Pacman eating fruit

We’ve all switched on to a world where clarity of message is key. So what can we learn from gamification about finding innovative ways to engage employees?

I’ve recently fallen in love with the absurd charm of cryptic crosswords after making it my New Year’s resolution to finally get to grips with them. And as I’ve been learning the language of this peculiarly puzzling world, I’ve also been reading a lot about gamification, something of a buzzword in communications circles.

Gamification is bringing elements typically found in game design into non-game applications. It’s all about encouraging the sort of feedback loops that gaming typically creates – those feelings that entice people to have ‘one more go’ or move forward in their seat when they can’t help but become fully immersed.

See if you can crack this clue: Drugless socialist gathering moves inside before it begins investigating trips, minus Victoria and Albert, and promotes engagement (8,14).

To many of you it probably seems like a jumble of nonsense, but to some (I hope) it makes perfect sense.

Achievements and rewards

In internal communications, gamification can be as simple as tapping into people’s natural competitive instinct, or that dopamine hit that comes from unlocking achievements and rewards. It’s the same feeling that getting better at cryptic crosswords has brought out in me.

Gaming has become so prevalent that even those who’d never consider themselves ‘gamers’ are susceptible to its wiles. Just look at LinkedIn’s profile completion badges, Snapchat’s streak achievements or Codecademy’s progress bar.

But is gamification, like a cryptic clue, a clever and fun way of solving a problem (such as how to better engage your employees), or a headache-inducing complication that buries meaning below layers of unnecessary guff?

The truth is – as with most things – it can be both. But, used in the right circumstance to deliver the right message to the right audience, it can be an innovative way to engage.

Gamification and engagement

How about another, slightly simpler, cryptic clue: Period before wedding that measures attention of staff (10).

I came up with that one because I recently asked my girlfriend to marry me. After some thought, I realised that dropping down on one knee and simply asking the question wasn’t quite me. So, obviously, I devised a proposal based on the long-running US quiz show Jeopardy! that involved a homemade, interactive version of the quiz, with me as the host.

The final round was replaced with the big question – although in true Jeopardy! style it was posed as an answer, and required her to answer in the form of a question.

I hadn’t purposefully planned to gamify my proposal, but I knew my audience, got the timing right, and understood that the method of delivery would not only land, but be something both of us would always remember. Thankfully, the metrics I used to measure the impact of the experience were universally positive…

OK, so it’s a different type of engagement, but it’s a good example of how gamification can be used to deliver targeted messages that have a lasting impact.

Delivering messages in an innovative way

Gamification doesn’t mean making everything a game, by the way. It can be introducing certain elements to your content that are more typically found in games, whether that’s through leaderboards, quizzes, game-like storytelling or challenges.

It’s certainly not suitable for every message, but it’s a proven way of providing a bit more carrot with your content.

So if you’re looking to deliver messages to your employees in an innovative way, interested in how gamification could boost your employee engagement or just need to know the answers to my cryptic clues, give us a call or drop in for a cuppa.