A Look into Gamification At Work

The word ‘games’ brings to mind indoor board-games, outdoor sports, popular video-games and games we play on our smartphones. We think of competitiveness, leader-boards, high-scores and level ups. How does the thought of ‘gamifying’ work and workplaces sound like?

Let us delve a bit into what ‘gamification’ is and how it could turn out in the world of work.

Note that we aren’t talking about playing games at work or participating in sports activities that companies often organise as a way for employees to take a break or get to know everyone. We are in a different ‘ballgame’ when we talk about gamification at work.

A Simple Game:

What is gamification at workplace/business? According to an article by Christina Pavlou on Talentlms.com, “Gamification in the workplace is the use of game techniques in a non-game context. Companies create internal competitions to engage employees in a healthy “race” and incorporate scores, levels, and prizes, as extra motivation. “

So, a very simple example would be programmes like ‘employee of the month’, where the ‘winner’ might get some sort of a gift hamper or a bonus incentive.

Or it could be that an employee may get a certificate after receiving training for a specific skillset, or course.

Working around important psychological principles of recognition, sense of competition, and reward, gamification motivates one to work harder and expand one’s horizons, thus increasing employee engagement.

To put it simply, ‘gamification is a simple strategy of applying game-oriented thinking to various non-game applications’, as summed up by Sergey Cujba, head and sales of marketing of RaccoonGang.com. Certificates, gift hampers, badges, leader-boards and awards are some common, minor, simple ways gamification seeps into our day-to-day professional lives without even us realizing it.

Games for the Customer:

Companies, especially the ones concerned with sales and customers have also often used gamification as a way to retain their customers. Sergey Cujba gives the examples of how ‘Coca-cola integrated the element of game design back in 2006, encouraging consumers to collect their loyalty points and get rewarded with exciting prizes. They integrated gamification as part of their popular ‘My Coke Rewards’ campaign and they ultimately retained around 20m lifetime members eventually.’

Gamification is so deep seated into our daily lives at this point, as we saw earlier that we don’t even realise it. When an app or a website ‘congratulates’ us through pop up boxes and celebratory sounding notifications, when we click on a tab, or renew/get a subscription, they are essentially gamifying our experiences. Now we know what brands do!

But is there any other gamification could be used? The next bit is especially interesting for recruiters.

Taking Away the Burden of Assessment:

An article on Toolbox.com by Dr. Mathew Neale tells us about the potential of gamification in the traditional hiring process:
“When we think of the hiring process, we often picture all how candidates have to generate interest from potential employers – by capturing their attention with an impressive resume or making a good first impression in an interview. But as these traditional hiring methods give way to data-driven forms of recruitment and assessment, employers should also be thinking of ways to engage candidates by giving them tests and other tasks that will provide concrete data on their abilities and fit for a position.”

The article further tells us how gamification in the hiring process can be used to ‘increase confidence and performance’. The various assessment tests could be gamified, citing an example, the article goes on:

“One of the biggest advantages of gamified hiring is its predictive power – games can be constructed to accurately reflect specific elements of a job and criteria employers are looking for, which means candidates’ performance is an indicator of how they would perform on the job. For example, Criteria’s Emotify is an ability-based measure of emotional intelligence that assesses a candidate’s ability to accurately perceive and understand emotions. It’s useful for performance in roles where interpersonal interaction is important – for example, managing people, dealing with customers. Considering the amount of time and expense associated with hiring – as well as the disruption caused when companies discover that new employees aren’t a good fit – it’s vital to have a reliable picture of what companies can expect when applicants become employees.”

This in turn can also help candidates be prepared about the demands and expectations from a job without the usual sense of burden.

The same article also tells us how “it isn’t enough to evaluate candidates with cognitive tests alone. These tests also have to keep people engaged, as this will provide a more accurate picture of their capabilities (nobody is at their best when taking a perfunctory and boring multiple-choice test).” Moreover, these tell the manager how a candidate is likely to approach a task, based on how they approach the gamified version. The catch here is that the gamification should not only be relevant and fun but should also actually measure the relevant traits and skills.

As with anything, there’s a limit to the extent gamification works. Further, the way it is implemented and constructed makes a difference. While thinking of gamifying any process, be it an assessment test, training or day-day to company activities, one needs to be careful that:

  • Employees/candidates/trainees/customers don’t feel that they are not being taken seriously.
  • The gamification is relevantly done, for an appropriate matter.
  • The goals, system and criteria for rewards/recognition, and the rules are clearly communicated. Moreover, the purpose of gamifying should also be made clear.
  • The companies keep updating the incentives, and most importantly, one doesn’t overdo it. As Pavlou mentions, gamified badges and rewards can lose their appeal over time, and everyone might not be interested in participating all the time. It is thus important to strike a balance, and know when to use gamification and when to use a more traditional methodology.

Personal Power V/S Positional Power

As the popular idiom goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and it is assumed that power comes with experience, wisdom, trust from people around us and in the context of the workplace, the position. But powers can be of various kinds of; a manager, or executive or any upper-level management can be said to have ‘positional power’. Their power to undertake tasks, to delegate, to act as a representative, to make key decisions comes from their position. As the term suggests, it is a hierarchy-based power. That is one type of power, called the positional power.  

There is another type of power, what one might call ‘personal power’. As the name suggests, such a power can be harnessed at a more personal level. Personal power comes from the recognition of power in oneself; the power to take responsibility and to have a sense of purpose; the power to believe in oneself and one’s competence. Recognition of personal power in oneself leads to recognition by others of that same power. It is personal power that enables your colleagues to trust you and see you as a pillar in times of conflict.

Ultimately, regardless of whether you have the positional power, it is the personal power that makes you a leader. Positional power can make you a manager on paper, but without harnessing your personal power, becoming a manager who leads, is almost an impossibility.

So, what are some ways one can harness this personal power and light up the spark of leadership and self-belief?

Have a Growth Mindset: This is a buzzword we all have heard at some point. But it’s really a simple concept, and once we realise this, it becomes an obvious mindset to have. Growth mindset means a mindset where you are curious to know more; where you see every day and every interaction an opportunity to grow your understanding. It includes the acceptance that you may be wrong or that you can’t be the expert in everything, but that nevertheless you always, always learn.

Be it upper-level management or an entry level position, curiosity and a willingness to listen is a definitely power. A manager with a growth mindset, curious and willing to listen, encourages new ideas, a myriad of voices, allowing the team members to speak up without hesitation. Contrast this someone who doesn’t listen, or someone who only listens to a select few. The former would definitely have more of the personal power, with the recognition and trust from the team that ‘Yes, this person will listen to my ideas respectfully.’ 

Have a Purpose: Having a sense of purpose it under-rated. To quote an article by People Matters:

‘Being connected to a greater purpose enables you to use your power effectively. The sense of meaning and mission in life means you don’t get caught up in momentary dramas. Your day isn’t a matter of ticking items off your to-do list, but of connecting your every action to your greater goal. Having purpose gives you resilience; you’re more able to reset after failure because you have a north star guiding you. 

Purpose directs us under crisis and extreme stress.’

It is this ‘north-star’ of the greater goal that helps you to harness your power without falling into the vices of office politics and petty issues.

Close to having a sense of purpose is the next point.

Have a Sense of Focus: With positional power comes the responsibility of the need to tick off multiple tasks, of having multiple to-do lists, spanning across departments.

It is important to respond to the right issues. To quote the People Matters article again,

‘Without the capacity to direct your attention, you are a leaf in the wind, blown about every which way. You respond to everything but accomplish nothing…you must quiet the inner and outer voices and develop your emotional self-regulation, so you don’t react to every little thing. And above all, you must set boundaries to have time to think, reflect, and contemplate.’

 Creating priority lists, with urgent to important spectrums defined, delegating tasks which often act as incentives, are some ways one can develop this sense of focus.

Have a Sense of Responsibility: And finally, personal power cannot be ignited without a sense of responsibility. Whether you have positional power or not, a sense of responsibility to grow, to help others grow, to learn and help others learn is essential to feel powerful and not feel like a victim of circumstances, where power might feel like something thrust upon you.

A willingness to take charge regardless of one’s position enables you see opportunities even in tricky situations. Such a sense of responsibility is the key to acknowledging your power to make tiny to big changes, and to be the change.

Positional power is designated, whereas personal power comes from within, and that is the beauty of it- irrespective of the status on paper, you can always be in charge of your own destiny by igniting the personal powers of growth, purpose, focus, and responsibility.

The New Normal: The Hybridity of Workspaces and Skillsets

In the current post-pandemic world, the concept of a hybrid work has emerged. As the name suggests, it essentially means how some of us are juggling our work between home and office, depending on health and safety concerns, the situation of lockdowns in our respective locations, as well as the situation our international clients and colleagues may be facing.

The concept of the office space itself has undergone a change, and even with a lot of us returning to that space, we see transformations, like sanitisation stations, socially distanced seating, regulations for attendance, to name a few that are happening as we speak.

As an article on USA Today tell us, we are beginning to face some tricky issues, like:

  • How do companies reconfigure their workspaces?
  • How to arrive at a compromise when one section of the office wants to, or needs to keep working remotely, and one section is itching to come back to work? This further leads us to questions like what to do with group interactions and urgent meetings, when half the office is present only virtually, and the endless ‘am I audible’, ‘sorry my internet is slow today’ that follows?

Hybridity in Skills and Jobs:

Hybrid work and workspaces have given us a fair share of practical, technical, administrative challenges. This new hybridity has also led to a realisation of the importance of adapting one’s job to that hybridity.

Long before the pandemic, the concept of a hybrid job and hybrid skills had emerged. According to Balance Careers, hybrid skills are a combination of technical and non-technical skills. They may vary across fields, but essentially, they imply that one possesses the skills which aren’t necessary part of their expected skillset. To put it another way, a hybrid skillset implies that someone with a traditionally technical job, requiring technical hard skills must also possess soft skills, and the converse, that someone who requires mostly soft skills must know some technical skills too.

Let us take a look at some examples, given by the article by Balance Careers cited earlier:

  • ‘Technical recruiters must possess strong communication, persuasive, and interpersonal skills, while also comprehending the complex technical demands of the positions that they are filling. They must also master data-mining skills to identify appropriate prospects from candidate databases.’
  • ‘Digital security analysts must learn to identify complex cyber threats, but they also need communication and persuasive skills to convince management and co-workers to adopt stricter safety protocols.’
  • ‘Graphic designers need artistic sensibility and creativity to create appealing designs, as well as communication skills to extract customer preferences. They also must have strong technical skills to use computer-aided design systems and web-authoring tools.’
  • ‘Pharmaceutical and medical product sales representatives must have strong verbal communication and relationship-development skills, as well as fluency in scientific concepts and research methodology regarding drug trials.’

Put this way, so clearly, it just sounds obvious. But often, candidates could miss out on a position, not because of a lack of their field-specific skillset, but rather due to an imbalance in such hybridity.

Double Impetus:

Why is hybridity in skillset so important? The emergence of technology gave rise to this need of a hybridity. As Robert Half explains in a pre-pandemic article:

‘More than any other force, changes in technology, from the increasing reliance by companies on big data to the emergence of the Internet of Things, are helping to fuel the demand for hybrid jobs. As business and technology become increasingly intertwined, there will be a need for professionals in almost any type of job to apply technology in ways that create new value and insights for the business.’

He further gives the example of how a software developer who understands the creative process can bring both hard technical skills and soft skills to the table; ‘the creative technologist is able suggest new ideas for marketing or advertising campaigns, develop and test these ideas, and then use analytics to refine them.’

So, hybridity of skills was anyway in demand thanks to the rise in technology but now we have the pandemic, where one has to juggle through remote and in-office working, and one may have to fill in multiple roles simultaneously. As a result, cultivating hybridity in one’s skillset has become a must.

Moreover, as some people quit or lose their jobs, companies are looking at their remaining present employees who are willing to learn and give a shot to new experiences.

Technology, and the rise in the need to adapt to technology as a result of the pandemic, as well as the multitasking one often has to undertake as a result of the current scenario and absence of an in-person team, or limitations in collaborative efforts– all such factors have resulted in making hybridity in skills so important.

How does one go about cultivating this hybridity? Anything about the pandemic almost always is bringing us to this one conclusion- it is best to be prepared, it is best to always keep learning.

One must keep learning not only their field-specific skills but also skills which at a first glance may or may not have much to do with their job. A willingness to learn goes a long way. Fresh graduates and students should grab every opportunity to acquire certificates beyond their field; for example, a humanities student should take up courses in statistics and analyses if they get a chance. People whose career have long ago started can take up opportunities provided by their companies learning and development (L&D), through seminars and talks. They might also dabble into consulting work or taking up courses online.

The key is to never stop learning. Hybridity will follow the willingness to learn.

Working around the Mental Roadblocks

You have been brainstorming since many days now. The days seem to be blending into each other, but there is no solution in sight. It’s like we have hit a roadblock.

This could be a situation that one can apply professionally; we could very well be talking about an agenda that seems to be lying tangled since days. We could be talking about the struggle to come up with a solution that doesn’t upset any client nor the fortunes of the company.

The more you are thinking about the problem, the more you are dreading about it.

Does this not sound familiar? This is something that a newbie or a fresher might face early in their careers, when the task feels daunting; or an experienced, high-level manager might feel, when the task feels a doomed one from the start.

Problems are everywhere. Ideas and solutions are elusive. There are some problems, faced at various levels of experience, which have a simple solution. They say a task well begun is half done. But for that to happen, the very basic, essential, important and simple secret is to just begin.

At some point, the incessant use of post-it notes to chart out plans, the flowcharts and the brainstorming sessions about the task need an antidote; that is, to stop thinking about the task but actually start working on it.

The Flipside of Experience:

Often, it is not a lack of competence or a lack of skillset that stops us from finding solutions. It is often the opposite: it’s the abundance of experience. No, we are serious!

When we are used to working at a company, or when we have occupied a position for a long term, the flipside of experience comes in- we start thinking in boxes.

We get much too familiar with the problems, and their solutions. We also get much too familiar with problems and their lack of solutions. In our long tenures, we might have realised that when a task has been approached, since years, say, through X method, it doesn’t work out.

We simply give up on the task, assuming that since it has been unsuccessfully approached through method X in all these years, it is a doomed one.

But we forget that maybe, just maybe, trying a method Y could give us the solution we were looking for. The key lies in starting with a method Y, and noting where it leads one to. Often, the catch lies in not really finding a complex solution, but actually starting with a different solution, even a simple one.

Conquering the Newbie Fear:

Often, it is not the inability to finish, or a lack of a skillset that becomes a roadblock to a task. It is often the anticipation of failure.

We wonder if we are qualified enough to get this task done. We stare at the pile of papers and files, and we wonder how long will it take us to get this done.

Again, the simple key is to just start.  

Like magic, as you get to work, you shall find some ways to conquer by focusing on a short term goal within that huge task.

You might realise that goal is not working, and so you shall refocus the goal to make it more achievable and realistic. And like magic, you shall find the ifs, buts and what ifs on your way, and you shall also find your ways around them.

The magic happens when we start. It could be starting with a new solution, never tried before, or it could be starting on a task, no matter how daunting it is, and no matter how unqualified you feel.

While this is not to say that by getting up and starting to work you shall always find that solution. The process might work or it might not yield as much as you thought it would. Moreover, the point is not to stop brainstorming and thinking. And one might question whether brainstorming about the task isn’t the same as working on the task. Brainstorming after a point can become a rejection of ideas. The point is to start working, reroute if necessary, redo if necessary. The point is to jump over the roadblock, be okay with stumbling a little; the point is to not sit staring at the roadblock.

The Art of Staying Here and Now: New Lessons from an Old Fable

It is 2021, and one thing everyone told us to do with 2020 was to learn some crucial life lessons.

It is like a recorded message at this point- gratitude, being present in the moment, making use of the resources we have are some ‘lessons’ we were told to learn. Lessons to be learnt are never ending, even when the year ends. So, for a little novelty here, and not to repeat the recording, we shall add a twist.

We shall talk about a crucial lesson to be learnt, but we shall talk about a story, a fable, which would be familiar to most of us but we may or may not have delved beyond what we were told the moral of the story was.

Remember that hare and the tortoise story?

There was a challenge between the two- the hare wanted to prove he was the fastest in the jungle, and the tortoise wanted to prove how the slow and the steady win the race. The hare was far ahead in the race; the tortoise was nowhere to be seen. The hare decided to rest, and since he was already in the lush meadows, it was not at all difficult for him to fall asleep under a giant shady tree. And thus, the tortoise quietly and steadily treaded along, and won the race.

They say the hare fell prey to his overconfidence and laziness.

Well, that’s one way to look at it.

Let us take on the character of the hare. Let us pretend he gave an interview later. (After 2020, nothing is crazy anymore.)

So, we ask the hare if he is the one who lost the race- indeed he was!

We ask- do you admit to your laziness and complacence? And that the tortoise had more persistence and dedication?

Yes, the tortoise was more persistent and dedicated but I was not lazy and complacent; no, let me explain, says the hare. And the explanation goes this way.

The hare was assured of his lead, but he also found himself admiring the beauty of the meadows, the gentleness of the breeze, the musical sound of the water gushing in a pond nearby with ducks cackling, and the shade of the tree. He wanted to drift off on a log of wood. Who wouldn’t, when the nature around was so abundant and so pleasant?

An old meditative looking man, in his flowing beard saw the hare and asked him what he was up to and why he was running a race.

We know the hare’s answer- To show all the creatures in the jungle that he was the fastest; to win that coveted medal; to be remembered and respected as the fastest of all.

The old man asked if he knew who the last fastest creature was. The hare didn’t know.

The old man asked what he would do when someone else challenged him tomorrow- today a tortoise challenged, tomorrow a snake shall do it, and the day after, a zebra- the challenges will never stop. Would he continue to race all his life? Did he want that?

And suddenly, the hare knew what he wanted. He wanted to jump into the pond, and after a good swim doze off under the tree. He did exactly that. The ducks in the pond looked at him quizzically, asking him about the race. No, said the hare, I am here and now, and that is all that matters. I want to live. I don’t want to become a part of this endless race.

That day, the hare realised the value of living in the present- just the anticipation of competition was enough to drive him to get into unhealthy competition.

That day, the hare realised the gift of resources it had, and the power of gratitude- he realised he did not need any race to prove how gifted he was

That day, the hare realised the power of staying in the now and the present- he assessed his needs based on where he was at present, and made a decision about what he wanted to do based on his real, current scenario, and not rushing on to a decision which was wrought in unnecessary anticipation and unhealthy competition.

That day, the hare lost the race but got his life back.

They tell life is a marathon, and not a sprint. But whoever said life was a race in the first place?

In a bid to prove ourselves to critics who might not even matter, in a bid to make a statement, in a bid to prove a point, we often forget to live in the present. We forget to see that we are doing just fine, and there is no need to join a race we don’t even need to be a part of.

Remember, not participating in the ‘race’ doesn’t mean giving up on competence, healthy competition, and doesn’t mean we give up upgrading our skill-set. It just means we keep upgrading what we need to upgrade, without the need to prove a point. It just means we look at our goals with an intention to enjoy the process, and work because we genuinely want to do something for ourselves, without the need to make a statement.

It just means being present in the moment, where all that matters is looking around and doing what makes us happy, contributing to our personal and professional growth.