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[Editor’s note: This is the second piece in a two-part series. Read the first part here.]

In my prior post, I focused on a few examples of gamification and how gamification can impact activity. This post focuses on how gamification can impact employee engagement.

Play and work are not opposites. That idea is a legacy of our industrial age in which people are treated like machines. Now, as the information age gives way to the conceptual age, we prize innovation over efficiency. Today’s companies need entrepreneurial employees who are always thinking and innovating. That requires everyone to have a pure understanding of the enterprise mission as well as a plan to execute that mission. The need for employee engagement is at an all-time high.

According to a 2013 Gallup survey, only 13% of employees are engaged, committed and motivated. A whopping 63% are not engaged, and 24% are actively disengaged. These numbers are alarming. Gamification could help tackle this program. Employees who are having fun are engaged.

No one expects the workplace to transform into one big game, at least not yet. We think these three areas make natural starting points:

  • Fostering a culture of education by giving employees light-hearted e-learning segments to use at their own pace, rather than sending people to boring training.
  • Encouraging employees working on difficult and repetitive tasks. Customer service agents, for example, could be given fun ways to track their progress to make their work tasks less of a grind.
  • Recognizing employees who contribute their unique skills beyond their job description. For example, companies could reward people who are particularly good at helping meet organizational sustainability goals.

Here at SAP we use a number of game-like techniques to increase fun and engagement.

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For example, we use the marshmallow-spaghetti game as an ice-breaker at workshops we conduct with clients. Teams use only these materials to build towers, and the team with the tallest tower wins.

For vision workshops, where the objective is innovation, we play a word association game where participants have to quickly say and act out something associated with the last word spoken. This game helps people take themselves less seriously. It helps participants overcome the fear of failure.

And check out our techniques for overcoming the many pitfalls of meetings. First, we strike a gong (a real gong!) to start the meeting. Then we set a timer to 15 minutes to limit its length. To avoid people speaking at the same time, we have a rule that only the person holding the Angry Bird plush toy can speak. Once that person is done, he throws the bird to the next person who has something to share. We purposefully go in a random order to create anticipation. We race to beat the clock and celebrate when we do.

Try one or, better yet, all of these techniques in one of your next meetings and let me know how it works for you. I think you’ll find you can mix work and play – and get more from your employees in the process.

Learn more by watching my TedX talk on gamification or by listening to a recent SAP Radio show, Game-On with Gamification!

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