Gamification isn't just playing games, and is increasingly becoming a useful corporate tool to increase employee productivity and intranet engagement.
Gamification is showing up in an increasing number of areas in business, from employee training, to social elements on the corporate website, to the intranet. According to Gartner, by 2015 up to 40% of Global 1000 organizations will be using gamification in business operations. Gamification doesn't necessarily refer to actually playing games, however. There are many different gamification elements, but not all are relevant to the intranet, so we'll focus on the ones that are.
What is intranet gamification?
Points, badges, and voting/ranking are three of the most common gamification elements that can be implemented on the intranet. These are all offered in Igloo's gamification module. Community members accrue points for performing certain actions (e.g. posted a question on the forums), or doing various actions a certain number of times (e.g. published 10 blog posts). Badges are awarded once points thresholds are reached. Members can earn higher ranking badges when they pass certain points levels for activities performed (or expertise demonstrated). And content can be "liked" with votes moving its ranking and prominence up or down.
Being rewarded for participating in the community encourages new members to go through required steps, like setting up their profiles or working through training materials. It can also encourage them to engage in simple actions to help them become comfortable participating, like leaving their first comment on a blog post or forum, or posting a microblog. Encouraging social activities is important to start with new members, and if gamification adds some added incentive for it to become a habit, all the better.
Using gamification to learn who is participating, and who isn't, can help with your intranet analytics. IPSwitch, an Igloo customer, combines automatic points and badges with analytics to provide one-off rewards for specific behaviours. Having this flexibility built into your gamification system is important, enabling you to test and iterate new strategies as your audience becomes accustomed to the gamified system.
Planning intranet gamification
Make sure that the requirements to achieve rewards are clear and easy to find, especially for the introductory ones like badges for new member activities. How many points do you get for publishing a blog post as opposed to commenting on one? What, exactly, you need to do to achieve a certain badge? If your organization offers tangible rewards as well, like t-shirts or gift cards, present that information, too.
Always make sure it's clear which activities are mandatory, such as filling out your profile, and for which participation is optional, regardless of applied gamification elements. Be sure to publicize when any new badges are added, or points calculations change. People do notice.
An important consideration in designing your intranet's gamification is the reward parameters and thresholds:
- For what actions will members be rewarded?
- How many points are different activities worth?
- What will the interval be between rewards? (E.g. how many points must be accrued before you earn the next badge.)
- How many levels of rewards will there be?
- Do the rewards have any peripheral effects on member prominence or feature access?
- Are there real world bonuses for accruing points? (E.g. gift cards.)
According to Gartner, up to 80% of intranet gamification efforts fail due to poor design, so it's important to work through these considerations before implementing anything. Beyond that, employees (especially technical ones) can be very sensitive to systems that they don't think make sense, that seem unfair, or that have rewards that can't be reasonably navigated and achieved. You need to incentivize the right behaviours, but also in the right ways.
The community manager or team needs to ensure that employees know the gamification elements exist and how they work to encourage participation. But at the same time, you don't want to spam people. Constant pop-ups or overlays, flashing banners, and other nuisances are no more welcome on the intranet than on the wider Web. Make the focus of notifications more "By the way, you have been rewarded for..." rather than "YOU NEED TO PARTICIPATE", without dominating screen real estate.
When adding gamification elements to the intranet, one important consideration is how well they will integrate from a technical perspective. When adopting a third-party solution, the levels of required customization and maintenance are important to think about, as is how well the software will work with your platform. For platforms with their own native gamification modules (like Igloo's) there's nothing to worry about.
Marketing intranet gamification
Which brings up the question of what to do about those who are less encouraged by public recognition, or who simply don't want to participate in gamification. It's important to remember that it's the participation that's most important, not the rewards. The main goal is to train and encourage people to be active on the intranet and to contribute regularly. If they get rewards for that, great. Be careful not to create a situation wherein you are at a loss how to encourage people without extrinsic rewards, but they don't respond to anything else.
One way of addressing this is managing how rewards are handled at an administrative level. You can make members' points and/or badges public or viewable only by the member and admins. You can integrate members' rankings into peripheral functions like display prominence of their content, or simply let content placement be determined by category, chronology, etc. You can view gamification activity within analytics tools, like Igloo's built-in Social Analytics dashboards.
Over time it will become fairly clear who values the rewards and who doesn't. Those who are motivated by them will ask questions about how the system works and how to obtain more points/badges, make suggestions for tweaks to the system, and interact with content a lot more.
To naysayers, at first glance gamifying the intranet might just look like catering to frivolous millennials or rewarding people just to do their jobs. But there are a lot more opportunities there, and the motivations driven by gamification can be anything but frivolous. We've already touched on its potential benefit for helping get new members oriented. Now let's look at how gamification can help people get work done.
What can intranet gamification do for your company?
Gamification can help enable staff to learn how to complete tasks, feel good about their achievements, and publicly recognize their successes. For example, to an employee who isn't normally a writer, completing a first blog post could be a pretty daunting exercise. It's worth recognizing when the post gets published correctly, the information shared is useful, and other employees engage in discussing it. After all, the employee has created user-generated content, improved the company's knowledge base, and catalyzed internal communication.
While you want people to mostly appreciate the feeling of success from doing good work, external recognition is valuable, too. According to Gabe Zicherman, gamification can increase employee productivity by 40%.
Gamification can spark some friendly competition as well. It could be between individuals or among teams. Now, obviously, you don't want employees "stuffing" their channels with fluff just to pad their points or badge totals, but that can be easily managed by the community manager or team by placing a focus on enhancing spaces and content rather than just making more stuff. Get teams regularly blogging and engaging with content, sharing and managing their files more efficiently, or even just posting the most fun recap of a team event. That's competition worth encouraging.
A core part of gaming experience is "levelling up," gaining higher rank and status in the community, better perks, and more difficult tasks or missions the longer you play and the more you accomplish. This is a really interesting idea to explore in the context of the intranet. Rewarding people for accomplishing required tasks is one thing. But rewarding them for improving their professional expertise and/or value to the company is potentially much more powerful.
Some ways "levelling up" could be adopted into intranet gamification:
- badges for contributing a certain number of articles on a specific topic
- badges for providing the best answers/solutions to questions in the forums
- speaking at an industry-relevant conference (with the recap blogged to the intranet)
- being interviewed about their work or its role in the company (with the resulting article posted to the intranet).
While some of these can be automated, a good gamification system will allow for manual intervention, so you can give users a specific badge for completing something in real life.
Another value of gamification is to bolster your intranet's analytics. The analytics should already tell you what content is getting the most engagement, and points assigned to employees will add information about who is performing these activities. This can be a good way to identify new champions or subject matter experts who you'd like to be even more active.
Content volume is the most common points-worthy goal with intranet gamification, but response speed could be a good one as well. For example, content like blog posts does best if it gets engagement quickly after being published. Rewarding people for commenting or replying sooner rather than later could be an interesting exercise. At the same time, the community manager or team would need to make it clear that only relevant content would be rewarded thusly. ("First!" doesn't qualify.)
As we already touched on, gamification can also be a way to catalyze user generation of content. Whether it just gives a boost to those employees who already like helping, or a team organizes to share their expertise (and perhaps outrank a rival team), these people are contributing to and maintaining the company's shared knowledge resources. You can even implement badges based on topical contributions, rather than just for volume.
Ultimately, before implementing gamification on your intranet, you need to determine what goals it will help you meet. It's important to be able to clearly communicate to employees why gamification is either part of a newly launched community, or being added to an existing one. It will go a long way toward ensuring employees understand why the functionality is there, and how it can benefit them.
Want to learn more about implementing Igloo's gamification module? Send your questions our way and our intranet experts will be happy to help you out.