The power of gamification in the workplace

More than 100 years ago, during a visit to one of the many factories he owned, Charles M. Schwab took a piece of chalk and proceeded to draw a large number “6” on the floor for all the employees to see. (Why did he do this? I’ll get to that shortly.) Schwab made his money as a pioneer in the steel-making industry, employed hundreds of thousands of workers and built an empire that rivals the biggest corporations of today. During his time as a leader, he had many similar challenges that today’s modern manager or business owner might face, such as motivating employees to reach their full potential in the workplace. On the particular occasion I mentioned above, Schwab had noticed that this factory had the capacity to produce more steel—but that the employees were not motivated enough to do so. He knew he needed to take a new tactic.

The process of making steel is done in “heats.” During this time in history, there was almost an unlimited demand for steel in the marketplace, so a factory’s ability to complete as many heats as possible was paramount. Schwab inquired to one of the day-shift employees about how many heats their crew had completed that day; the employee responded confidently, “Six heats, sir.” 

Charles M. Schwab. (Photo: Wikipedia)

That’s when Schwab got the chalk out.

When the night shift came into work later that day, they quickly inquired about the number’s origin; someone informed them that the big boss had come in that day and asked how many heats had been done, then chalked the response down on the floor. The next day, when the day shift returned to work, the “6” had been erased and replaced with a “7.” The night crew saw the number as a challenge and found the motivation within themselves to produce an extra heat that night. This back-and-forth between the shifts went on for weeks.

Schwab was using a technique called gamification to challenge his employees to achieve more.

Gamification is defined as “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something so as to encourage participation.” In an interview between InformationWeek reporter Debra Donston-Miller and Caroline Avey, director of innovative learning solutions at ACS Learning Services, Avey said:

The idea of game mechanics is taking elements of games and putting them into a normal business process. Game mechanics integrated into applications can be quite sophisticated or very simple. Users sometimes don’t realize they are participating in a game …. Think of a learning module where you have to complete one level before moving on to the next level—that’s a very simple game mechanic called leveling.

Look around you in the break room or in the doctor’s waiting room, or anywhere for that matter, and you might see grown men and women playing games on their phone. What if you could draw employees in with the same enthusiasm and the same commitment they have to “Candy Crush”?

At the U.K.’s Department for Work and Pensions, an online game called “Idea Street” was created and introduced to employees. In the game, employees receive points for innovative ideas, level up as they gain more points and have their names prominently displayed on a leaderboard throughout the company’s communication channels. The game has brought forth 1,400 ideas, 63 of which were implemented. The truth is that employees had fun while directly contributing to a business cause. Perhaps none of these ideas would have been unearthed without this mechanism.

Can gamification also increase employee morale and engagement?
A recent Gallup Poll reported that 71 percent of American workers are not engaged. In case you read that too fast, let me repeat it in another way: Seven out of every 10 people going to work every day in America are not engaged in their jobs. And although there are many factors contributing to the current state, it’s clear that actions must be taken to reinvigorate the workforce. And I think that gamifying certain business activities is one strategy that can spark some much-needed electricity throughout an organization.

Let me be clear: I’m not talking about installing an Xbox or foosball table in the employee lounge. What I am saying is that there is an opportunity to add a new element to your existing company practices and programs. The fun and competitive nature that gamification brings out in people can breathe new life into training and development programs, create fun and exciting mechanisms to track department metrics, and make company bonus programs more visible and interactive, as just some examples. Ultimately, these types of activities will strengthen the good relationship you have with your engaged workforce while at the same time rekindle the competitive spirit of some of your lesser-engaged workers. It might be time to get the chalk out.

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Originally published by Brad Bingham, Brad is an aspiring human resources thought leader who is passionate about organizational behavior, professional development and the art of leadership.


Spending on Corporate Training Soars: Employee Capabilities Now A Priority

The economic recovery is clearly here: spending on corporate training is soaring.

We just completed our 2014 Corporate Learning Factbook and the research is striking: US spending on corporate training grew by 15% last year (the highest growth rate in seven years) to over $70 Billion in the US and over $130 Billion worldwide. (Download executive summary here.)

This tremendous increase follows two years of accelerated spending in this area (10% in 2011 and 12% in 2012), illustrating how companies see tremendous skills gaps as we recover from the recession.

Corporate training is always a very good indicator of economic activity: when companies slow down they often cut training spending, and then as business grows they ramp back up to train new hires, sales people, and leaders. This is among the most discretionary of all corporate spending areas, so it is an excellent bellweather for business confidence.

Spending on Corporate Training

Why the rapid growth? All our research tells us that organizations today suffer from a “skills supply chain” challenge. Not only do more than 70% of organizations cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges, but many companies also tell us that it takes 3-5 years to take a seasoned professional and make them fully productive.

And the skills challenge is huge. Recent research shows, for example, that the Oil and Gas industry needs 60,000 petrochemical engineers by 2016 yet only 1300 graduate from US schools each year. This means that oil companies have to train, retrain, and jointly educate a lot of energy engineers to grow.

A few key facts about L&D spending:

Spending on leadership development remains very high. As in prior years the research shows that the #1 areas of spending is management and leadership (35%). All our research on corporate talent shows that global leadership gaps continue to be the most pressing issues on the minds of business and HR leaders. As Millennials take on more responsibility, companies need to build leadership skills at all levels and in all geographies around the world. (Read more at: Millennials Will Soon Rule the World.)
High-performing companies spend more. Companies which fall into our “high-impact” categories spend significantly more on training than average. So companies who invest in a total L&D strategy spend more per employee than those who are inconsistent. This shows that L&D spending pays off.
Technology is revolutionizing this market. The research shows an explosive growth in technology tools to train people today. Self-authored video, online communication channels, virtual learning, and MOOCs (Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, edX, …) are all growing rapidly as training tools. People still need formal classroom education, but this is now less than half the total “hours” people consume in training around the world. And among the highly advanced companies, as much as 18% of all training is now delivered through mobile devices.

We see significant growth in new virtual learning environments: companies like GE, Motorola, Philips , and others are extending their training budget to reach 2-3 times the audience through the use of easy to use training portals and virtual learning experiences. While most big companies still have a lot of work rationalizing their training spend, the adoption of technology in training has accelerated.

The Learning Management Systems market is also growing rapidly. We estimate that the market for learning management systems is now over $2 billion and continues to be one of the fastest segments of HR software. Every major HR technology vendor is investing in its LMS offerings.

MOOCs are also likely to radically impact corporate training, as branded universities put more and more courses online. (read The MOOC Marketplace Takes Off for more information.)

This is exciting news. While skills gaps (we call it the “supply chain of skills”) continue to challenge companies, an increased investment in training is good for everyone: employees, businesses, and job seekers. This level of increase shows that businesses are aggressively expanding and companies need skilled workers to grow.

Despite a tightening labor market for skills, this data predicts a good year ahead.

For more information about corporate training:

Originally posted by Josh Bersin; FORBES ON-LINE…

How Augmented Reality Works

Video games have been entertaining us for nearly 30 years, ever since Pong was introduced to arcades in the early 1970s.Computer graphics have become much more sophisticated since then, and game graphics are pushing the barriers of photorealism. Now, researchers and engineers are pulling graphics out of yourtelevision screen or computer display and integrating them into real-world environments. This new technology, called augmented reality, blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell.

On the spectrum between virtual reality, which creates immersive, computer-generated environments, and the real world, augmented reality is closer to the real world. Augmented reality adds graphics, sounds, haptic feedback and smell to the natural world as it exists. Both video games and cell phones are driving the development of augmented reality. Everyone from tourists, to soldiers, to someone looking for the closest subway stop can now benefit from the ability to place computer-generated graphics in their field of vision.

Augmented reality is changing the way we view the world — or at least the way its users see the world. Picture yourself walking or driving down the street. With augmented-reality displays, which will eventually look much like a normal pair of glasses, informative graphics will appear in your field of view, and audio will coincide with whatever you see. These enhancements will be refreshed continually to reflect the movements of your head. Similar devices and applications already exist, particularly on smartphones like the iPhone.

In this article, we’ll take a look at where augmented reality is now and where it may be headed soon.


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Originallt posted in Howstuffworks by KevinBonsor

Sustaining Training’s Impact

Time plays a key role in business. It has a meaningful impact on how corporate training programs are developed, whether it’s the speed of delivery, the length of the program, the time the learner interacts with the materials, the time the behavior is demonstrated by the employee after the training, or the introduction of tools and technologies that can get information to learners quickly.

Looking across three research studies, I have collected a group of factors demonstrating the impact of time or speed on training programs. Time is a major constraint in the delivery of training – creating tension between desire for shorter training and longer impact.

In the Training Industry and ON24 research study, “Using Virtual Environments for Leadership Development,” 68 percent of respondents cited that sustaining the impact of training is a key challenge. What’s interesting to note is that the drive to shorten the duration of the programs crosses with the notion of effectively sustaining the impact of the program. In this study, we looked at the length of leadership development programs, and found that more than half of leadership development programs last one week or less (see Figure 1).

Chart 11

Interestingly, the companies that felt their program was effective actually had longer programs, ultimately sustaining the impact of training by extending the entire program (see Figure 2).


In a related piece of research, “Strategies for Sustaining the Impact of Sales Training,” we found that continuous training leads to sustained impact. Effective organizations utilize more pre-training strategies for sustaining training and post-training reinforcement, logically extending the program, but making it more impactful.

One of the key problems that these longer more effective programs introduce to the learning management team is the potential for cost increases. Logically, longer programs cost more to support and deliver. So the learning leader is challenged to find new ways to make these programs happen, and we see it in true blended solutions, including face-to-face training, e-learning, adoption of tools such as virtual training platforms, or digital e-readers to make the materials and reinforcement available when the employee needs it, or more importantly, has time to consume it or participate.

Cost and Sustainability

While our research has shown that long-term, continuous training programs are more effective at sustaining the impact of training, cost is still a critical factor in terms of delivery. Using cost-effective resources to leverage information can help offset the cost of long-term training initiatives, such as digital e-readers, virtual training and e-learning.

From the same research on the use of virtual platforms in leadership development, 51 percent of organizations use a virtual delivery platform in support of their company’ program, often cited as one of the soft skills that benefits most from face-to-face, experiential learning .

In another, soon-to-be-published study on the use of e-readers in the support of corporate training programs, we found that roughly 59 percent of respondents currently use digital e-reader platforms to deliver corporate training content (see Figure 3).


Access was the number one benefit of using digital content delivery platforms as part of corporate training programs allowing the learner to access the content at any location, at any time with quicker reach to the entire group of participants. These digital content delivery platforms also provide the benefit of improved consistency and reduce the cost of revisions to the training materials.  Being able to quickly and inexpensively update reference materials or inserting a session on a topic that appears to need more reinforcement allows for improved agility in the program makeup, and potentially continuous realignment to the company goals.

Additionally, effective companies are 50 percent more likely to include self-study online and e-learning training as an element of their leadership development program, according to the ON24 research report. We are beginning to see an increase in the use of blended learning approaches in key focus areas like leadership development emerge in the training marketplace. There is also increasing pressure from the learner pool to provide program elements in the modality they chose. This provides a clear picture for the future direction of corporate learning surrounding key change initiative like leadership development.


The most effective companies are those that utilize long-term or continuous training programs to sustain the impact of training. Regardless of budget, companies are looking for cost-effective ways to deliver the training, including the introduction of digital e-readers, virtual training and self-study into the learning program. A blended learning approach helps the program sustain the impact of the training while keeping the cost in check as the programs begin to span longer periods of time.

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Originally posted by: Ken Taylor, Ken is Partner and Chief Operating Officer of Training Industry, Inc., and editor in chief for Training Industry Magazine.

Want Better Customer Service? Engage Your Employees

A new whitepaper from enterprise research firm Aberdeen Group finds that contact centers with higher levels of customer satisfaction and worker performance are more likely to use engagement tools such as surveys, eLearning tools, and attendance management. The report, which outlines how contact center workforce optimization (WFO) can enhance the performance of employees, makes the case for a number of engagement strategies for these specific types of workers.
The study points out that the priorities of contact center WFO has changed in just the past two years as businesses work to provide better service while managing unpredictable levels of customer traffic. In a May 2014 survey of 83 companies, Aberdeen found that the top goal was “Improve the quality of customer interaction,” which was selected by 59 percent of respondents. This was a sizable increase compared to a similar survey in 2012, in which just 32 percent cited that as a top objective. The opposite dynamic can be seen on the goal of “Improve forecast accuracy in predicting call volumes” where just 19 percent pointed to it this year, while more than double that (43 percent) had cited it as a top priority in 2012.
To help tackle these priorities, the report contrasts the engagement tools used by top-performing companies (“Leaders”) and those of lagging “Followers.” The findings reflect that strong-performing companies are much more likely to adopt a number of engagement efforts. For example, while 75 percent of Leaders use employee engagement surveys to assess worker satisfaction, just 44 percent of Followers do the same. Likewise, while 70 percent of top companies use eLearning tools to help train their employees, that is true of just 49 percent of Follower companies.
“Contact center WFO programs today are about more than just scheduling the right amount of agents and matching customer issues with agent skills,” concluded Omer Minkara, senior research analyst for Aberdeen Group and the author of the report. “While those are still important to create a top-notch WFO program, the leading contact centers build their efforts around improving the customer experience across every touch point.”
The complete whitepaper can be downloaded for free here.
Originally posted By Alex Palmer:

6 Inspiring Examples of Gamification

When your customers or employees are having fun, it boosts your performance as a company. The concept of Gamification brings a world of opportunities for online businesses to attract and retain users, as well as converting them into buyers and even better… loyal buyers. We’re interested in Gamification because when building our chat tool we also aimed to combine business with fun. There are a couple of companies that we look up to as they truly nailed it with Gamification.

Even though the Google Trend graph shows the term ‘Gamification’ to be rather new, the systematical approach of driving motivation from people to a certain goal through game elements, such as teams and challenges, is literally as old as the Egyptian Pyramids.

Google Trends: Gamification searched throughout the time (checked on 11th February 2014)

As argued by various authors, the pyramids were built under a different structure than what we’ve been thinking for so long. Apparently the number of slaves used for the construction was way below what has been thought, all because of the game elements that were included in the work. Slaves were organized in extremely hierarchical groups with specialized individuals in different crafts. These “teams”, named after their hometown, competed against each other for many different goods. Their victory was based on effectiveness and rapidness.

The first Gamifiers

Now we wouldn’t want to dream of glorifying slavery in any way. However, this example does demonstrate the power of game elements. There are some great examples of modern-day companies that used gamification to boost their performance. We accumulated some of the most inspiring examples to put on display.


1) M&M’s Eye-Spy Pretzel Campaign

One of the great examples of successful participants engagement with an online social game was the 2013’s M&M’s eye-spy game. Framed within the M&M’s Pretzel campaign, this simple cost-effective game consisted of a simple full-page graphic design of M&M’s and 1 small pretzel which users had to find.

Can you find the pretzel?

This simple, cheap game brought huge gains to M&M, with a boost of more than 25.000 likes on their Facebook page, 6.000 shares and 10.000 comments.


2) Club Psych TV Show and Merchandise Sales

Another great example comes from the american TV Show Psych. Marketers for this product decided to create a new platform – Club Psych – which incoporated gamification into their dynamics with the main goal of increasing customer engagement and ultimately increase their merchandise sales.

The Club Psych is a platform with different games, challenges and multimedia resources related to the tv series. By registering and accomplishing new levels, downloads and other resources, players are ranked in leaderboards, are awarded points and can challenge their friends.

When marketers measured gamification effects within the platform they came out with astonishing numbers: overall traffic on their network increased by 30%, online merchandise sales by 50%, page views by 130% and their content was shared 300,000 times on Facebook, reaching 40 million users.


3) Nike + and the Running Experience Community Project

Nike+ is one of the most famous examples of a game that locks a high amount of potential customers into staying in contact and communicating with the company.

Nike+ is an app developed to complement the most unstructured sport on the planet: running. This platform collects personal data from the users and keeps close update on their running activities in order to monitorize and display their latest achievements and overall evolution. Moreover, Nike+ allows users to compare and compete with people from all over the world, including direct friends when connected to social media.

For Nike, this viral game greatly boosted their exposure and customer loyalty. Furthermore, this highly-developed gaming system allowed them to collect high amounts of data over long periods, after which they were able to segment and market their products and services directly. All the information collected also allowed an increase in productivity of the R&D and Online Marketing departments.

In fact, Nike +’s concept has been so successful that the main framework was built upon and expanded by many other businesses. We just want to highlight the entertaining example of Zombies, Run!, a game where instead of competing with your mates, you are running ahead of a flesh-eating army of zombies.

This game combines the main principles of Nike+ with storytelling – a story about a postapocalyptic zombie world to be exact. While you’re out running you’ll hear a voice telling you whether it is time for a sprint to outrun a hungry zombie mob.


4) Giff Gaff’s Magical Gamified Business Model

Similarly to many community based game approaches comes the Giff Gaff game developed by O2 in 2010. Giff Gaff is a mobile phone service provider with a unique business model.

The idea is that every service provided by Giff Gaff is done by the users of the community, from sales to customer support! From the beginning, since you buy your Giff Gaff SIM Card from one of the members of the platform you’re giving away points and becoming a member of the community. When you request any kind of support at their forum and a member supports you, he is also getting more points. These accumulated points can be then converted into cash, as 1 point is equal to 1 pence (which can be withdrawn, converted into airtime, or donated to charity).

Although gamification is typically used to engage customers, the following examples show that it can also be applied for internal purposes.


5) The US Army Game – The #1 recruitment tool on the planet

Another great example of an organization that deployed the gamification concept to support its strategy is the US Army. They developed a free to download game which has become their number 1 recruitment tool.

This is a multiplayer tactical shooter game where people have the opportunity to combat at a squad-level with three fireteams in an extremely realistic approach. By bringing reality into a game, recruiters allow recruits to put themselves in the shoes of a soldier and check whether they have what it takes to become a battle fighter.

This game was developed with a very clear business goal: increasing the number of recruits to the army. Before playing the game everyone is recommended to create an online account, joining the “Online Army” (and giving them all your real data).

In this example the gamified thought goes even deeper by replacing typical badges you get with any online game, for the “Badges of Honor” you will earn by becoming a member of the American Army.

As you can expect, this game has been under heavy ethical discussion. Colonel Wardynski defends the game: “There is a fine line and you don’t want to step over it. We steer clear of glamorizing war or taking advantage of current events. People may have lost love ones recently. And there is the privacy of the people involved. Another concern is national security, if you put too much detail into it.”


6) Salesforce’s Roadwarrior Training

Gamification can also be used for training purposes, as shown by SAP use of Roadwarrior to train its sales staff. Roadwarrior was developed by Salesforce to train sales representatives, through simulated meetings with customers, on how and what to answer considering tailored customer needs. Through the process of answering simulated customers, the sales rep wins badges and earns points, or loses them when they request life-lines. There are many levels to be unlocked on cross-technology matters and reps can challenge other colleagues to match their accomplishments.

Sales people are generally very competitive, making them a good target for a game motivating them to upgrade their sales skills. According to’s blog, 90.4% of the companies that implemented a gamification program for their sales team reported successful results.

With Roadwarrior SAP turned training into fun, increasing the position of its sales force within the learning-curve (by forcing them to continuously simulate different scenarios), increasing motivation and stimulating socialization among the team. And the bottom line, leading to higher sales.


The Possibilities of Gamification for your Business

You might be aiming at developing your internal capital related with HR matters such as productivity, as you can see from the example of SAP and its training game Roadwarrior, the US Army’s recruitment game or through crowdsourcing as Giff Gaf’s original business model which includes the concepts of gamification merged with relevance of social communities.

Gamification is a business tool and games are not simple, not just graphics and design. If you would like to create an engaging experience to your customers think strategically and plan carefully what you want to achieve even before hiring your game developer.

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Gamification At The Curriculum Level

Are your gamification efforts focused solely at the course level? You may be missing opportunities to guide and engage learners.

Remember your first days of college – the phone book-sized stack of orientation materials, the maze of dorm rooms and classrooms, and those cryptic graduation requirements you had no hope of understanding?

Credits, classes, minors, majors, electives – to me it was a mass of confusion until a guidance counselor set me straight.

Do new hires in your company feel the same way about on-boarding? What about continuing professional education? Few organizations have the role of “guidance counselor”. That responsibility gets left to busy managers.

I propose a new solution to end confusion, improve the learner experience, and increase engagement: gamification.

Right now, you might think of gamification only at the course level – incorporating game-based elements like timers, points, or badges. We know that these elements, done well, can increase engagement by capitalizing on our natural inclination to play and our desire to win.

Now think of moving from the micro (course) level to the macro (curriculum) level. We can use some of the same techniques, such as badges, missions, challenges, and ranks, to transform the learner experience before he or she even enters a course. For example, we recently developed a learning portal for a client’s distributed salesforce. Learners first set up their profiles by choosing their “avatar,” creating a personalized experience from the start. From there they choose from an array of missions (groups of related courses), take on challenges (courses), and move up the ranks by collecting badges for completing courses.

As a creative director, I am impressed with how creating gamification at the curriculum level challenges my team to think more critically about the user experience. We are designing a system, rather than a set of screens. We’ve added new steps to our process, such as performing more up-front analysis to validate the information architecture, as well as incorporating more user experience testing to be sure our design choices work effectively for the audience.

In the near future, I predict we will see “gamified” curricula accessible on tablets and phones, where learners can tap into nano-learnings, articles, and podcasts, progressing through their program anywhere, anytime.

Leveraging gamification at the curriculum level takes advantage of the full power of the learning portal. Like a college guidance counselor, it helps guide and motivate leaners through the maze of on-boarding, certification, or professional development programs.

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Originally published by; John Carlos Lozano – John-Carlos Lozano is Creative Director at SweetRush.