It’s always fascinated me to see how gamers get hooked to long hours of gameplay without fatigue. I started to look at the characteristics of gaming which get such high level of engagement from the gamers. Are there any lessons organizational leadership can learn? Is there an environment you can provide which makes employees feel happy and totally committed to the job? Can you create a workspace where people feel that its closer to their dream job?
If you think that the key elements which contribute to a highly engaged employee is a ‘high paid’ and ‘easy’ job you are mistaken. Our two decades of research into the causes which account for a highly motivated and engaged employee provided evidence on the contrary.
Here are the 6 characteristics which game designers use to build games that suck you in for hours on end.
- Compelling story line – With all the popular games you will find a compelling story which stimulates some of the base emotional needs of any individual. Something like the ‘victory of good over bad’, war, mystery, fight, race against time, competition etc. Anything which will provide an adrenaline rush. It also provides visibility of a higher goal which will be achieved by being part of the story. As leaders you must ask – ‘Do I have a compelling story to tell to my people?’; ‘Will it excite them enough to be part of the journey?’ ‘Will the story satisfy all their basic human needs?’
- Clearly defined goals – as with any game there is are clear goals to be achieved and they are made visible as part of the initial storyboard. The gamer is not just shown a clear path moving from one level to the other but also provided with a visual of how it looks like at the next level. It also gives them a clear vision of their performance goals and the benefits of achieving them. Mind you, this is not one time – each time the gamer reboots the system, it starts with the screen showing the levels he has already unlocked and the one’s yet to accomplish. This keeps him focused and raring to go. The human mind is designed to unlock the mysteries of life and that is the very emotion it triggers when the gamer finds locked levels in front of him. As he knows what awaits him in the next level, he strives hard to reach there. Similarly, leaders must provide a complete storyboard of the career path for each employee and a visual of what he will accomplish at each level. This story shouldn’t be one time or just during performance reviews; it should be a daily visual. That’s the only way you can keep your employees engaged. Remember, employee engagement is not a fancy which you indulge in from time to time but a sustained effort which will surely pay dividends in the long run.
- Training and skilling – every game provides initially a training level of the complete gameplay. The gamer is provided with complete information of the steps and necessary skills to play the game with ease. Simulation is provided where immediate feedback is given and alternative methods shown to achieve game tasks. This ensures that the gamer is comfortable before he takes on a particular level. Training levels greatly improves the confidence of the gamer before jumping into the actual scenario as it is non-threatening and fun. He is allowed to fail as many times as he wants just for him to learn the nuances of the gameplay. As leaders you must look at employee training and upskilling as an essential part of engagement. I find that training always takes a back seat in the face of daily urgencies and also takes the first hit when there are cost cutting measures. This doesn’t really help.
- Freedom in how you perform tasks – while most of the gameplay scenarios are pre-defined and the path is set out very clearly for the gamer; the games provide enough flexibility to perform tasks. In games you find that at each level, the gamer is provided with the flexibility to choose his weapon and ammunition of choice, the vehicles, the money he wishes to carry etc. This gives him the feeling of involvement and the power of choice. When the gamer feels that he is making the choices at each level, he feels in control and is totally engaged. As leaders you must see if your work provides your employees the freedom required to do their tasks their way. While guidelines will be there in your company, it should not be perceived as constraining with limited choice. Innovation, initiative and creativity should not be mere lip service.
- Feedback to let you know how you are doing? – in all games there is continual feedback on the progress the gamer is making. For example, he is clearly shown when his health is deteriorating and when his health has improved or reached high levels. You must as leaders ensure that the feedback process is not one time or only during performance reviews but continual. It gives your employees complete awareness of the progress they are making on a daily basis. If there is one tool that you can use to manage and develop performance – it is the use of feedback.
- Visible rewards and recognition dashboards – leaderboards and rewards are the ways in which games provide the gamer with a sense of accomplishment. It also helps him compare his performance with the rest of the gamers in the world. It keeps him motivated to do better and better every day and turn out with strategies to win. You will see that these leaderboards are visible and constantly available on screen for the gamer to see where he stands in terms of gaming points and rank against the rest. Likewise leadership should not be afraid of publishing leader boards and make it visible at all times for employees to feel competitive at the same time remain motivated towards higher levels of achievement. Who doesn’t like to be on the podium at least once in their life after all?
Do you have more lessons to share?