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Can gamification drive your career success? [Podcast]

by Stephen Danos

Roughly 2.5 billion people around the world regularly play video games. While you probably shouldn’t sneak off to play Fortnite during work hours, in the future your job might include a gamified component that rewards you — whether you need to exceed sales goals, launch products on time, or close several service requests per day.

Gamification is nothing new when it comes to consumer brands (think Cracker Jack prizes and loyalty reward programs). But companies specializing in gamification for specific job functions from cybersecurity to sales are raising money and entering new markets to help improve employee engagement. 

A person hold a video game controller

OZY’s podcast episode The Future of Gamification: Your Product Just Launched. That’s 100 Points. delves into countering employee disengagement with gamification, the pitfalls of leaning too heavily on gamification, and how we can model collaborative work after how gamers (yes, gamers) interact when they’re playing online games that require precise cooperation to succeed.

Smartsheet partnered with OZY to produce the second season of the podcast, Future of X, which explores not-so-distant trends that are shaping the workplace of the future.

Lisa Bodell, CEO of FutureThink, believes that employees are locked into daily competition with their peers and themselves to see who can accumulate the most busyness at work. “We think that that’s value,” Bodell said. “But at the end of the day [when] they’re reflecting on what they did today, it’s hard for them to recall a lot of things of value.”

“We also now elevate everything to the same level of importance,” Bodell continues. “Every mean email, every meeting, and every phone call has to have some action or immediate response. There's kind of this false urgency that's happened.”

So, how do we wriggle free from the persistent gloom of disengagement due to these daily business chores? As Keisha Howard, CEO and founder of Sugar Gamers, points out, people often learn to collaborate through playing games; they’re like a primer for potential real-life experiences. 

“Gamification is something that I believe just comes naturally to all of us,” Howard believes that it gives people “a very quick way to relate to one another...I can absolutely see a game like Fornite teaching some sort of mechanic that's intrinsic to teamwork.”

However, gamification does have its limitations. Gene Farrell, chief product officer at Smartsheet, envisions gamification as useful for promoting a desired outcome. However, he warns against over-indexing on gamification for its own sake:

“There is a line where the gamification elements start to become either a complete turnoff or at a minimum, a nuisance. If you’re in a real hurry to get something done, and you open your business tool, and it asks you to complete some task in order to get to the next level or unlock an emoji, I’m just going to be ticked off because I need to get to whatever work it is I need to get done.”

Companies need to consider that their workforce is made up of people from multiple generations with different levels of experience with gamification. Farrell thinks millennials and Gen Z workers are “more receptive to achievement-based and more interactive types of gamification in their work apps.” 

While gamification might work for some, there’s no denying that gamers are reinventing the labor market. The key is to remember that gamification is a tactic to get people excited about their work and collaborating better, so they can dive headfirst into any project, deliver results, and spread a sense of achievement.

To find out more about the future of work — and how best to prepare for it —  listen and subscribe to the OZY podcast series The Future of X: The Workplace