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Gamification in business: Four ways to get your incentive plan right

Are you using gamification in business? In SearchCIO-Midmarket's recent tweet jam, we ran down reasons that a gamification incentive plan might fail.

SearchCIO-Midmarket's most-recent tweet jam focused on gamification in business -- specifically, the failures that can doom well-intentioned organizations looking to establish an incentive plan for game-minded employees.

By definition, gamification is the application of game theory concepts to non-game activities such as work. The overarching goal of gamification in business is to engage employees with an activity they find enjoyable to influence their work ethic, and therefore business processes, in a positive way.

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Sound like it's all fun and games? Before you break out the Monopoly pieces, take a step back and consider your method of injecting gamification into the business. If your approach doesn't match employees' wants or needs, you might as well consider your battleship prematurely sunk.

Here are four ways to avoid gamification failure from our tweet jam participants, and advice for crafting the right gamification incentive plan for your workplace:

1. Avoid creating "faux-fun." Making routine, habitual tasks less monotonous by adding a gaming aspect could benefit both employee morale and business processes. But be wary of adding a "layer of faux-fun," said @moniquevberg, a SearchCIO-Midmarket contributor, who advised IT leaders to transform mechanical tasks completely with gamification and incentive plans:

2. Lame games with little ROI might leave employees feeling manipulated. Don't do that. There are some fantastic applications of gamification, and an argument can be made that a social, stimulated staff is a happy and productive one. But there's a difference between employees playing games in the service of their work and employees feeling like their work is playing games with them:

3. Be careful about rewarding people for completing tasks they should be doing anyway. Organizations are turning to gamification and incentive plans to make tasks less monotonous, but our SearchCompliance editor warned leaders not to reward necessary behaviors, lest employees think that completing those tasks qualifies as "doing extra":

4. Don't focus on the type of reward; instead, focus on demonstrating added value to employees. When many organizations establish a gamification incentive plan, the rewards tend toward virtual badges and online leaderboards, rather than anything tangible. In our tweet jam, writers and editors debated the importance of real-life rewards vs. the significance of gamification rewards that communicate, "We appreciate your hard work and daily efforts. Here is an example of the value you are adding to our organization":

It's probably safe to say that nobody wants to take part in gamification in business if it entails playing poorly designed games or feeling manipulated by upper management. SearchCIO-Midmarket's tweet jam participants shared their gamification and incentive plan don'ts, but we'd like to hear what our readers have to say. Answer our poll and sound off in the comment section below.

Read more comments from this tweet jam by searching the #CIOChat hashtag on Twitter and follow @CIOMidmarket on Twitter to be notified about upcoming Twitter discussions.

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