Playing for Attention - Gamification in HR



From happy/unhappy buttons in washrooms to apps rating service quality and tracking performance, employees and end users are more empowered than ever before to influence FM’s response to their input. Bradford Keen finds out how this feedback is being used to gamify monitoring and reporting of facilities services. 


Four faces depict the spectrum of emotions: very happy, happy, unhappy or very unhappy. All you have to do is push the button that most accurately sums up your experience – the cleanliness of a washroom, perhaps, or the friendliness of the front-of-house staff.

People passing through an airport or a busy reception area at a corporate office will have encountered the emoji feedback terminals. End users can affect service delivery with a simple action while FM teams are able to use the feedback data to determine whether their performance needs improvement, and how to respond and innovate. The means of obtaining feedback need not be from terminals; end users could rate services through an app or even an old-school suggestions box. What matters is the engagement of end users, the quality of the data and the responsiveness of the service team.

Having “consistent, continuous, and reliable” data allows FM teams to compare customer satisfaction across properties, explains Irene Papantoniou, country marketing manager UK at HappyorNot, which provides customer feedback terminals to measure customer satisfaction. This is where gamification comes into play. The data from different properties can be used to increase competition between different teams at different sites or among members within a team. It is a fresh form of customer feedback allowing a more nuanced and immediate appraisal of performance. It can also help FM teams compare expectations with reality, determining whether or not service delivery has been as effective as FM had envisioned, eradicating the distance between perceived and actual customer satisfaction. “Facilities management frontline employees receive a significant amount of positive feedback from the people they serve, which we have seen builds stronger motivation and a customer-first attitude,” says Papantoniou.

Gamification of service response allows the end user to play their part; gamification of service performance within and between FM teams themselves takes the idea further. Here’s how it works. Playing by the rules

Gamification is a form of conditioning. Positive behaviour is reinforced through a rewards system, which increases motivation. “It breaks down complex tasks into simple tasks that the brain can learn over time, without as much stress or fatigue. It also taps into the brain’s ancestral status and power reward system,” says So Young Hyun, workplace experience lead at Wx, Sodexo UK & Ireland. The essential components of gamification are game mechanics and game dynamics. The former concerns “the actions, tactics, or mechanisms used to create an engaging and compelling experience”, Hyun says. Think point systems, levelling up, challenges, leader boards, and virtual goods or charitable donations. 

Game dynamics refer to how motivated users are to participate. Motivational elements include achievement, self-expression, competition and altruism. “The choice of gaming tactics is an important one,” Hyun says. “Facility teams need to understand the motivations they are trying to trigger so that they can utilise the appropriate game mechanics in turn. In doing so, however, we need to take care not to change or influence the attitudes, behaviours, or phenomena we are trying to measure. The success of a gamification concept depends on the quality and speed of the information that is returned to the user, the feedback loop. The better this content reflects the user’s interest, the more involved the user will be. This personalised content can be created using big data. When properly stored, analysed and visualised, it will generate a lot of insights.  “This will result in more involvement and interest in data-driven insights and thus better decision-making.”

Tips for victory

The feedback loop is important but there are steps to take before then. Pareto FM managing director Andrew Hulbert says that ensuring proper alignment between the defined outcomes of the game and the requirements of the business is vital for gamification to succeed, as is including all team members at the outset so they can comment on the gamification concept to influence its design, build and implementation. “We need to include the team members in the creation of the game to ensure they fully buy into the concept and get the best take up of playing,” says Hulbert. “The leaders will set the parameters of the game to start with and ensure that all players are working towards those goals. Gamification itself is a form of innovation but the real innovation comes in terms of creating games that drive the right behaviour to achieve business goals.” Hyun adds that designers of gamification programs need to understand what they want employees to achieve by playing the game and which incentives will motivate them. But games must also be fun and the results tracked by means of a leader board. Communication with the various stakeholders is also essential. Papantoniou says employees need to know the reasons for the project and their roles within it. “That way employees feel they add value in this project and will be more motivated to support its success.” Gamification adds competitive elements and rewards into everyday actions, systems or services. Hyun offers an example of gamification of monitoring and reporting in practice. A workplace safety app that uses a quiz to track workplace safety practices uses gamification. “Through the app, managers are able to monitor their teams’ level of understanding, identify learning gaps and coach team members to improve their performance,” Hyun explains.

Playtime benefits and earning rewards

Gamification brings many advantages to teams. Naomi Austen, Axis Group HR and learning director, says: “The gamification of our site monitoring and reporting has a direct effect on employee engagement, communication, productivity, and even employee retention. It not only empowers our employees, and creates healthy competition amongst them but it also raises the standards across Axis and helps us, for example, comply with security industry standards set by the SIA.”

Competition between employees and teams leads to improved engagement and productivity, but can also foster collaboration among service provider teams, as well as between the service provider, consumers and the client personnel. Papantoniou explains: “It gives space for collaboration as teams are stimulated to work together in improving operations, fixing issues as they occur, and in coming up with new innovations that have a significant impact on the consumer’s experience.” It also offers hard evidence about perceived performance. Hulbert says: “Gamification can really highlight the star performers. All those staff that have the reputation for going above and beyond, but it has always been hard to quantify, all of sudden have a new metric that shows what a great impact they make. It can also help to identify areas where other team members can improve and positively bring the entire team forward to reach the objectives together.”

Some tasks are more suited to gamification than others. For instance, any process that involves consumer touchpoints can benefit from gamification, maintains Papantoniou. More challenging is gamifying formal processes such as in HR, finance and payroll.  Hulbert says using a simple reward system can help. “We use ‘badges’ on our HR system to reward certain behaviours. The badges can be seen in a league table for all of the teams. It creates a nice feeling between the teams as they jostle for position at the top, almost like a fantasy football league.” Indeed, it is generally agreed that gamification requires some type of reward system to incentivise engagement. “Staff are motivated to be at the top of the table but small but meaningful financial rewards really go a long way too,” explains Hulbert. 

Incentivising innovation

Whether companies rely on badges and certificates as recognition of top performers or use vouchers and other financial prizes, Austen says rewards are vital as they give incentives to drive performance. 

Our frontline staff have the chance to see how they rank against each other, motivating them to increase performance which, in turn, supports career development,” explains Austen. “The staff wear and display their badges and certificates with pride, and their successes are promoted across the organisation, with features in our monthly employee newsletter, as well as client site newsletters.” Rewards are effective not only for driving up performance through competition, but also to incentivise employees to contribute to innovations or suggestions of how to improve operational processes or the customer experience. 

Hulbert gives the example of Pareto FM’s campaign to improve sales of vending products. Three teams ran their own vending machines and placed into a competition to see whose machine could bring in the most revenue. “The vending products were all sold at a subsidised price so the focus was trying to get them to understand what people wanted in the office,” Hulbert says. “At the end of each week, the proceeds would be totalled up and the league table updated. What we then saw was our teams looking at the products which sold well in the office space and starting to change the provision of vending to better reflect that. Then when they better reflected what the customers wanted their sales went up. This was brilliant from a learning perspective because the team were all trying to outdo each other in sales but also they had to intelligently identify what the people in the offices wanted and shape their service provision around that. This is ultimately a metaphor for what great facilities management service delivery looks like.”

Essentially, gamification promotes competition, which can lead to better staff engagement and increased productivity and quality of service. As Papantoniou points out, collaboration is also an effective outcome of gamification. Hulbert agrees, citing team spirit and a sense of camaraderie. “You are all in it together, jostling for position, but ultimately it is a bit of fun and learning at the same time,” Hulbert concludes. 


So Young Hyun, workplace experience lead at Sodexo / director UK&I at Wx

Andrew Hulbert, managing director at Pareto FM Naomi Austen, group HR & learning director at Axis Group

Irene Papantoniou, country marketing manager UK at HappyOrNot Source: Facilitate. #gamification #employeeengagement

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