The gamification of a digital workplace to support employee engagement (1/2)

eXo Platform Blog

This post is part of a two-part article about the gamification of a digital workplace in order to generate employee engagement.

We recently observed how employee engagement is a fascinating subject to study. And according to the Gallup Institute’s annual survey, the stakes are high because: 87% of employees are disengaged from their work.

A digital workplace provides the ideal playground for meeting the hierarchy of employee needs. But it is not enough on its own to generate engagement.  You should be aware that approaching the digital workplace as an ordinary IT project is not a good idea. It is essential that you look for engagement levers elsewhere.

Gamification is a practice that applies to the use of applications – such as those within a digital workplace – to boost employee engagement through getting them to play! We will see that, far from being just a simple gadget, gamification is proven to be a formidable tool to fight against disengagement.

An enabling environment

Let’s pause for a moment to understand exactly why a well-designed (and well-used) digital workplace can be the ideal playground for engaging employees. To do this, let’s consider it from the angle of the hierarchy of needs.

The gamification of a digital workplace

Source: Digital Workplace Group

First and foremost, a digital workplace offers an interesting framework for partially covering the top of the pyramid relating to social needs.

As staple foundations of digital workplaces, enterprise social networks enable bonds to be created between people. Admittedly you may well say that this bond only ever remains virtual, but it is a favourable factor however in interactions between people.  It can be used to group together communities of interest that strengthen the sense of belonging. And very often, it is through the ESN that we coordinate before meeting up physically.

Self-esteem and confidence are a step higher in the pyramid. These also find natural vehicles in digital workplaces that are designed to be user-centric. In fact, since digital workplaces give individual actions great visibility, we can build a reputation through our contributions. We can also receive tokens of recognition through it. Reactions to our own contributions such as likes or comments are part of this. Some tools even have a built-in features for praising others. But more often, the most precious acknowledgement is the one we receive from a co-worker or from a manager in a very visible message within the community.

Because it allows everybody to be a key player in various communities of their own choosing, an open communicative and collaborative platform becomes a field of expression for showcasing one’s talents within the community.

Let us finish this upwards analysis of the hierarchy of needs with self-actualisation, which sits at the top. This also may, to a certain extent, find a place if the digital workplace is positioned as the main working environment of the organisation. This is why at eXo, we support an approach aimed at streamlining and unifying access to business applications. The digital workplace must be the single point of entry for any digital work. As such it becomes the beating heart of the organization in which everybody is able to self-actualise.

Therefore, would a digital workplace be the nirvana for satisfying our needs? So everyone should be naturally be motivated to adopt it, right? But is it enough to generate engagement? Unfortunately, nothing could be less certain.

Getting past the adoption illusion

If you haven’t already, imagine you are a certain James Blond, the most famous member of the elite agents for digital transformation on a not-so-secret mission to save a big company.

Excellence being your motto, you know that you’ve done everything you can (or almost) by the book. Equipped with a clear list of business objectives, you began by auditing the way the company operates. Then you identified and prioritised the expectations of future users. You equipped them with the right digital tools, that are collaborative, ergonomic, productive and open. Then, you tirelessly optimised user paths. You converted everyone to your cause with countless presentations, meetings and other high-flying workshops!  You also did not fail to set performance indicators.

Finally you were able, not without a certain amount of pride, to luxuriate in the sense of a job well done when the adoption curves of your digital workplace took off. It was great, within a few months, people were working together, a dynamic had been set in place! And as for you? You were a hero, of course.

When you returned to headquarters, something was bothering you. You knew, deep in your heart, that not everything was as slick as the figures showed. On the field, you identified practices which were far from being ideal. Some would resort to a email on the slightest pretext, others created redundant micro-communities, private conversations which should have been open in communities designed for this but weren’t. Some silos still remained and, worse in certain cases, even reappeared inside the digital workplace!

Aware that your job isn’t completely over, you don’t want to leave it at that. You need to act so that the changes are deep and lasting. You want to show everyone the right practices to become a better employee and thus manage to get the whole business back on the rails in terms of employee engagement.

So what’s the solution? Showing others the right example tirelessly is certainly a good thing, but its impact remains limited. Should you assume uniform “policeman” of the  digital transformation and reprimand all those who aren’t working together according to the rules of the game? Certainly not. But you must however find a means of promoting “good” behaviours so that they would spread widely, and good habits become second nature and continue to last.

At this stage, you’re thinking of this gadget you have that was specially designed for your mission : gamification of the digital workplace. As a real catalyst for good practice, it will undoubtedly prove a decisive weapon in saving the business from the threat of disengagement!

Gamification as a vehicle for engagement?

In terms of employee engagement, each organisation should start by asking itself questions about what it wants its employees to invest in. Then, how to positively influence employees so they adopt value-adding behaviour?

This is exactly the point of gamification which, after years of experimentation and research, has passed the hype phase and has been established in businesses as a practice, admittedly in the minority but perennial.

Gamification is defined as the implementation of gaming mechanics and psychological triggers to influence the behaviour of participants in situations that aren’t games.

In the professional context, gamification promises benefits that are pretty close to those of a collaborative digital workplace. On the agenda: creativity, innovation, communication, employee satisfaction, expertise and dissemination of corporate culture.

In addition, there is a convergence of factors that deserve our full attention. The rise of the video game industry in recent years is undeniable. Boosted by mobile gaming, it has found an audience with strong appetency through millennials. As it happens, this generation is massively entering the labour market just now and will not be doing so without using digital tools. This is an obvious opportunity to capitalise on.

In the second part, we will see just how gamification can generate engagement and how to go about gamifying a digital workplace in real terms.


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I am the product officer at eXo. I oversee product management and product marketing. My teams design, create and promote the features of and improvements to eXo Platform. As a former enterprise software developer turned product manager, I have a passion for how IT can improve people’s lives. In this blog, I write about some of my personal interests, such as productivity, alternative forms of management and corporate organisations, collaboration, open-source and emerging technologies.

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