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Employee Engagement Gamification trumps tick boxes for performance management

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
By David Zinger, Siddhesh Bhobe

What is the last game you played? Did it have anything to do with work? Do you perceive games merely as a diversion from work? What about performance appraisals at work? Are they working for you and your organization? Are you fully engaged with your current approach to performance management? How did one company in India subtract 28,000 hours of work from the old performance management system?

A recent Modern Survey study found that only 10% of employees in the United States are fully engaged at work yet they or their teenage son or daughter can spend all evening and the early hours of the morning fully engaged in an online game. Teresa Amabile from Harvard in a study involving 12,000 daily diaries of knowledge workers found that the greatest contributor of engagement and motivation for knowledge workers was progress and the single greatest source of that progress was collaboration. Progress and collaboration are inherent in most game design and are vital in effective performance management.

Games are inherently engaging and a powerful tool to use in building more engagement within organizations. Gamification is the use of game elements in work scenarios in order to drive engagement and make work more interesting and productive.

In the beginning gamification was largely about implementing a points-based economy, coupled with leaderboards and badges in order to drive motivation or engagement. The new wave of gamification involves taking business problems and mapping them to game play and thereby improving trainability, and increasing effectiveness and results of core business-related actions and workflows.

For example, one area of pervasive consternation for most organizations is the performance appraisal system. Edward E. Lawler III in a Forbes blog post on Performance Appraisals are Dead, Long Live Performance Management wrote:

Performance appraisals are one of the most frequently criticized talent management practices. The criticisms range from their being an enormous waste of time to their having a destructive impact on the relationship between managers and their subordinates. Criticizing performance appraisals has a long history. For decades, the literature on talent management has pointed out the flaws in most performance management systems and in some cases recommended completely abandoning them. The problem with abandoning them is that they are vital to effective talent management.

In India, eMee, a company that develops comprehensive social gamification platforms enabling engagement for business - implemented a game based visualization approach for the 7000 employees of Persistent to combine social collaboration, performance management, learning and rewards and recognition.

The system addressed the challenges in performance management. The system has been in operation at Persistent for 3 years and employee attrition has been reduced by over 350 basis points year on year, and the company saved, by a conservative estimate, over 28,000 person hours in 2013 by eliminating the need for an arduous and time consuming end-of-year appraisal process.

The continuous performance management system residing in a gamified system provides employees with a platform to showcase their skills, achievements and contributions. Powered by big data analysis, the system recommends actions that can help employees earn appropriate recognition, while reminding them of actions due, and guiding employees towards target behaviors.

Appraisals, which were an end of year function taking two to four weeks to complete, are now primarily conducted by looking at each employee's game profile, their game position, and their activity in the game.

Although many companies are still in their infancy in adopting internal social media, gamification will take the adoption of internal social media and raise engagement to new levels while being fused to key business results and metrics.

How about you and your organization? Are you game?