Getting Ahead on a Budget (Part 4): Gamification in the Workplace
Putting the “fun” in fundamental workflow policies
As we enter 2021 and a vaccine finally starts to circulate the world, it is time for businesses to look ahead at how they will re-establish themselves as they move past COVID-19. Given the economic hardships created by the pandemic, outfitting a successful company can be more challenging than ever before. Join us as we explore alternative ways to attract and retain talent in this Keypoint Intelligence blog series, Getting Ahead on a Budget.
This series has covered many avenues for businesses to attract and retain talent in a competitive landscape, from increasing the opportunities for remote or flexible working to developing robust employee growth initiatives and looking for new creative methods to promote office culture—even without the office. While our topics may seem freewheeling, there has been a common theme throughout all of them: experience. Much as DTG print providers now seek to transform product creation into a personalization experience, so too should print companies be looking to shift from rigid, traditional work environments to fun experiences that will keep employees engaged, developing, and (most importantly) happy.
Many people, especially those used to traditional workflow, are still wary of the idea of fun in the workplace. There is an idea that every minute spent not working is, well, just and only that: time spent not working. However, numerous research studies—including this one—have shown the positive benefits of having a fun workplace. Employees having fun at their jobs are more likely to work harder, take fewer sick days, and have less stress on the job. For all the scoffing that some companies do when it comes to the idea of fun in the workplace, the fact remains that most people choose to do what they view as fun, even if they don’t have to. The same can’t be said for traditional work—while some personalities will rise and seek to do more than their fair share, many others will not. Utilizing fun is all about maximizing overall colleague efficiency. Give them a reason to engage, and they will do so.
Which leads us once again back to games, specifically gamification. We have written much on gamification in the past and continue to look into its proper utilization. For a brief recap: gamification is the application of gaming principles, as well as gameplay mechanics, to non-gaming applications. If you’ve ever played the Monopoly game at McDonald’s or simply counted a certain kind of car while stuck in traffic, you have engaged in some form of gamification. It really is a common practice, and we as a species have been doing it for centuries, in large part due to our overwhelming desire to have fun.
How Gamification Can Help Replace a Specialized Workforce
Print is in an interesting place coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an industry with an older workforce, it has arguably been more impacted than some others by the above-average retirement rates brought on by the virus. As such, this compounds a problem that was already developing in the industry—a lack of specialized talent. While certain developing technologies, such as augmented reality, are making it easier to teach people new skills, gamifying the learning experience can also help facilitate learning.
Many of us have memories of going into an office as children, likely as a place where our parents worked. What was one of the first things many of us did? Go play with the printer. I personally can remember creating wanted posters of certain toys I brought along or making copies of my artwork. No one told me, “Hey, you’re learning useful skills by learning how to use that machine.” I just did it because it was fun. Many others are in the same boat.
The point of that story was to explain a truth: it is already fun to use printers—they are an incredibly creative tool, no matter the substrate being printed on. Companies can use this motivation to help train the next generation of print operators, even if it is using something as simple as a contest to see which colleague can create the most imaginative print. Sure, some resources will be spent in such an event, but employees will be motivated to engage by numerous drivers, including the urge to express themselves and the desire to show off their skills and abilities.
Gamification as a Buzzword vs. Principled Design
Of course, like any recent advancement in thinking, gamification has become overused, with many saying it as merely one more buzzword in a list of others. Part of this has to do with how simple gamification is. Anything that can be done, can be done badly—and gamification is no exception. It is easy to implement lazy gameplay mechanics that create an experience that is just not very fun or engaging—thereby counter-productive to workflow improvement initiatives.
Good gamification is much trickier. It is, in fact, directly comparable to good game design. The best game designers don’t just slap points, badges, and leaderboards on an activity and call it a day; they build the experience from the ground up, constantly refining and eliciting player feedback. The guiding principle is not “does it check this many boxes in overall gamification strategy”? but, rather, “is it fun”? Good gamification will feel unique to its environment and tailored to take advantage of all specific tools a company has at its disposal.
All this to say: it may be hard to find the right solution, and companies that take easy shortcuts in their gamification implementation are not likely to reap the benefits. Building a top company—a place where people want to work—is not easy, nor will it be accomplished overnight. Nevertheless, many print companies find themselves in a position where these initiatives cannot be ignored. COVID-19 did some significant damage to the print industry, among many others, and companies find themselves increasingly fighting over a common pool of applicants.
To attract and retain talent, salary should never be forgotten, but nor should it be treated as the sole method to solving an onboarding issue. You can’t just throw money at this problem; even if you could, many don’t have the funds to toss around. Using strategies like those outlined in this blog series can make a real difference—and all many of them really require is a new perspective.
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