eSports (essentially playing computer games competitively, and in teams) is the fastest growing pastime in the US. This tells us a great deal not just about how Millennials like to spend their free time, but also about the way that they interact and think.
Gamification is one of those terms that has been over hyped and over used by strategy and research firms without offering any real insight or substance. However a growing number of businesses are learning from millennial employees and realising that gamification is far more than branded online games. M2 Research forecasts that companies will spend upwards of $2 billion on gamification services by 2015 and analyst house Gartner forecasts that 70% of the Global 2000 organisations will employ gamification techniques, but that 80% of gamification projects will fail unless designed thoughtfullyy and ergonomically.
If you look at some of the newest and biggest brands you can see the impact of gaming everywhere – especially in the user interface. Most Uber users will admit to an odd sense of satisfaction from watching the little car creep closer and closer. Even the little blue dot that represents you on the Google map has something slightly Pacman about it. Anyone that travels regularly will tell you there is a certain skill involved in getting that perfect combination of cost and location whether you are using AirBnB or Expedia. LinkedIn has turned the process of getting a new job into a game of amassing likes and views and even the car industry is getting on board (https://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/vehicles/build). In fact all of us are playing games of one description or another everyday of our lives – pitching ourselves against our friends, our peers or just other users of a specific service. There are few of us who don’t have a competitive edge of some kind and in most cases it is the smartest and most ambitious among us who are the most competitive of all.
Up until this point companies have largely thought of gamification as part of the marketing mix around consumer products, but increasingly understanding the importance of competition and the role it plays in our lives is becoming an important weapon in the war for talent. This might seem obvious – after all the war for talent itself can be seen as a game – but its value extends far beyond simply introducing an element of competition.
One of the most interesting things about the psychology of gaming is that the environment of the game gives as much pleasure to the gamer as the game itself. This might have something to do with the interactive nature if gaming. Whether you are just interacting with the game or with other people playing it, the stimulation comes as much from the engagement as it does the competition and this is very important when it comes to understanding how gamification can be applied successfully.
Unsurprisingly some of the best companies at understanding and applying this effectively are gaming companies. Riot, the makers of one of the world’s biggest and most successful games, League of Legends, has brought elements of the games environment into their offices. They have understood that it doesn’t matter how fun you make the work if the environment people work in doesn’t reflect this. You could argue that of course gamers would like gaming environments but when you look at how most of us live our everyday lives you can see that we are all gamers in one way or another.
So what has this got to do with me you might ask? Well the answer is two-fold. Firstly we all know that the war for talent in the tech sector has if anything intensified over the last few years. This hasn’t been helped by the fact that many in the industry view the corporate world as an inherently boring one. Yes there is money to be made, but no fun to be had and for a generation that sees work as something beyond a means to pay the bills – a stimulating, interactive and challenging environment is important. This is not just about ensuring that the recruitment process is an enjoyable one, or that the company is positioned in the right way, you have to maintain that engagement and focus on stimulation once the contract has been signed. That means creating an environment that people want to work in and in my opinion, this is where gamification has the most potential value.
The second point is that the technology platforms that are available today have the potential to increase productivity and engagement and reduce churn across all aspects of an organisation. It is not simply about building a nice environment for techies. The key to this is the gamification of processes and that does require a level of cultural shift that will be easier for some than others, but there are significant benefits to be reaped. Gaming used to be regarded as a threat to productivity – in the same as social media – but by looking at the elements that create such a high level of engagement, even the most unlikely to businesses can become highly attractive places to work. This is about much more than games rooms it is about understanding what it is about gaming that is so attractive and how you build those elements into both the environment and work that you offer.
The fact is that like social media, gaming has become a cultural norm. Organisations have a choice; they can either use and embrace it or try to block it. If we look at the impact that social media has had on influencing the way, we communicate and collaborate with each other at work it doesn’t take a genius to work out which will be the better option.