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Even before the pandemic, poor team communication had been a problem for years. When companies went remote, they simply added another distance barrier between employers and employees. The Great Resignation is a referendum on this long-running lack of care and communication, and quit rates show no signs of slowing down. People have more options than ever in where they choose to work. This means companies need to find creative ways to engage workers and keep them from leaving.
The workforce has been transformed. Many people left, new ones were hired and more people than ever expect to work from home. But one of the biggest challenges in remote management is engendering continuous human experience. A collaborative remote team requires a strong community culture and people who like to communicate and feel a connection with their co-workers. For leaders looking to build that kind of team and keep people on it, gamification can help.
Related: Gamification, A Rising Business Model In Edtech
What’s in a game?
Games may not sound like a typical management approach. But, they have always been a part of business, just under a different name. A game is an activity where participants overcome a challenge or compete against others to receive a reward. Promotions, bonuses and even a catered lunch to celebrate a company achievement are all games. Setting and achieving goals makes people feel better and, as a team, improves collaboration. Attempting and succeeding in one domain, like games, can improve self-efficacy across other domains, like interpersonal relationships and physical health.
Gamification in the workplace simply means naming the parameters for achievement and following through on the given rules. Just as games can build a thriving company culture, not holding true to games can kill it. In a game with the editors on my team, they hit a publishing milestone, which meant they each would receive a bonus. This was also around the same time we hit our highest ever client cancelation rate. Revenue crashed. Everyone knew what was going on and might have understood if we could not meet our commitment. But this would have killed all the joy of accomplishing any future targets. We might have faced a great resignation of our own, but instead, we issued their bonuses because our game was at stake. The following month, we had the highest ever income because those same people we made sure to recognize put in the necessary work to get us there.
Related: People Love Playing Games. Use These 4 Psychological Hacks to Keep Customers Coming Back for More.
Gamification brings a remote workplace to life
For a thriving remote workplace, people need something to work toward beyond the corporation’s needs — friendship, adventure and challenges to overcome. Creating friendships depends on how much an organization’s leadership values the role of a fun and friendly environment. One that will draw and retain top talent while driving engagement, creativity and productivity. Our largely remote company stays in constant communication through Slack. But if we were to delete the whole library of hysterical GIFs and emojis that make frequent appearances on those channels, the tone of our community would change; our culture would feel gray.
We naturally seek out new information to learn more about our environment and improve. But not everyone has the stamina to drive continuous achievement alone. Leaders can step in with gamification to set common goals and rewards, keep communication alive and prevent the workplace from going stale. Asking for help in an office happens more casually than sending an email or a Slack message for the same support. Even if we have never met before, instigating interactions is easier with people who exist in our immediate sphere. Opening up a space for remote workers to engage with one another through games allows them to become real to one another, making a world of difference in building a strong remote team.
Related: Effectively Manage a Remote Team via Gamification
Easy to implement, challenging to achieve
Gamification is like setting any achievable objective: identify the capabilities of a group, determine challenging targets they can accomplish and establish rewards, status or acknowledgment employees can achieve. Games are more fun when we feel capable of winning them, but an activity only becomes a game when it presents a challenge. Olympic sprinters with no opponent or record to beat are just running. Watching a football team run plays against no defense would get boring. To generate excitement, games need to push us to achieve beyond our limits.
There are a million and one ways to do it. When the team hits a sales goal, treat them to dinner; highest revenue yet, give out bonuses. Taco shoutouts can accumulate to earn prizes. Gamify training or other processes with a badge system or status symbols that participants earn as they move through the material. Name an employee of the week or day and incorporate fun animations and sound effects when making the announcement. The only rule with gamification of the workplace is personal acknowledgment — show people that what they did was amazing by investing time, money or effort into recognizing them.
Building employee connections through games deepens workplace friendships and aligns them around a shared sense of purpose and fulfillment — exactly what companies need to survive the Great Resignation. Some might see gamification as a risk. Stepping outside of the box and proposing a bunch of games in the hope that it drives excitement, productivity and a willingness to be in the workplace takes courage. But we live in a changing world that demands courage and outside-the-box thinking to create a place where people want to stay. A company is only as successful as the people who work for it. When working is fun, people want to work harder to ensure that the business finds success.