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Martin Browne. Image: DigitalWell

Could AI-powered gamification change the way we work?

26 Aug 2022

DigitalWell’s Martin Browne examines the benefits of gamification in the workplace, from employee engagement to microlearning.

Click here to view the full Future of Work Week series.

In Tanaiste Leo Varadkar’s July ‘Leading in a Changing World’ report, there’s mention of artificial intelligence (AI) within the government’s innovation, digitalisation, and productivity goal to help generate 45,000 new Irish jobs by 2024.

While it’s good that we in the IT industry can feel part of a nationwide initiative, and growth will almost certainly be bolstered by the fostering of innovation and focus on the digital economy, the changing world part of the report title is the most apt.

There has never before been such pressure on organisations to perform as consumers demand near perfection in terms of service and responsiveness. Meanwhile, workforces are more mobile, more remote, and more demanding than ever, with the temptation of more attractive pay, advancement, flexibility and job satisfaction only a phone call or mouse-click away.

Technology has already been called upon to assist in the short term, both with keeping existing talent and dealing with lower-priority customer service tasks so human resources can be dedicated to more complex interactions.

Lockdowns have already accelerated the move towards AI and natural language processing-driven chat and voice bots, often interfacing with in-house knowledge management systems, to support initial customer self-service.

Even where employee involvement is necessary, AI is there again to drive decision-based or predictive-routing algorithms of customer interactions, expediting the engagement journey for customers. But according to Deloitte 56pc of Gen Zs and 40pc of millennials in Ireland still plan to quit their job within two years, so both technology and employers will need to do more.

The sharp reminder that lockdowns taught Ireland and the rest of the world is that, regardless of an abrupt reduction in available skilled labour and despite a slowly building trend for flexibility and empathy, still not all have grasped that employees play the key role in the success or failure of any enterprise, be it private or public, for-profit or not.

As Doug Conant, CEO of Campbells Soup, once said: “To win the marketplace you must first win the workplace”.  But how?  How can employers reconcile maintaining a loyal, content and appreciative workforce that will add to business capital, with the realities of driving performance to achieve business goals, amidst an increasingly expensive labour market, and a super-expectant, empowered and ‘service me now’-focused consumer?

The benefits of gamification

In order to identify the right technology to solve this problem, while having the right frame of mind, we are finding that organisations are putting the most emphasis on employee experience. This is why gamification has come to the forefront not just as a gimmick, but as a way to ensure that regardless of the business objective, employees engage with it.

They’re seeking software that truly drives community and delivers positive outcomes even while accepting that, for reasons beyond their control, some employees may move on. For this to work requires a deft combination of advanced gamification, personalised microlearning, and real-time employee performance management.

It’s worth it because getting it right means not only boosting your employee engagement but being able to measure it accurately in real time. This provides the opportunity and insight for individual contracts or working arrangements to be evolved to improve retention, while boosting productivity.

In turn, all these engender more ongoing profitability, a more stable workforce in terms of churn, increased employee satisfaction, and employees who can very easily become brand advocates rather than seeing their job as something they leave behind at 5pm.

Neither gamification nor its benefits are restricted to just employee engagement and retention. Within the HR function of any organisation, gamification can also be applied to training and teambuilding. These might assist organisations increasing health and safety or ensuring compliance, or could be internally-focused such as boosting collaboration across organisational silos, stimulating teamwork, or improving morale.

Some vertical sector industries are particularly well suited to it. For example, microlearning can be applied to industries like manufacturing whenever a process is altered, and an organisation needs to ensure employees are properly educated and updated on changes.

In complex manufacturing situations these updates can occur simultaneously and en masse, yet differ from site to site or country to country due to different governing legislation. Gamification is something that can both remove the chore of such training needs and improve their effectiveness.

Equally, the sales teams of many companies – especially IT – can benefit hugely from gamification because their portfolio of products and solutions are constantly evolving requiring employees to keep abreast of them.

Deploying gamification means that organisations can move on from paper-based manuals, videos, or other means and instead use interactive methods that make maintaining this kind of knowledge simpler and more easily accepted. Gamification has applications in education as it is used as a way to incentivise learning in areas where one or more students are struggling either with the subject matter or the motivation to learn.

With near-ubiquitous mobile phone technology making games like Angry Birds a household name, gamification has already found day-to-day applications that are as prevalent as they are invisible.

Firms like Nike and FitBit have made racking up a certain quantity of steps per day as natural as brushing your teeth. Food and beverage companies are providing games to play while waiting on orders and offer incentive-based loyalty schemes through gamification. Uber and Lyft have created a real-time game-like environment that provide consumer information on where cars are in situ. Loyalty schemes are now so common that they have spread even from retail to retail banking, with apps designed to educate customers on managing their personal finances better.

With the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education revealing that gamification increases retention by 12pc and overall performance by 7pc, there is a greater push to apply it wherever we can.

Employee engagement, utilising gamification as one of its core pillars, will aid Ireland to achieve its growth targets and manage the challenges in the labour market by engaging in a proactive, positive, and empathic way with the evolving nature of work today.

By Martin Browne

Martin Browne is Customer Experience chief technologist for IT and communications provider DigitalWell.

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