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Gamification - A Modern Approach to Engage the Workforce in Continuous Improvement
By Thomas J. Van Eimeren, Corporate Director, Lean Six Sigma, Benchmark Electronics, Inc.
Employee engagement is the most important and impactful differentiator in sustaining successful change management, enterprise transformation or continuous improvement initiatives. The more employees understand why the enterprise is engaging in the change and how the change directly impacts them, the more likely they are to support it and even become advocates.
As an increasing number of millennials enter the workforce (the gaming generation), we must review and evolve our approach to talent development and continuous improvement while assessing employee engagement. One proven way to increase engagement of the modern day workforce is through gamification. So what exactly is gamification?
“Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts”. Research shows that the use of gamification instills a sense of meaning, provides a feeling of mastery, promotes autonomy, and creates super-engagement. According to Brian Burke at Gartner, “When designed correctly, gamification has proven to be very successful in engaging people and motivating them to change behaviors, develop skills or solve problems” When done effectively, gamification creates excitement and hyper-engagement within a workforce. For instance, when applying gamification to training, the student becomes immersed in this virtual reality and is able to learn and retain information faster than ever before. The student not only learns the concept but demonstrates instant practical application of the concept. When coupling gamification learning with reward and recognition (points, leaderboards, medals, widgets, medallions, etc.),it introduces an even higher level of motivation and accomplishment.
Gamification can improve the employee experience in many different ways. Take a basic Lean manufacturing training concept as an example. In this hypothetical module, you are trained to an overview of Lean manufacturing, the eight (8) process wastes, root cause analysis and practical problem-solving. What was once a 3–4 hour “death by PowerPoint” educational experience can be transformed into a 30 to 60minute computer based training game where the team member can pick their character “avatar” character and view real-life examples as observed from a process video collected from any work environment. The goal of the game is to obliterate process waste with a magic wand or a laser, by selecting the appropriate root cause from a hypothetical list.
Additionally, competition games are a great way to accomplish complex projects and initiatives, while empowering and engaging the collective workforce in fun exciting ways. The need to consider the underlying aggression and cultural pride of team competitive sports is the key to designing a gamification approach that is based on cultural and regional uniqueness. Let me share an example focused on a global continuous improvement initiative. The key word here being “global”. In the world today, it’s important to identify which games are truly global in nature. Which games truly bring the world together? American football, though popular in the U.S., does not resonate with the global community. Soccer as we call it in the U.S., is known throughout the world but varies in popularity. Most can agree that an excellent example of games that truly resonate with the global community and arguably, some of the most recognizable games in history, are the Olympic Games competition. That being said, if you are trying to accomplish transformational change efforts and initiatives at a global scale, the gaming environment that will resonate with your organization’s global community and bring them together in no other way possible is to hyper-engage them in a Global Olympics-style competition.
This approach is industry agnostic:
• In hospitals, you can have global teams compete with projects to reduce emergency room patient wait times
• In manufacturing, you can focus the global teams on reduction of changeover
• In software development, the focus can be on faster to market solutions
• In logistics and supply chain, on lower cycle times of delivery
• In warehouse environments, on more picks per labor hour, better quality, on-time delivery, etc.
• In sales, on more revenue, margin, etc.
• In business development, on more new customer bookings, organic growth.
This approach in gamification, allows you to bring the entire organization together through a structured all-inclusive approach. Each site can institute a site-based competition. Teams in each site, execute a project in a specific timeframe. Completed projects are presented to site leadership, who utilize a scoring rubric to assess the winner based on three main categories: Engagement, Approach and Results.
The winners are selected to move up to the Global Olympics competition, where the executives score the projects with a similar rubric focused on impact to organizational goals. The winner is then invited to the global headquarters and recognized at the global level with visibility from the executive leadership.
When coupled with an organization’s strategic goals and strategy deployment, this gamification approach becomes a key driver of synchronized execution toward strategic goals. This synchronization affords the organization the ability to execute at a global scale very quickly and effectively. The competition timelines offer a level of accountability to complete projects on-time in order to qualify for the Global Olympics. This approach ensures that projects are staffed at all levels to ensure completion within scope and timelines.
The Global Olympics gamification approach also creates global collaboration and cohesiveness. Projects that employees complete along with key learning’s and highlights become vital for opening up the channel of communication amongst global counterparts and the sharing of best practices on a peer to peer level. This form of collaboration empowers employees at all levels to be proactive in instituting best practices to further accelerate the enterprise transformation. This form of engagement transcends the walls of their manufacturing site, region or business unit, breaking down silos and transforming the organization to that of a truly global organization. Celebrating the successes, learning from the mistakes and everything in between.
All together… All inclusive… All engaged…
This Global Olympics format has achieved an incredible amount of success and momentum in recent Lean Six Sigma and Enterprise Excellence deployments that I’ve been involved with. This gamification approach is the catalyst for bringing a whole new excitement to employees. It contributes greatly to breaking down the barriers between global counterparts, motivating them to improve the global organization holistically.