Intranet Gamification – Doing it right (Part 1)
Whether you realize it or not, your employees are playing games at work. Many of them are doing so on the intranet itself. And it’s driving value and productivity through the roof.
As intranets and related technologies continue to become more social, questions surrounding whether or not gamification should be introduced to the enterprise, or even how to do so, continue to arise. There are ample written articles and software attempting to deconstruct or underwrite this concept. Other narratives have already began to dismiss this as fad, but to better understand gamification can take your intranet beyond social and into a new realm of productivity and engagement.
Understanding Game Mechanics and Dynamics
Let’s start with a solid understanding of what gamification means. In essence, it is to apply rules and rewards to non-game activities in order to strategically incite specific behaviors. Gamification can be further broken down by analyzing game mechanics and game dynamics. Game mechanics are the actions or control mechanisms that are assigned to an activity, thus turning that activity into a game. Simply put, game mechanics are the features or functions that create the game-like experience. Examples of this are inherent in assigning points, levels, challenges, leaderboard ratings, or accolades towards virtual activities. This way, when a user completes the challenge or action, they receive a reward. Game dynamics are the emotional responses or incentives triggered by the game mechanics. These responses may result in feelings of achievement, competition, self-expression, or status.
In truth, game mechanics and dynamics are already present within social media. Twitter’s game mechanics include amassing a following, retweets, responses, and favorites, which incite users to generate and share more content. The resulting game dynamics are found in enhancing the user’s perceived social status, and empowering self-expression.
Intranet gamification ≠ Gaming on the intranet
This means that your social intranet may have certain elements of gamification. Features such as the ability to rate (or ‘like’) content, comment, generate discussions, favorite articles or tools, or track and publish team progress and statistics are all examples of game mechanics that may already be present within your digital workspace.
What determines how successful the social interaction, and how successful the game, is entirely dependent on whether or not the behavioral incentives are aligned with the organizational goals. And this is where gamification (or even social media) on an intranet tends to miss the mark. There are already a myriad of software offerings that specialize in introducing game mechanics, but do they incite the necessary dynamics that are aligned with your organizational culture? With your strategic priorities? In short, does the intranet play a direct role in driving your organization forward? There tends to be a considerable focus within most organizations towards the game mechanics – that is the list of desired functions, or that new tool that they can roll out to the employee base. In truth, these tools have much more potential when the planning and resources are focused on how said functions will resonate with users.
Planning the right incentives
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
1. Develop a specific strategy
Plan, plan, plan. When determining what behaviors you wish to incite, start by setting the high-level goals and objectives. What is the vision for your intranet? Is it a digital workplace – a place to empower your employees to work effectively – or is it simply a sophisticated Launchpad to tools and applications? Is it the primary place for all employee news and informational resources? Whatever the direction, it needs to be defined.
More importantly, how well aligned is your intranet’s vision with the organization’s directives? If the company’s priority is to sustain market leadership, then how the intranet will support that directive must be specifically noted. That way, you can measure its success – which is paramount. Knowing how employees are using the intranet is valuable in its own right, but tying its use to the success of the organization can drive even more value for its capabilities and ongoing evolution. These measurement tactics can focus on specific features, such as knowledge sharing and collaboration, and should include both qualitative and quantitative components. Measurements should be gathered and reviewed regularly and assessed according to how the intranet’s successes tie to the organization’s achievements.
With defined goals and objectives, there is also a framework in place for assigning priorities to the development and introduction of the intranet’s new capabilities. This means that unveiling new technology onto your employees doesn’t necessarily have to happen in one shot. If your assessment indicates a dire need for collaboration, you may prioritize group functions (discussion forums, team calendars, etc.) to be rolled out at first. As employees adjust to a new way of coordinating tasks, you may then opt to introduce more independent social features such as micro-blogs, customizable profile pages, and the like, in order to better manage their expectations and ease adoption to new work processes. The same phased approach may apply to the unveiling of certain game functionality and associated behavioral incentives.
2. Assign value to your values
With the strategy in place, the objectives and priorities defined, now you can determine the desired behaviors that you wish to incite from your user base. That means deciding on the types of values and incentives your employees should demonstrate within the organization before looking at functionality. This is where the organizational culture and intranet’s strategy should be married. For example, if innovation is part of your organization’s priorities and fostering creativity is a part of the intranet’s game plan, then instances of creative behavior on the intranet should be measured and rewarded. This might mean recognizing creative thought at the department, team, or individual level. A very common and simple approach may be creating an open forum for suggesting new ways the company may operate. This could also take the form of contests, where employees submit ideas, designs, templates, etc. in order to capture and empower their ideas and influence throughout the organization. The intranet then becomes the most valuable arena for such behavior, as an open channel empowering all employees to participate.
Defining the values and associated behaviors you wish to inspire amongst employees is the crucial bridge between your intranet’s strategy and the functions that drive value for your employees. In other words, take a preliminary focus on the game dynamics, and then plan the necessary functions, programs, and policies that reinforce those dynamics.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article series, where we explore ways to approach rewarding your employees and ensuring the appropriate functionality.
Aadam Zaidi is the Director, Client Services for Prescient Digital Media, and has helped drive numerous global intranets from concept through to adoption. He is especially keen on emerging social media and communications trends.