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Tim Hall, MD at Cognify, discusses why gamification works and how to incorporate it effectively into communication strategy.

"Life is more fun if you play games" wrote Roald Dahl, and who would argue with that? Whether you're doing the weekly shop or completing a project at work, you may have noticed that businesses are attempting to tap into our subconscious by adopting game-like features into everyday activities in order to make them more exciting.

This is gamification in action; employing the mechanics and techniques of games within a non-game context. In layman terms, setting challenging tasks and interactions and then rewarding the desired behaviours. So when research suggests that those who incorporate gamification into their business strategy experience a 60% increase in engagement, it's no surprise this relatively new buzzword is gaining serious traction.

What is gamification?

Not to be confused with gaming, where the scenario and end result are more likely to be anchored in fantasy, gamification creates intrigue and excitement by using a deep understanding of human behaviours and psychology. It taps into our workplace motivations – purpose, autonomy, mastery and social interaction – in order to drive engagement and productivity within the workforce.

For internal communication professionals, gamification has become an effective strategy for influencing and motivating employees, offering an opportunity to track engagement and identify behaviours that have never been recognised or measured before. It can also offer immediate feedback from audiences, encourage collaboration and inspire and obtain innovative ideas, making it an ideal component of a wider business strategy.

And with our workforces increasingly more tech-savvy, understanding why people use certain technologies regularly, and then embracing them, will become more of a priority.

Here are our top tips to help you use gamification within your communications strategy.

1) Define everything you want to achieve

Too often businesses get carried away with 'gamifying' their processes, using it as a quick win; for example, by offering points for completing a survey or badges for submitting feedback. However, this is not enough to produce long-term behavioural change, increase engagement or improve results. The most effective gamification strategies must be considered from the ground up, with a human-centric design focusing on behaviours and reactions aligned to your business objectives.

First, you must define what it is you're trying to achieve: is it increased employee satisfaction, greater collaboration, improved communication? Next, get under the skin of your people: what behaviours do they exhibit? At what point would they engage with a game? It pays to ask a small number of employees their views. Also, consider how the game element will be measured and how feedback will be presented.

Only by deconstructing your objectives and defining everything you want your audience to do, can you put more meaningful reward loops in place and drive your audience’s behaviours.

2) Keep it simple

A report by technologists, Gartner, revealed that 80% of gamification projects would fail. The issue wasn't with gamification as a concept but the way people applied game mechanics. After all, people don't just play games for games’ sake – the goal, competition and prize must be deemed 'worth it'. Nor do they want to receive a virtual badge for everything they do, which merely leads to player fatigue or 'switching off'.

As game mechanics drive interaction and productivity, the gamified part can be complex. However, from a user perspective, what they interact with needs to be as simple to understand as possible. Which is why it's worth involving a gamification expert so that the mechanics are fully integrated with your business strategy, goals and measures in order to drive positive behavioural change.

3) Ensure it's not standalone

To be used effectively, gamification should not be an afterthought or a standalone initiative. Instead it must be incorporated into the wider communications strategy, extending the impact and, rather than a fad, making it a part of the organisation's DNA.

Taking this approach also means you will not fall into the trap of poor conception and implementation and will, instead, witness direct commercial results. However, this will not come overnight: it is the mindful and patient approach that will produce the most significant outcomes.

As technology continues to evolve at an extraordinary pace, it'll be fascinating to see where we can take it. For now though, it's time to decide how we can take the first step onto the gamified journey and ensure our organisations are more human-centric.

Cognify is an innovative and creative learning and communications agency, leaders in corporate gamification. Contact Tim and the team via [email protected] or visit www.cognify.co.uk to find out more.

Keep an eye on the IoIC LinkedIn company page for notifications of new pieces in our 'Another view' series - unique insights on internal comms from business leaders, HR specialists and experts from a variety of fields.
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