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Playing the Long Game: How the World’s Biggest Organisations are Gamifying for Success

A decade ago, gaming had a much different role in the workplace. Reserved for young, “hip” organisations with nap rooms and bring-your-pet-to-work-policies, games were merely a fun distraction from the daily grind.

Now, gaming isn’t just a pastime for tech-savvy young upstarts. Instead, it’s a bona fide development tool, helping some of the world’s biggest organisations (IBM, Deloitte, Marriott, Cisco) create better trained, happier workforces, improve employee retention, build stronger teams, and better solve their customers’ problems.

 

Training & Development

Games are incredibly effective from an HR standpoint, significantly improving results of new hire training and skill development. According to a whitepaper by Learnovate Centre, employees who were trained using game-based learning methods had 14% higher task-based knowledge, 11% higher factual-based knowledge, and were 20% more confident in their new job tasks than those who were trained using more traditional educational methods.

But gaming doesn’t just help with the initial hire of an employee; it can also improve results of continued education, training and leadership development of existing staff members. Take Deloitte for example. The massive, worldwide consulting firm offers what’s called the “Deloitte Leadership Academy” to its executive-level staff. The platform challenges players to a series of training “missions” that, when completed, award users badges and unlock more complex training programs. Missions vary depending on the goal, but many include videos, interactive quizzes, self-assessments and more.

The platform essentially makes learning a competition, with leaderboards and even newsfeeds a la Facebook. The academy saw a 37% jump in weekly users just a few short months after launch. It has also helped reduce leadership certification time in half. Currently, more than 50,000 executives across 14 countries are using the game.

The U.S. Army also uses gaming in its leadership development, with a simulator called “First Person Cultural Trainer”. The game allows junior leaders to create a personal avatar and interact—using a first-person point-of-view–with foreign community members in a 3D environment. There are four levels of the game, each one increasing in difficulty to help the user build communication, interpersonal and intelligence gathering skills. According to the Army’s website, it challenges leaders to “understand the consequences—good and bad—of their speech, body language, posture, temperaments, and actions.”

 

Teambuilding & Employee Engagement

Though labour productivity is on the rise, it’s still significantly lower than it was just two years ago. And sadly, it’s not something simply working more hours can fix.

You see, we have a major engagement problem on our hands. According to a study by Dale Carnegie Training, 71% of all employees are not fully engaged in their work. In fact, 26% are actively disengaged.

So what does this mean for productivity? Well, engaged employees are more productive. They’re happier to be at work, and they’re willing to work harder and longer than those who aren’t. In fact, according to that same study, companies with engaged employees outperform their peers by up to 202%.

Companies with engaged employees outperform their peers by up to 202%.

Games offer a major opportunity to address this engagement issue. Take the company LiveOps, for example. A provider of virtual call centers, LiveOps uses games to keep its call agents on task and involved in their work, awarding them points (and eventually awards) for things like keeping calls short, closing a sale, satisfying a customer, and more. There are even leaderboards to add a competitive edge.

 

Problem-solving

We live in an age of disruption. Uber threw the taxi and transport industry into upheaval, and Airbnb is giving traditional hospitality chains a run for their money. These disruptions weren’t devised by playing it safe – something that most companies and corporations do simply to protect their bottom line.

With games, however, there are no real-world repercussions for taking a risk. Employees can role-play, put themselves in the shoes of their customers, and try left-field solutions that might otherwise have been impossible. The stakes are lower, and there’s no hefty bill or stock market drop if it doesn’t work out.

A good example is the “In Their Shoes” app we recently created for Takeda Pharmaceuticals. The unique app allows Takeda employees to assume the perspective of their customers – patients suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease. They really get a feel for the struggles IBD sufferers face in their daily lives, building empathy and true understanding between business and customer.

This gives Takeda team members a competitive edge. By really understanding their customers’ unique problems (and doing so without any real-world or financial risk to the company), they’re able to better devise innovative solutions their competitors can’t. This positions them for more success, both today and in the long-term.

By really understanding their customers’ unique problems, Takeda are able to better devise innovative solutions their competitors can’t.

 

Level Up

The possibilities of gamification are infinite. Some companies are even starting to use games in the recruitment process, including hotel titan Marriott. The organisation has launched a game called “My Marriott Hotel”, which it uses to introduce potential employees to the breadth and depth of hotel management.

The moral of the story? Games are no longer just a distraction from work. They’re boosting productivity, increasing engagement, and building better-trained workforces across all industries – and that’s something any executive can get behind.

About Nico
I am a strong believer in the educational and psychological benefits of games. If I'm not writing about games, I'm probably making them.
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