Our CEO and gamification guru Jukka Koskenkanto talked about the essentials of enterprise gamification last fall at the Nordic Digital Business Summit in Helsinki.
Deloitte’s research paper, published last spring, reveals some staggering numbers: only 8 percent of U.S. companies are satisfied with their performance management process. At the same time, performance management takes too much time in 58 percent of the companies. The figures go hand in hand with the survey results we published in December: there’s something profoundly wrong in the way performance is being managed.
The traditional approach to performance management was invented to fulfill the needs of the industrial society. The focus was at that time on homogeneity and flawlessness, and factory workers were expected to perform monotonic tasks. The production line was always moving: sometimes faster, sometimes slower, but the tasks were always the same. Performance management has evolved since those days, and now performance is being improved by preventing mistakes beforehand.
Nowadays as much as 70 percent of jobs are in the service sector and especially professional services are on the rise. The nature of professional work differs greatly from the traditional production line work. In professional work, employee’s skills, attitude and the ability to empathize are essential to performance as well as teamwork skills. Homogeneity and uniformity can’t be the measures of performance; a different kind of approach is needed, which will take into account the differences between the employees.
In some industries, like software development, the performance level of the top performers can be tenfold compared to the average performer. I believe the reason behind this is that top performers are taken into account very well in the traditional performance management culture. They get rewards, attention and autonomy all at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with this; the problem lies elsewhere.
However, traditional performance management often fails to pay regard to the average employee. This is a huge weakness, as most of the employees naturally are, by definition, average. If the average joe or jane does something a bit better, no one notices. But we should! If we multiply the improvement in performance with the number of average performers, the minor improvement will be a huge deal for the company.
Performance management should be used to make good basic work visible. In my earlier blog posts, I’ve already mentioned limited and unlimited resources. For most companies, money is a limited resource, whereas social recognition and social rewarding are unlimited resources. These tools should be used carefully as well, or the pep talks and praises will turn into bad theatre. Nevertheless, praise should always be given in public. When the average employee sees that her average colleague is being praised, she can identify herself with her coworker. “Even I can do that!” she thinks. When top performers are being rewarded and praised, the average joe can’t find anyone to identify with. This will, on the contrary, decrease his performance level and make him feel depressed.
Gamification is a way to encourage and pay attention to everyone’s individual needs. At Cloudriven, we track performance on a weekly basis and all our important actions are shared with colleagues, who can encourage, comment and give feedback. Usually the work community tends to support those, who are in need of encouragement. When my week hasn’t been that successful, the community has given me their support.
Performance management culture is changing and the traditional performance appraisals are slowly losing their importance. The most essential thing about performance management should be increasing motivation right here and right now. Gamification fits this definition like a glove. Gamification allows us to share unlimited resources easily and automatically, which motivates even the average joes to better results.
Christmas is right around the corner and it will halt the entire western hemisphere at least for a while. Our thoughts are with our loved ones and we think about ways to contribute to our community. Religiously speaking, the central character of Christmas is of course Jesus. To honor the spirit of Christmas, I aim to examine in this blog post, what Jesus would say about gamification. That man knew how to tell compelling, thought-provoking stories. I’m not going to emphasize the religious aspects of the following story, as the story itself is brilliant and can be used to introduce a nontraditional viewpoint on gamification. The story goes like this:
“As Jesus was telling what the kingdom of heaven would be like, he said: Early one morning a man went out to hire some workers for his vineyard. After he had agreed to pay them the usual amount for a day’s work, he sent them off to his vineyard. About nine that morning, the man saw some other people standing in the market with nothing to do. He promised to pay them what was fair, if they would work in his vineyard. So they went. At noon and again about three in the afternoon he returned to the market. And each time he made the same agreement with others who were loafing around with nothing to do. Finally, about five in the afternoon the man went back and found some others standing there. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. Then he told them to go work in his vineyard.
That evening the owner of the vineyard told the man in charge of the workers to call them in and give them their money. He also told the man to begin with the ones who were hired last. When the workers arrived, the ones who had been hired at five in the afternoon were given a full day’s pay. The workers who had been hired first thought they would be given more than the others. But when they were given the same, they began complaining to the owner of the vineyard. They said, “The ones who were hired last worked for only one hour. But you paid them the same that you did us. And we worked in the hot sun all day long!” The owner answered one of them, “Friend, I didn’t cheat you. I paid you exactly what we agreed on. Take your money now and go! What business is it of yours if I want to pay them the same that I paid you? Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Why should you be jealous, if I want to be generous?”
(Contemporary American English Version / American Bible Society)
The workers, who had been sweating the whole day, were rightfully upset. The pay was of course unjust for those, who had done most of the work, and as a compensation system, it would most definitely not be encouraging. However, the focus of the story is not in justness but in mercy. Mercy is what leads us to gamification, because usually when implementing gamification, we try to be as fair as we can. This approach is justifiable, if we are building a competition of some sort to motivate people. Yet gamification isn’t always about competition. Gamification as such does not aim for giving just rewards, but it’s a practical way to motivate people to perform desired actions.
In the above story, everyone was working, which is an excellent accomplishment as such. If gamification is implemented well, it encourages many people to act. But excellent implementation of gamification encourages all to take action. Not everyone is motivated by competition and many can be intimidated if they need to compare their own performance with others. The most important thing in this case is to accept the individual as he is and encourage him to pursue goals that suit him best.
In the workplace, we usually give recognition for successful performance. The value of the reward is defined in relation to the profits the company gets from work performances; the reward is never more valuable than the profit, or otherwise the rewarding system would not make much sense. We’ve adopted this approach, because the resources for rewarding are limited and the amount of resources usually depends on the profits made possible by work performance.
However, gamification isn’t just about money, and profits, and sharing the wealth with the “players”. There are other resources that can be used to motivate besides cold, hard cash. The amount of these resources varies, but in some cases they are limitless. One of these resources is simply positive feedback. Gratitude never involves taking something away from someone else. A thank-you doesn’t cost anything for the giver, but it is still very valuable for the receiver and will boost her motivation. If we have an infinite resource of gratitude, what could stop us from being as merciful and encouraging as the man in the story?
Gamification is all about giving a man the thing he needs to perform the right actions. Not just the thing he deserves based on the results. A well gamified workplace is employee’s heaven.
The writer is in charge of Cloudriven’s consulting services in gamification, training and competency development and in addition to engineering, he has studied theology. Read more about Juhani’s thoughts on gamification from his Gamify blog.
It’s a battle out there. Better, stronger, faster and cheaper. These kind of ghosts are hunting us in our everyday work life. And it’s driving us mad. Information overflow, hyper connectivity, stress at work and the current economic crisis are not helping us to lead a peaceful and sometimes even a thriving life. Is it really that bad? Think back. When did you have had your last truly peaceful moment?
Now when we look at all the challenges we face every day, in the end it’s obviously all about your own attitude, how you handle those challenges. Problems begin and end in our mind and in our own mind alone. This is at least what I’ve come to realize during my few years as a more or less successful entrepreneur. I’m still finding my way every day, plucking forward, coping with issues on all different levels, yet I still try to find the energy to share knowledge “for free” with the community. All this needs quite some strength.
Where does all this energy come from? First of all I think it’s about enthusiasm combined with the already mentioned attitude. The true meaning of the word enthusiasm comes from ancient Greek and it actually means “possessed by god”. If you truly love something, believe in something and it feels right, you can summon the energy to go the extra mile and endure any hardship life throws at you. Hardships should be seen as challenges, which bring you forward and help you grow personally as well as in your professional life.
Now in the end I think its enthusiasm and attitude that brought me to the place where I am at the moment. I know I have still a long way to go to reach the place where I want to be. But I truly believe this can only be achieved with enthusiasm, attitude and of course in the end of the day, hard work.
As a gamification evangelist and thought leader, it is like being a sailor “in the blue ocean” which is a metaphor for being in an industry which is new and not yet tested. The course is set, the future is unknown, and I can’t be sure if my ship will keep on sailing. All what I know deep inside of me is that I am doing the right thing and I can see the sun rising at the horizon.
The writer is partner at Peaches Industries, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for SharePoint and a respected gamification evangelist. Within the scope of modern collaboration and communication systems, he specialises in the SharePoint solutions of Microsoft and the SharePoint Cloud services within the Office 365 product series.
We’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.