challenge and competition, especially among their peers.
Gamification can be directly correlated to performance, it is a similar approach to providing bonuses to employees but instead of more money, in most cases, it is the concept of esteem and pride. The more badges, recognition, and challenges an employee achieves, the better their output will be in their work efforts.
By integrating narrative-based activities from their everyday work challenges into ERP platforms, CRM systems, web apps and mobile apps gamification maximizes at least three areas productivity in the workplace:
Gamification is an ideal tool to utilize to better educate your employees about policies, work-related knowledge and other essential pieces of information to help the employee succeed in the organization. On top of its social network, SAP, for example, employed a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” approach to motivate sales representatives to be regularly updated with the company’s latest products and services.
Idea generation, brainstorming or idea crowdsourcing can also benefit from gaming mechanics. Spotify and Living Social, for example, observed a 90 percent increase in voluntary participation when they substituted their annual reviews with a gamified solution.
Many major companies like Samsung, Dell, Deloitte, and Accenture all use gamification to improve personnel engagement, especially in completing monotonous but still-difficult-to-automate tasks such as expense reporting or leveling up work-related skills. They serve as motivation and a common ground with which employees relate and adopt.
The benefits of gamification
Real-world examples that support gamification’s benefits on both engagement and productivity abound. Let’s take a look at just a few.
AstraZeneca is a biopharmaceutical company operating in more than 100 countries. With over 500 agents, AstraZeneca used an e-learning platform called "Go To Jupiter" to gamify the rollout of new medicines:
Not only did AstraZeneca see a 97 percent engagement rate, most of their agents used the platform outside of regular work time and “95 percent of the users completed each teaching session.”
Conductor, a New York City-based SEO technology company, is another perfect example. After implementing Salesforce-based game called Compete -- and displaying its leaderboard on large TV screens throughout the office -- Conductor saw a 126 percent increase in annual sales. As CEO Seth Besmertnik explained in a previous Entrepreneur.com article, "The return for us is that we have a simpler, more functional way to recognize people more consistently. [Compete] does what our managers had been doing, only faster and more eloquently."
Even Google implemented gamification into their travel expense process by allowing employees to choose how they spend the reminder of their travel allowance -- getting paid, putting the funds towards a future trip or donating to charity. The result was a nearly 100 percent compliance rate within six months of its launch.
Not always about the money
The benefits derived by employees do not necessarily translate into monetary rewards.In fact, the use of money can actually defeat the purpose of gamification by stripping it of its core values; namely, adding fun and game-like elements to the workplace.
Instead of extrinsic rewards, companies should focus on intrinsic incentives like recognition, personal achievement, a sense of responsibility, the gaining of power or status, fun or enjoyment, and mastery.
Gamification engages, excites, incentivizes and takes away the monotony of routines. It makes work feel new and interesting.
Moreover, when it comes to engagement, gamification allows you and your employees to set individual goals and achieve them on their own terms. Through gamification people can get the recognition they want and the sense of accomplishment by being able to participate in something fun, engaging, and challenging.
After all, not everyone is passionate about their work but everyone loves a good game.