Farhad Manjoo has an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal on the gamification of the workplace.
In office gamification, employees are treated like gamers–they are measured, given points, and recognized/rewarded for meeting objectives as if you are playing an arcade game or Angry Birds.
The problem is that this is really nothing new and also not very motivating to the workforce.
Already in the Bible the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites by giving them ever crushing quotas for gathering straw and building the great pyramids.
And if they didn’t measure up, the Bible tells us that, “They made their lives bitter with harsh labor…the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.”(Deut. 1:14)
You see while measuring performance is a good and important part to managing and maturing processes and the workforce, tracking people in real life with plus ups for every good thing and minuses for every mistake or failure treats this whole thing as one big game, but it’s not.
A mature adult workforce doesn’t need points and bonus time for doing their jobs, and shouldn’t be made to fear losing their jobs for not meeting their daily numbers.
Even Manjoo admits that he dreads working in a work environment where everything is measured and monitored to the nth-degree.
He says that even in a field like Journalism, he feels undue pressure to produce and that “every time I write a story that doesn’t make the paper’s most-popular list, I consider it a tiny failure. If I do that too many times in a row, I begin to wonder if I should look for a new line of work.”
Now perhaps, many of you are saying, that if you can’t perform at expectations, maybe you should be looking for another job, but the point is that performance measurement should be humane–working toward the long-term benefit of the company and the development of the employees–and not one miss and it’s “Game Over!”
Gamification software, like Badgeville, that gives points for everything from creating a sales lead to responding to a lead and converting a lead to sales opportunities is nothing short of childish micromanagement.
Employees shouldn’t treated like children working for points and prizes and titles like “Super Converter” or “Super Dealer” (like in the demo video), but rather should be treated as professionals, who work for the mission and based on an ethos of excellence, where they are committed to doing their best for the organization, and the organization is committed to developing them and making them a ever better and satisfied workforce–not making them feel like they are coming to a surveillance, tracking, and fear-inspired workplace.
Can gamification have a place in creating some healthy workplace competition and fun? Sure, but when it’s masquerading as a serious tool to engineer people to do their jobs and have a meaningful career, then someone in the C-suite has been playing Farmville a little too long.
My father used to tell me, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” and employees will be far more motivated if they know you are working with them as a team to “get to the next level” rather than infantilizing and prodding them with ridiculous amounts of workplace surveillance to force them to collect more straw and build more pyramids. 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)