Growing up, helping in housework or scoring well in the examinations had its merits. Parents bought us presents (or at least allowed us to watch TV well beyond our regular sleeping hours!), teachers showered praises, and so went the story. That’s how the ‘achievement factor’ and a behavioral conditioning of expecting rewards in return of doing something – well/ faster/ productively/ efficiently – and feeling accomplished got ingrained in us. Between our childhood and our adulthood – a lot changed, but “doing = rewards” equation remained; consciously and sub-consciously.

In the modern corporate workplaces these “rewards” often translate to incentives, increments and promotions based on performances. But, does that suffice to keep the employees engaged, motivated, and, overall in talent retention?

According to Personal Group’s survey on happiness in the UK workplace, “48% of UK employees surveyed are not happy at work, and 35% of employees stated that they would be happier if they had more recognition in the workplace.” This definitely calls for a reformation in the whole employee Rewards and Recognition (R&R) process. For one, it proves that, unlike popular belief, money may not be the only way to recognize good performance. And we have research to back this up! It’s observed that people give significant importance to respect, appreciation and recognition just as much as, and often more than, monetary rewards alone.

Filling the ‘Recognition’ space in employee R&R may seem like a tall order, but not when you apply the concept of gamification. For the context of this post, we will restrict ourselves to Learning & Development (L&D) and LMS gamification, to be precise.

The Employee R&R Game!

According to Bunchball, “Gamification is the process of taking something that already exists – a website, an enterprise application, an online community – and integrating game mechanics into it to motivate participation, engagement, and loyalty.” Gamification builds on the behavioral aspects of people driven by competition, achievement, engagement, influence, and collaboration to drive results for the business. “In Slalom Consulting, an organization that uses gamification, the participation of employee name recognition program increased from 5% to 90%, and recognition scores improved from 45% to 89%”, according to Yu-kai Chou’s comprehensive List of 90+ Gamification Cases with ROI Stats.

How does gamification of employee rewards and recognition work in L&D?

Gamification can manifest in multiple ways in a company. While some may introduce a program that rewards its Sales & Marketing employees who achieve certain goals (like Lead Generation/ Client Acquisition/ Revenue targets), some others may choose to make learning more fun by applying a few game concepts and engage their employees in the process. The latter can be done well by investing in a Learning Management System with game-mechanics or a Gamification module.

While game elements like scores, badges, points, etc. can easily be utilized to inspire friendly competition and social connectivity between learners, it should also boost learner engagement. Our previous blog post, 6 Levels of Successful Gamification Strategy, enlists the different elements of game mechanics and their application to learner motivation and engagement. The whole process of gamification hence, starts from identifying “what” the employees/ learners want, focusing on the motivational factors that drive employee performance while ensuring alignment with the company’s core values, L&D objectives, and at the same time instilling a recognition culture within the organization.

The LMS Leaderboard can be used to compare points, designate different levels based on the trainings or tasks completed, allowing employees to view their own progress and be recognized by others for their efforts. The virtual rewards/appreciation badges can eventually be converted to tangible gifts that match the employee profiles (i.e. a day off for non-technical staff, technical certification vouchers for technical staff, etc. depending on the organization’s reward policy) on a periodic basis. With gamification, the effort that goes behind should also be valued, so ideally the difficulty level to achieve badges are mapped to the level of progression.

The gamified R&R can encourage healthy competition. While an independent system would focus on performance management, incentives and team competitions, using a gamified LMS would cover coaching reinforcement, cultural alignment hence integrating it with a holistic talent strategy too, as mentioned in Gartner’s 2017 report on Recognition and Rewards Software. As R&R should be a holistic and structured system with multiple skill-based levels and related rewards to keep all the employees interested, the whole gamification process essentially requires constant innovation, novelty/change to keep the employees engaged, aspects that a gamified LMS clearly focuses on.

As the Gartner report mentions, “Implementing a modern and central R&R program gives organizations visibility and control into ad hoc recognition spend, which is important because it reduces exposure to potential tax infringements.” This aspect itself caters to gaining management buy-in, the R&R system should not be one that excludes the top management. Gamification can encourage the inclusion of upper management in the whole process, allowing team members to show their appreciation to managers/team leads, and managers to the administration and leadership team hence, creating a transparent channel for recognition.

For the success of a gamified rewards and recognition system (with or without a gamified LMS), employees must to be actively involved in the designing process too, to share a better opinion about what they want (as tangible rewards) and how they would like to be appreciated. It is also essential to have clear guidelines on how and why people should be recognized. The use of the platform should be simple and the interface should be such that employees can easily track their own progress and compare it with that of their peers and with their individual goals.

The goal of gamification in the words of Christine Comaford, “is to create intrinsic motivation for your team and the above system, combined with deeper elements of gamification, will sustain long-term goals and stretching beyond the basic reward incentive system.” In the end, however, all boils down to people, process and the work culture, or as Lee Iacocca says, “Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”

To know how you can bring about Employee R&R by using an LMS, talk to us.

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