CATEGORY

GAMIFICATION

 

 

Brands are constantly fighting for consumer attention, relevance and profitability against a backdrop of intense disruption and competition. It would be superficial to claim consumer’s today are easily influenced or swayed, when the reality is that most are looking to be impressed by seamless accessibility and browsing, won over by considered brand values and communications, and excited by excellent customer service and stand-out experiences. Capturing their attention is a crucial part of the journey, but strong Customer Engagement strategies should also be sustaining engagement, retention, and advocacy to truly reinforce profitability and performance.

Successful loyalty programs develop Customer Engagement beyond transactional relationships which are incentive focused but weak on lasting engagement. This is often due to the overall offering lacking personalisation, relevance, or user centricity. Customer Engagement strategies that do well in hooking and retaining their audiences provide a richer, multi-faceted offering that directly appeals to user needs and drives.

To deliver this, you of course need a strong technological foundation to support seamless, omnichannel accessibility. You need an attractive product or service offering, well showcased through intuitive and creative design work. You need an insightful understanding of the end user or customer, in order to provide communications and touchpoints that build trust. But how can you enhance the experience, in a way that still authentically represents your brand, to help the customer fall just that bit more in love?

63% of loyalty members say that if they enjoy an experience, they will use it more. Great Customer Service: 75% of loyalty members say they would stop using a program if they experience poor service. Brand Values: 70% of consumers feel it is important that brands uphold values that they have an emotional attachment to.

A strategy that can make a big difference to sustainable user enjoyment and effectively transmit information is Gamification: the application of game design, game elements and play in non-game contexts – such as brand apps or member schemes.

Why Add Gamification?

At first glance, Gamification could be easily sorted into the camp of shallow gimmicks. Is the idea not to move beyond just incentivising? However, as with AI or VR or any innovative functionality you’re looking to design into a process or experience, the result is highly dependent on the ‘why’, the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. So let’s break it down.

Fun and enjoyment seem such obvious elements to include in your offering to customers, and yet so often aren’t designed into experiences. If you want customers to love your brand, if you want to be the first place they look, if you want to bolster recurring purchases, you need to seriously think about how to find ways to make them enjoy the relationship more.

Games, by nature, are fun. Everyone will have types they prefer more than others, and some that they really dislike, because games create emotional and behavioural responses within us. Who hasn’t seen their competitive side suddenly awakened by a game? Or maybe you love building or exploring new worlds? Gamification is often misconstrued as ‘just adding a game’ to something. The theory is actually about applying game elements or game-like design into non-traditional settings in order to make them more enjoyable, or to create more of an emotional reaction from participants. We have all seen how games can create buzz, but gamification can also make a program more attractive or even teach critical messages in a fun and engaging way (learn through play).

Techvalidate showed that 30% of companies using gamification improved registration conversion rates by upward of 50%. Tapping into people’s need for enjoyment, or even curiosity to see what the fuss is all about, is a really easy starting place for applying gamification to a loyalty or membership scheme. For example, attractive but short games can be hosted seasonally to encourage exploration of new collections or messages, as fun, exclusive, personalised experiences that exemplify the brand values and bring the customer just that bit closer.

Keep Them Coming Back For More

Of course, many loyalty programmes already use a very simplistic gamification strategy to encourage interactions: points and rewards. Rewards schedules are essential to any loyalty scheme but consumers today expect more from their customer experience than “spend more to get more” point systems. Plus, through these purely transactional approaches, you’re not actually rewarding loyalty, you’re rewarding spending. Some customers will desperately want to be part of a brand’s circle because they’re inspired by the brand values or imagery but may not always have the cash to splash frequently enough to be rewarded. Loyalty schemes can immediately become more personal by remembering and recognising special occasions, such as a customer’s birthday or membership anniversary. Game design can then also help members understand what behaviours can be rewarded or give them the chance to boost points or bring themselves closer to new membership levels or treats.

Random rewards, like Easter Eggs, can also add elements of surprise and delight and give customers a reason to log into their account to see if they’re in luck that day. Random promotions, offers and communications that speak to them can help energise the connection between customer and brand.

Gamification can also be applied to boost social connection within a programme, allowing and encouraging and rewarding people for inviting friends to join. Programmes that allow you to create teams or groups can have two benefits – while it obviously helps to bring new members into the scheme, more importantly for the customer it creates a bond and shared experience with friends. Just like games are always more fun when playing with a group of friends, either playing against each other or competing together for a prize helps foster natural and enjoyable ways to improve interactivity within a loyalty scheme.

Creating Emotional Reactions to Drive Behaviour Change – RAMP

Appealing to Your Audience

More ways to boost the social element within a program, that have become increasingly popular – providing seamless connections and pathways to social media platforms. Encouraging customers to share their shopping experiences with their networks and actually rewarding and recognizing their Instagram posts, Tweets or Facebook reviews/recommendations, is a fast way to nurturing brand advocates or at least a much more meaningful connection between customer and brand. Furthermore, people are always more inclined to purchase when they can relate to the ambassadors they see on the brand website, apps, and of course social media. In the age of the influencer, incentivizing and enabling people to share their own positive experiences will help build communities and foster a sense of belonging and exclusivity for members whose feedback or interactions get featured.

Game elements that can enhance the sensation can be quite simple but effective, such as tiered reward systems where members unlock different experiences, offers or access, or even a more personalised approach where members can choose the membership or profile that suits their style, needs or requirements. You can even take this further by allowing customers to fully personalise their reward system, offering not only rewards related to the brand but more experiential rewards – leisure activities and the like. Again, this makes them feel they have more control of their preferences and options within the loyalty scheme, making it more tailored to them as individuals.

Ultimately, it is important to design with the user in mind. No one is interested in playing a game where they’re not able to succeed or participate fully, or that feels it is weighted against them. If you just apply a game with no meaning or relevance, you’ll risk abandonment, just like designing an app without considering how people need to use it. Considering what will drive them to brand loyalty and advocacy, or how to improve the journey to purchase, but also making sure they feel they’re in control of their membership rather than at the mercy of an elusive brand, or just another number on a platform.

 

 

RAMP, Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation, Gamification…
What are we talking about?

 

Our Gamification Guru, Andrzej Marczewski, breaks down some of the theories and concepts we often talk about and use in our Engagement Solutions.

Interested in how Gamification or Behavioural Science could help your organisation achieve objectives and boost engagement?  

 

The art of designing attractive and effective digital engagement solutions

Are the rules of reality broken? We have become used to dividing areas or putting things in their specific boxes. Work is serious. Games are fun. Learning is serious. Creativity is fun. Problem solving – serious or fun? When we dive into the world of game thinking or game design, often grouped together under the term of Gamification, the well-defined barrier between serious contexts and play falls away. Why apply game elements to traditionally serious contexts? To get the most out of all aspects of life, sometimes we need to add more play!

Now, reality can be much more attractive and entertaining thanks to “Serious Play Experiences”.

“Serious Play Experiences”, are situations where fun narratives and game elements can be introduced without losing sight of the serious objectives driving them (for example: incentivising recycling across communities, reducing employee turnover, sustaining interest in learning materials). Often because of the serious nature of such contexts, applying fun elements can significantly enhance motivation, commitment and participation – resulting in a successful achievement of objectives.

Doesn’t sound like something you’d use? You might be surprised, as there are more examples out there than you probably think.

Mixed serious gaming experiences, not just digital

By adding face-to-face challenges, the experience can help to build social relationships or interpersonal skills in the process. This can be seen in educational contexts/scenarios, where the “escape room” concept has been adapted to provide a fun yet educational classroom learning experience. For example, Breakout Edu where as well as having an immersive game platform, players also have to work face-to-face collaboratively to solve a series of critical thinking puzzles to open a locked box. These experiences rely on a very collaborative narrative plot. When this dynamic is replicated within a digital context, the solution can include multiple communication channels and a virtual social area that further increases the feeling of community and positive group identity.

Serious gaming experiences in virtual reality environments

This is one of the most prominent emerging trends in Serious Play Experiences in the last few years. Virtual reality offers infinite possibilities due to its great versatility. A lot of use can be seen within training contexts, both educational and corporate, especially where very specific training or practice is required (such as unconscious bias training for example).

From a gamification point of view, virtual reality reinforces the weight of game elements such as avatars and non-linear or open plot narration, substantially improving users sense of freedom.

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Gaming experiences in augmented reality environments

Many examples are also appearing in the market of this type of initiative. To name a few: “Zombie Run”, “Ring fit” and “Peloton”. These experiences rely on a mission structure. Each mission includes challenges that gradually increase the difficulty to increase participant’s sense of progress. To support this, other game elements are added such as the progress bar, badges and points, which reinforce the perception of autonomy and self-improvement.

So, how are serious contexts “seasoned” with the right amount of play, to ensure the objective is still met? And how could they work for you and your organisation? Let’s take a look at the solution-design steps required for taking users toward fulfilling objectives.

  1. User-centric analysis:

Before getting stuck in, it’s important to carry out a detailed analysis of the situation your target audience or objectives are operating within. You will need to understand information about the context and the users’ behaviours, characteristics, game preferences and digital skills, to be able to create a solution that will integrate easily into everyday life.

  1. Include effective components:

With client and user needs forming the foundations, you can next include the necessary components to build the actual journey or strategy of the solution. By basing or choosing components with an understanding of Behavioural Science, you can create a path that users will actually want to follow and that will feel intuitive to them.  The different parts need to consider user characteristics and preferences (collected from the previous step) as well as client requirements. The aim of the game is of course to deliver results and achieve the determined objective, but this will only be successful if you provide an experience that people feel able to collaborate in.

  1. Integrate game elements:

Making people want to take part, rather than feel they have to is a powerful motivation. Here is where introducing gamification is useful. It is no secret that people do better at something when they enjoy the activity itself. Applying game elements to a mundane or even dreary process (imagine if compliance training could be enjoyable) does not mean you simply turn the experience into a game or lose all sense of seriousness. Elements can be discrete nudges or prompts, or recognition of a user’s progress, spurring them to stick with the process or activity, boosting their motivation and commitment. To ensure a more fulfilling, engaging experience, you’re ultimately looking to weave together three interconnecting gamified structures: the narrative, the challenges, and the energisers.

Following us so far? Let’s look at an example to see how it all comes to life.

A large hotel chain was looking to reduce its high staff turnover by implementing new corporate values and culture that would hopefully encourage commitment to the brand. They needed an effective vehicle to deliver the information in a way that would stick with the employees, engaging them in the workplace and reducing feelings of detachment.

Digital solutions, either web or mobile applications, are easily accessible to wide audiences and often help to set experiences outside of the ‘real world’. In a digital solution, participants feel they can attempt challenges, immerse themselves in situations, and progress without the pressure of a manager looking over their shoulders. This means you can provide environments that resemble real life, with fewer real-life stresses.

Digital solutions also help ensure the same information reaches all people in the same way, standardising and centralising processes – such as the hotel chain communicating the new corporate values and culture. With all employees receiving the same core message, the next step is to help employees engage with this content and ultimately embody it.

Here is where we could introduce a learning by doing strategy (or learning through play). First you plot what the strategy of the solution should overcome, with an understanding of what the users need. Feelings of detachment can be resolved through tapping into people’s need for mastery, purpose, and achievement. Presenting the disillusioned employees with the chance to prove themselves and feel they are improving, which in turn gives their managers the cue to recognise this improvement. The strategy helps employees feel that they contribute to the overall success of the company and their contribution is valued. So we can look at gamifying three core steps to the strategy: a) provide opportunities to overcome challenges and improve, b) provide content and materials for employees to learn from and train with, c) foster and promote a positive environment where good work is recognised and encouraged.          

Next: how to get people involved. A narrative structure always helps to increase individual’s interest in participating. This can be achieved by introducing an appealing plot that will engage participants and encourage them to follow and commit to the process. In this example, the employees of the hotel could be invited to join a virtual hotel (call to action) as virtual staff, attending to visiting customers. They are presented with different scenarios and opportunities (challenges) where they have to demonstrate the new brand values and behaviours, earning virtual currency or levelling up when they successfully overcome their challenges.

Designing meaningful “Serious Gaming Experiences” that make an impact or drive change is a complex but rewarding process, requiring the designer to consider a multitude of perspectives in the process. All of the elements have to work in harmony with each other to create a balanced experience, that drive the desired results. If the experience is too much like a game or too removed from reality, the core message becomes diluted. When an experience doesn’t take the participant’s needs and motivations into consideration it runs the risk of turning people off from engaging. Daily life is full of distractions and examples of innovation at our fingertips. Is it crazy to consider people’s expectations and attention need more stimulation in the experiences you offer?

Like most aspects of life and learning, you will get more out of any solution if you add a little play!

Written in collaboration by Marta Calderero & Andrzej Marczewski

Gamification actually doesn’t have to be fun.

For many the word “Gamification” conjures images of video game-like experiences, where people maybe race cars, or collect trophies, or compete in timed challenges against colleagues, and having fun instead of working. Others who know more about gamification, may visualise a veneer of “forced” fun being layered over important – albeit dull – tasks. Either of these situations has negative connotations and misconceptions that can put people off wanting to get involved.

However, what if I was to tell you that gamification doesn’t have to look game-like or be designed for fun at all?

There are many definitions of gamification, one that we use is “The use of game design, game elements and play for non-entertainment purposes.” Whatever definition you use, the essence of the concept is to use game design and game elements in non-game contexts, or applying lessons learned from games to improve non-game experiences.
Gamification is utlimately about understanding people and what motivates them and using that to create better experiences for them, with the help of game elements.

Gamification: The User at the Heart

In a business context, gamification is normally part of an overall solution designed for a specific objective. That might be to improve learning and development, it could be to increase efficiency, it could be to make on-boarding more effective. Whatever gamification is being used to help solve, it is infrequent or unlikely that the business objective is “make it fun”.

Fun is subjective: we each experience it in different ways, as a result of different stimuli. Ask someone what they consider fun and they could tell you anything from scary movies, rollercoasters and rock climbing, to reading in a quiet park or cooking a new recipe. If you look at research into fun, you will see many varying explanations of what fun actually is and how it is experienced differently by different people.  This makes it very hard to use fun as a design objective when you are not building a true game – as in the case of gamification.

The elements of games that we may associate with fun – themes, narratives, challenges – may not figure at all into a gamified design, if the client has no desire to see them. But this doesn’t mean that the solution can’t include gamification. Feedback, progress, reinforcement, signposting, virtual currencies and more are all game elements that are not directly associated with fun experiences but are often core to gamified solutions and still fit the definition of gamification.

By using simple gamification elements, and user centric design, users can be encouraged to keep returning to an experience, to complete a process, and actually connect with and absorb the content. Starting a solution with a tutorial, using a progress bar to show the user how they’re getting on, energising the journey with a surprise Easter egg, all help to nudge us along while doing something in the same way we’re happy to spend hours playing games. In this way, there may be fun moments, but they are the result of good design rather than trying to shoehorn fun into a solution to fit a need to make gamification fun!

Fun experiences are almost always preferable as people engage with them far deeper and in far more meaningful ways. But if an incredibly fun experience might distract users away from a key message or process, it is still possible to peel back on the elements most commonly considered ‘game-like’ without steering clear of all gamification completely. Simply remember it as a tool to engage audiences with, rather than how to turn dreaded cyber security training into Mario Kart.

Gamification, the use of game design, game elements and play for non-entertainment purposes, is a divisive word. It conjures pictures of employees and customers playing video games, where in reality it very rarely looks like that.

Gamification, in its purest form, borrows from games to increase engagement with an activity. It could simply be that the addition of clear goals and feedback in the form of progress maps and scores can achieve this. On the other hand, a strong narrative and game-like look and feel might be the best way achieve the specified business outcomes.

The point is that gamification needs to be applied in a way that fits a well-defined brief, achieves the business outcomes and balances the client’s wants with the client’s needs (which are often at odds).

However, far too often we see “Gimmick Gamification”, that looks pretty but achieves very little. It relies on the novelty factor but has no eye to longevity. It is easy to understand why though. The addition of a simple game to a website looks like a good idea. “Games are fun, people like games, a game will stick in people’s memories, and make us look innovative and exciting”.

The trouble is, the game has to achieve something for both the client and the player. For example, if the client is looking for repeated visits, then often the game will focus on short bursts of play with the promise of a reward for repeat visits. The game is usually very simple and becomes boring quickly. In this instance the rewards have to be very special to maintain at least mid-term engagement. More often than not all that will happen is short bursts of activity as new users discover the game, but very few returning players.

 

 

On the flip side, if the game is amazing, but the rewards and messaging are poor, all that you get is players engaging with the game, not the brand! If you are going to rely on a game, it needs to strike a balance of deep gameplay and desirable rewards, but this will and should take time to design.

That’s why good gamification usually focuses on borrowing from games rather than trying to build games. It requires an understanding of the target audience and of what they want and need as well as what the client wants and needs. It requires an understanding of what motivates people to engage over long periods. It requires time and development if it is going to deliver results.

If you want a quick adrenaline shot, the Gimmick Gamification might be for you. If you want sustained and long-term engagement that focuses on change and business outcomes, then you need to look at gamification as a strategy rather than a novelty.

It’s not all Fun and Games

 

The last few weeks have given me plenty of food for thought. The end of November saw the second annual instalment of Gamification Europe, a great chance to catch up with old friends and take stock of what we are all doing around gamification. Then, the beginning of December, gave me the opportunity to sit round the table with graduates and game designers and compare notes on the differences and similarities of gamification and games. Both of these made me reflect on balancing fun and objectives, and how game-like solutions can remain sustainable.

At Gamification Europe, held at a comedy club in Amsterdam, speakers from around the world gave their insights into gamification, serious games, play and how they all fit into the world around us.

Several talks echoed Gartner’s prediction that “80% of gamification will fail”. One message, that was repeated many times, particularly resonated with me: Gamification is a strategy that needs to focus on outcomes and objectives. However, I feel a lot of what is considered to be failure or disenchantment in the industry, seem to trail back to a lack of focus on the outcomes and the objectives of where gamification was and is being implemented.  When planning a gamification-based intervention (or any kind of intervention), it is essential that you start by understanding what the problem is that the intervention will solve and what the outcomes or objectives will be. Rather than gamification being considered a “magic bullet”, it really needs to be about tightly defined outcomes and part of a well thought out strategy. This is something that we are very clear with our clients about.

When we are designing a solution, we split the project into 8 phases. The first two focus specifically on understanding the problem, defining the specific outcomes and how we are going to measure them. That is a quarter of the project phase, dedicated to understanding the What and the Why, before we even start to consider the How!

 

 

 

It’s a stage that often seems to be ignored or retrofitted after the “solution” has been designed. The “game” becomes more important than the outcomes, and the “fun” overtakes what the client really needs.

This was further highlighted during my discussions with the game designers in Newcastle, and goes some way to explain why it is so important for people to understand what gamification actually is compared to games. The clearest difference is simple. Games generally start with “fun” or “entertainment” as their objective. The designer has an idea for an interesting mechanic and that evolves into a game. Obviously there can be other factors. For instance, if the designer has been given a film license, for instance, then there is an objective – the game has to be related to the film.  Beyond that, how the game plays and how it will entertain its players is their biggest concern.

In gamification, we start with an objective first, then work back to how we might be able to use gamification or games to solve that problem in the most effective and efficient way possible. Fun is very rarely a business objective!


Before answering the question of “Why Gamification”, it probably makes sense to wrap our heads around “What is Gamification?” for this discussion. If you look around, you will find several different definitions. From a non-academic perspective, the most useful way to define gamification is “The use of games or game-like experiences to increase motivation and engagement with an activity or process”.

For us, it is one of many tools used when looking to solve problems presented by clients. Whilst gamification is not specifically about turning something into a game, it is useful not to exclude them completely from our minds when looking for solutions. It’s often where most people’s inspiration comes from, or a good place to begin when trying to work out how to make something more interesting.

When we are approached for work that requires gamification, it is usually related to some kind of need to increase active participation, be it on-boarding, loyalty, education, or any myriad of reasons. Frequently at the heart of the challenge is someone wanting someone else to do more of something! Or even “we need everyone to be doing more of this, all together, in the same way”.

Gamification has some unique strengths that other, more traditional approaches, may not have. Especially when it comes to encouraging large groups, and engaging with different profiles of people.

When trying to increase active participation, it is essential that people find the activity accessible. This is something that games do exceptionally well. They have evolved over the years to become accessible to anyone at any age without the need to read large manuals. We can do the same with gamification, creating experiences that hold the user’s hand through the early stages of their participation – their onboarding into the system.

Games are great at breaking down huge experiences into manageable chunks. In the “real world,” we would describe that as goal setting. Taking a large goal and breaking it down into manageable and therefore more achievable goals. There is scientific theory behind this called Goal Setting Theory. Researchers, Locke and Latham set out five principles that improve a person’s chances of achieving a goal. Clarity, Challenge, Commitment, Feedback, Task complexity [1]. Gamification can support all of these five principles in various ways. If we consider that good games get all this right, it is safe to say that well-designed gamification can do it too.

One of the most important things that can be done with games and game-like systems is creating the opportunity to fail. This sounds odd, but games teach you by letting you fail,  try again, fail and try again. It creates a safe environment to improve. The use of business focused games and simulations can do the same. If an employee needs to understand how to find all the exits on an oil rig, surely it is better to let them walk around a virtual model of the rig, rather than the real thing?

Gamification can also add fun to tasks that may not naturally be seen as fun. Whilst it is not the main reason to use gamification, it is certainly one that can resonate with users. Why does ethics training have to be a dull pdf followed by a quiz? It could instead be a fun series of videos that play out various scenarios based on user choices.

So why do we choose gamification as one of our solutions to engagement problems? Because it works really well and users enjoy the resulting experiences!

 

[1]        H. L. Tosi, E. A. Locke, and G. P. Latham, “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance,” Acad. Manag. Rev., vol. 16, no. 2, p. 480, 1991.

 Happy employees drinking chai lattes, playing pool and table tennis, being creative and brilliant. That is the vision some have come to imagine is the ideal work environment. We have all seen the pictures from companies like Google, with chilled out developers working in converted phone boxes and sliding down the helter-skelter to their next meeting.

The reality is, of course, often very different. The practicalities of most office environments mean that these sorts of extreme designs are not possible. However, that does not stop people trying. The number of times I have seen a pool table or foosball table awkwardly shoehorned into a corner is incredible.

The reasoning behind this is often honourable. Someone somewhere has been given a bit of money to try and increase employee happiness, and therefore engagement, based on a poor employee satisfaction survey result.

It may seem a generous and forward-thinking idea, but it is often a poorly planned “knee-jerk” reaction that fails to address the deeper issues that may be affecting the feelings of the employees or why there may be a low level of engagement.

In reality, satisfaction and engagement surveys have certain issues that could affect the true vision of employee engagement. For starters, not all employees may believe they are anonymous, leading them to refuse to take part, fearing that “Big Brother” is watching. Others may take it as an opportunity to vent frustrations that are not directly related to their overall engagement with the company. Yet more may be too busy to do it, probably those that are actually the top performers! So, the survey never really represents to true levels of engagement across the whole company.

Imagine you find that a particular department has low morale. Do you really think that putting a pool table in the coffee room will lift that long term? Did anyone in their survey cite a lack of a pool table as their reason for being unhappy in their role? Of course not. You need to dig deeper and understand the root cause of the issues, then work to improve that. But you can only do that if the employees trust you, which is where things like a well thought out Employee Value Proposition (EVP) start to become so important!

The same can actually be said of many gamification implementations in companies looking to boost employee engagement. They are introduced to try and add some flavour, fun or competition to boost productivity or happiness. Just like the pool table, this often doesn’t address the core issues. In fact, with badly implemented gamification the issue could be compounded. If a company can afford to invest in that, why can’t they invest in something that employees actually want? That’s why it is so important to plan a gamification solution so carefully and why we put so much time into the user research at the start of any project. If you don’t understand them, you can’t possibly design something that will resonate with them and be accepted.

This doesn’t mean you should not install a pool table, but make sure that it is part of a structured plan to improve all of the factors affecting employee engagement, not just a patch with a “that’ll do” attitude attached.

Onboarding is nothing new. If you have worked at any medium or large company you are likely to have been through it, but it was probably called induction. For many, it is a few days of icebreakers and PowerPoint slides explaining the company in more detail, various important departments and other information needed to get going.

If you are a gamer, you would know this better as the tutorial level at the beginning of the game.

In both cases, the end goal is the same, get a new person being productive as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The big difference is the delivery mechanisms used.

First Impressions Count

An employee’s first look at the “real” company happens during onboarding. This is the first exposure to other people they are likely to be working with, to the true corporate culture and to some of the more practical aspects of their new day to day life. It is also the company’s first opportunity to make them feel at home and like a valued new member of the team. Sure, they will know something about the company, they would have had interviews, done research, possibly gone through assessment centres, but this is different. It is a time where a company can ask itself the question “What do we want our employees to think of us?” If you want them to think of you as a company driven by a culture of “death by PowerPoint”, it might be best to stop reading now.

Onboarding does not stop in the first few days after the induction, though many may feel this way. A study for the Academy of Management journal found that the first 90 days of a person’s new job were essential for creating social connections and bonds to the company. If they felt supported during this time, then they felt more positive towards the company.

What Makes Good Onboarding Experiences

Baek and Bramwell of Cornell University conducted research into how you measure the effectiveness of onboarding. They concluded that one of the best measures of an effective onboarding experience was time to proficiency. They defined this as the time it took a new hire to reach full productivity within the context of their role.

For this to happen, a new employee needs to have a structured onboarding experience, with specifically defined outcomes, and an experience that is hopefully engaging to them. At the end of their onboarding employees need to have achieved four clear objectives for the best chance of ongoing success (Bauer et al):

  1. Role Clarity; employees understand their role, expectations with it, how to perform in order to achieve expected results
  2. Self-efficacy; employees feel confident in their ability to perform and contribute
  3. Social integration – employees feel connected, valued & trusted
  4. Knowledge of organisational culture; employees understanding and adjusting to company politics, social norms such as language, goals, values and history.

How We Approach Onboarding

Some are also of the firm belief that onboarding into a new company can (or should) actually start from the day a new employee signs on the dotted line. The time before they step foot on company property is ripe for helping them start to understand some of the basics about their new employer. Much of what would traditionally be done in a conference room over a few days, can be achieved online during the weeks they are waiting to start the new role.

Games and gamification are already being utilised in the attraction phases of recruitment, with games being created to simulate everything from a day in the life of a new employee to testing an employee’s soft skills.

Following that trend into the employment phase of an employee’s journey, we can make use of gamification to create unique and engaging experiences that keep them informed and interested up to and during their first few months of employment.

Creating these kinds of experiences takes time and expertise, balancing the needs and culture of the company with needs of the new employee.

We consider these weeks and months as a quest, creating a structure around what they need to learn and understand early on. Each stage or level of the quest represents new knowledge and experiences that will help them to learn. Focusing on intrinsic motivation, we choose mechanics that support the player’s with social connectedness, education and goals to focus on, all in an environment that promotes exploration and discovery at their own pace. To this we this we add mini-games and interactive learning materials all tied together with interesting narratives and storylines. This gives the players reasons to want to continue rather than just knowing they have to continue.

Good onboarding can lead to higher rates of retention in companies, some statistics quoting as much as 69% higher retention after 3 years for companies with great programmes. It gives employees the opportunity to feel at home and become productive faster. Don’t waste this key opportunity to create a more engaged workforce by relying on traditional or even default methods, simply because “That’s how it’s always been done”.

Early in my career I was working for a college as a learning technologist. This meant that I would help teachers design learning materials to put on to the learning management system. It was great fun and gave me the opportunity to work closely with the teachers and the students. We were a further education institution, focusing mostly on students aged between 16 and 18. It was fascinating to see the dynamic between them and the teachers on a day to day basis. Read more