Gamification – Soft Way to Manage Change

Juhani VuotiWe’ve all had the experience of joining a new community. Whether it’s a new workplace, sports team, spouse’s family or something completely different, some of the habits and thoughts seem strange at first. But little by little all those oddities become more and more familiar until they reach the stage of normality.

Leaders face a similar problem, when they want to introduce new procedures and ways of work to their team or organization. People simply feel that the old ways are the best. I want to encourage all you leaders out there: your employees are not that different or more stubborn than the rest of us. Resistance to change is completely normal and typical for us humans. On the one hand, the members of the work community try to defend themselves, and on the other hand, they try to protect their community together. It doesn’t really matter, whether the employees are juniors or seniors, the challenge is always the same: how to change procedures and thinking as painlessly and easy as possible?

All new habits and procedures are not that easy to digest, and success depends largely on how things are communicated. Sometimes organizations use traditional means, like sanctions and rewards, to drive change, but promising big bonuses or threatening with layoffs rarely change people’s behavior for better in the long run. When the promises and threats are no longer valid, the effect will fade off and people will adopt their old behavior patterns. In addition, people’s tolerance will increase with time, so in the future small rewards and sanctions won’t be enough anymore; in order to make an effect, the size of the rewards and the severity of the sanctions have to be increased. What was enough yesterday, will not suffice tomorrow.

But there are some organizations that take into account their employees’ motivators in change management. Gamification is a soft way to guide people to the desired direction. When game elements are used in change management, it’s possible to tap into people’s intrinsic motivation. For each of us, meaningful work means different things. By taking into account the intrinsic motivation – what really drives people – you can lead the change and lead your employees to the new direction.