How to use gamification to improve workplace communication


Technology has played a key role in streamlining communications and enabling connected employees in the modern day workplace.

But in spite of intranets, instant messaging and mobile-first communication channels, 74 percent of employees still feel disconnected.

What contributes to poor workplace communication

Effective communication is an essential ingredient for a successful business. In fact, poor communication is frequently cited as the primary cause for project delivery failure. In addition, studies have linked inadequate or ineffective communication to everything from increased absenteeism and employee turnover to reduced customer service levels and shareholder returns.

Technology only compounds issues if the underlying causes of poor workplace communication are not addressed.  And there are several reasons for a partial or complete communication breakdown within a company — ambiguous chains of command, vague job definitions, inadequate training, insufficient cultural integration, lack of feedback and low employee engagement, to name a few.

Fortunately, there may be a technological solution to address ineffective communication at its roots. Enter gamification.

Why Gamification works

Gamification combines behavioral insights, motivational techniques and gaming principles to achieve common internal communication goals. It works because it motivates participation, provides challenges, encourages social interactions, incentivizes performance and rewards winning. In short, it does everything that communication is supposed to do, but in an entertaining, engaging and satisfying way.

In order to be effective, gamification has to be based on a cohesive strategy that balances entertainment with engagement and business outcomes. Here are a few key steps to create a gamification strategy that  help businesses provide astrategic approach to gamifying workplace communication

Define gamification objectives and communication metrics

There are a range of communication objectives that gamification can address, from driving intranet usage to promoting effective feedback across hierarchies. Your first step should be to identify teams or processes that are most vulnerable to poor communication and pinpoint specific issues that you want to address in those areas.

For instance, the key objective of your gamification strategy could be to motivate your QA team to be more proactive rather than reactive in their communications. Start by defining the behaviours, actions and tasks that have to be modified in order to achieve your program objectives.

Then establish the metrics that will allow you to measure the quantum and rate of behavioral change. In this particular instance of encouraging proactive communications from your QA team, you may choose to focus on measurable benchmarks like communication initiation rates, average response times and total communication volume to evaluate the team’s behavioral response to gamification.

Build the right game

For the best results, focus on embedding gamification into existing communication processes rather than delivering it as a standalone program. So you need to consider gaming elements and mechanics that can be incorporated directly into communication-related activities and tasks that employees use on a day-to-day basis.

Player research is also a critical element in the gamification design process. Understanding the dominant persona in your target audience enables you to identify gaming elements and narratives with the most appeal to this profile.

For instance, Achiever persona types are focused on status and points and engage very differently with games when compared to socializers who tend to value social interactions and building networks. Player research provides you with valuable insights that can ensure that the game design resonates perfectly with the majority personality type in your audience.

Identify the right gamification metrics and rewards

Player research can give you a basic understanding of the types of rewards that the audience prefers. But it can can be quite difficult to figure out just from a player type the exact incentives and rewards that will motivate required outcomes or behaviors. For instance, offering badgesmay drive intranet adoption but is it enough to influence communication response times? Would a leaderboard help?

These questions are best addressed through employee interactions that enable you to understand their intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. It is absolutely critical to establish employee preferences in order to ensure that they find real value in the incentives and rewards offered by the program.

Badges and rewards may not always be the ideal incentives. Intrinsic rewards such as peer recognition and social affiliation can sometimes deliver better engagement and higher quality outcomes. The focus has to be on striking the right balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators without underestimating employees with tangible rewards like gift cards or cash incentives.

Test and repeat

Even the most meticulously designed gamification programs need to be fine-tuned. That’s why it is important to include both communication and gamification metrics into the planning and design process. Analyzing participation, monitoring engagement and evaluating impact on behaviors and objectives help you determine the best way to tweak and move the program forward. Also, ask for employee feedback. This enables you to assess the challenges that come with compliance to organizational needs and policies while implementing the gamification process. Also, itgives them a voice and increases employee engagement in the process.

Gamification has been applied successfully in a range of workplace communication-related situations; from driving adoption for new communication platforms, influencing the way users engage with content and streamlining communications with senior employees.

The way you define your program objectives can have a huge influence on the gamification strategy that is appropriate to realise those outcomes.

It is also important to map the profile and preferences of the target audience as this can have a significant impact on the final choice of format, narrative, mechanics and incentives. And finally, find the combination of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that are just right for your audience.