If employers can find a way to make work feel like a fun game, they can increase their employees ability to learn new skills by 40%, says Gabe Zichermann, founder and chief executive at Dopamine Inc., a consulting agency focused on gamified campaigns for employees and consumers. This helps them feel more engaged, which makes them more likely to stay and perform at high levels.
This management strategy is part of the trend of "gamification," a process that uses behavior-motivating techniques that are typically used in games.
If employers can structure their organization like a well-designed game, they can engage and retain top talent, Zichermann says at the Human Potential Forum hosted by The Economist on Wednesday.
"We're in an engagement crisis," he says. "You can't hold people's attention the way you used to."
Part of this has to do with technology. Zichermann says the other reason why people are prone to thinking in analytical, gaming techniques is because most people are used to playing a lot of video games growing up.
Zichermann says there are three components necessary for gamification to work at your company: feedback, friends, and fun. In most video games, users know immediately if they win or lose points. This is similar to getting constant feedback in the office. Gamers also know who the good and bad guys are and can side with one team or the other. In a workplace environment, employees don't always know who's really on their team, but if they think that their superiors are on their side, they'll likely side with them. Lastly, people play video games because they are fun. In the same way, if you create reward programs, it has to be fun enough so that people want to get involved.
How do you do this? By changing up the rewards you offer over time. If you don't, employees will get bored. Zichermann says this is part of the behavior of economics, meaning the bonus check you get every quarter won't pump you up as much as it used to.
Instead, employers should find new ways to reward and drive their workers, he says. For example, use incentives in referrer programs to push employees to take an active role in recruiting talent for the company. Or reward employees for cross-department collaboration or participating in the company's 5K run. This is similar to helping out another player in a video game. It doesn't always work out in your favor, but when it does, you're rewarded for it.
But don't make the games obvious or too driven by money. Instead, push people to interact with one another to feel like they're winning. This way, your company will become more collaborative as well.
In short, construct your culture as if it were a video game, with an eye towards how you can you convince people to join and stay on your team.
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