Three Ways Gamification Can Elevate Hourly Worker Engagement

When Pokémon Go debuted in July, few could have predicted the hysteria it would incite. Within its first week, the augmented reality game became the most downloaded app in the history of Apple’s app store – captivating millions around the world with the promise of “catching them all.”

Pokémon Go, along with Candy Crush, Clash of Clans and countless apps before it, taps into a universal truth: games have a natural way of engaging and motivating the people who play them.

Today, employers are taking note – embracing gamification as a way to engage their people, motivate behavior and achieve business goals.

Gamification defined

Gamification, the concept of applying game elements in non-game situations such as training and sales, is a creative way for service industry brands to encourage positive behavior among their hourly workforce.

Combining traditional workplace processes with game elements – like leaderboards, badges, levels of difficulty or mission-based activities – not only motivates employees’ participation, but helps sharpen their skills over time (all while having more fun.)

In an environment where employee frustrations over scheduling, wages and internal communication can negatively impact morale, gamifying some aspects of the worker experience makes day-to-day tasks more enjoyable, and gives staff clear incentives to do their best work.

The benefits of a gamified hourly employee experience

When retailers, restaurants and other hourly employers adapt their operations to a gamified system, everybody wins. Here are a few ways gamification supports employees and the companies they work for:

  • Training that lasts: When teaching employees new skills or processes, paper manuals, in-person tutorials and other passive forms of education have their limits. But when training is a game – such as a mission or scavenger hunt through the store, or an interactive quiz about new products – learning happens automatically and the knowledge employees gain is more likely to stick. For instance, when Bloomingdale’s rolled out a brain-teaser system to enhance their retail associates’ loss prevention training, 85 percent of staff said the program increased their knowledge. The added friendly competition between individual employees or teams vying to earn high scores or clear certain levels also nudges staff to give training their all.
  • Lower attrition through rewards and recognition: Incentives, a key component of gamification, are a powerful way to shape employee behavior. With gamified operations, employers can reward top-performers with a blend of material perks (e.g., gift cards or company swag), digital rewards such as badges and leaderboard standings which stimulate sense of achievement and public recognition, and professional incentives such as the first pick of open shifts, or the chance for advancement. Receiving recognition for mastering new skills or hitting sales targets, empowers staff to work hard, and makes them feel like part of the larger company culture. Even earning badges or “leveling up” through gamified processes gives employees a sense of digital seniority that enhances loyalty and compels them to stay.
  • Faster fulfillment of business goals: Gamification doesn’t only make mundane tasks fun for employees, it also helps organizations achieve their goals by promoting desired behaviors – be it hitting sales objectives, improving customer service standards or improving overall labor productivity.

Companies throughout the service industry strive to deliver fun, engaging experiences for their customers. By applying the same approach to their hourly employees, these employers can sustain a loyal workforce – and enhance the profitability of their business.