THE BLOG
06/11/2014 03:01 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2014

The Rise of Engagement and Gamification

Employers have long striven for productivity (and secretly still do) but the process by which they can achieve it is shifting. As information becomes more easily accessible via technology and the internet, individuals - as workers and consumers - have become more educated, and possibly more finicky; people are having a more consumer orientation to both education and their careers. This means instead of a prescriptive path, people can create custom solutions that work best for them.

In education, this takes the form of "multi-disciplinary degree" programs which are becoming more prevalent at many universities. This latest generation of graduates learn differently, and as they enter the workforce, they necessitate methods of working differently. Millennials, who have also been dubbed the "me generation" per a Time Magazine cover now make up 1/3 of the workforce, and will be the majority by 2020. Possibly due to the advent of new ways to connect people like LinkedIn, it's much easier than previous generations to proactively find candidates qualified for jobs. This, is leading to much less loyalty and a consumer orientation to careers. A statistic in a recent Forbes article states, " the average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce's youngest employees is about half that."

This is causing employers to rethink their mindset. Instead of looking for "productivity" (which may sound self-serving) employers are looking for "engagement." How do we engage our workers to achieve their full potential? If we can do that, there are obvious benefits to the employer as well. A recent interview with Bernice Boucher, Head of Workplace Strategy for JLL turned up this Hay group study which looks at the link between engagement and ROI. This study was conducted to show the bottom-line benefit to a higher level of engagement. Boucher says, "For workplace we need to understand the impact of engagement on the bottom line. There was a 54% increase in employee retention between highest and lowest engaged employees and an 89% increase in customer satisfaction by their customers. Probably best of all, there was a 4x jump in revenue growth. Here's the scary thing: The Gallup survey in 2013 said 70% of Americans are disengaged." And, just to make things even more interesting, Baby Boomers, who remain the largest percentage of our workforce are said to be the least engaged.

Clearly, the shift from "productivity" to "engagement" has to be more than just nomenclature, so businesses are exploring new ways to shift their behavior as well. This has led to the rise of gamification, which is most often defined as the use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications. The term also suggests the process of using competitive, game-like thinking to solve problems and engage the desired audience. These tools leverage both technology and our inherent competitive drive to get us to complete tasks that may otherwise be considered boring. A recent Gartner report states that by 2015, more than 50% of organizations will gamify their innovation processes.

In a recent Mashable article Gabe Zichermann, the author of Game-Based Marketing and the CEO of Gamification.co states that one of the reasons for the increase in gamification is that long-standing marketing techniques are now failing. "They're failing because people today are seeking more reward and more engagement from experiences than ever before." Younger generations may be even more in tuned with gaming because they have likely never known a world without computers. Specifically, "Today's youth mandates a more engaging experience. Gamification is required to bring those things into balance, and to make things engaging enough so people will pay attention to them and stay focused on them for a longer period of time."

To take this one step further, according to Paul Levett, Chief Product and Innovation officer of CEB, some companies are even using gaming as part of the interview process. CEB is a leading member-based advisory company and Paul is one of their gaming experts. Paul states, "'Game-like' talent assessments are increasingly popular hiring tools at companies globally, as enhancing the candidate experience in this way becomes more affordable and customizable. These technologies, which simulate on-the-job responsibilities, save companies time and money by providing an accurate, objective assessment of candidate capabilities, reducing the time required for sifting through application forms and resumes. For example, CEB has worked with customer-service teams to create simulations of realistic scenarios that ask candidates to deal with a difficult customer. Candidates who do not display the required attributes do not move to the next stage. Also, the candidate is able to judge whether it is the right role for them, enabling them to choose to progress with their application or select out of the process."

While the workplace is far from being modeled after a Dave and Buster's, gamification will no doubt change the way we engage our employees and hopefully improve just how productive we are at work.