A new software trend is turning the painful chore of annual employee reviews into something fun.
It's called social performance management—or, in a buzzword that's less redolent of "Office Space"'s TPS reports, "gamification."
Gamification means adding game-like features—challenges, levels, leaderboards, and badges—to work tasks.
Examples of companies offering this software, inspired by video games and Facebook apps, include Badgeville, Jam, Leaderboarded, NewsGator, Work.com.
The idea is expected to storm the enterprise by next year. Some 70 percent of the 2,000 largest businesses around the world will be managing at least one “gamified” application or system by 2014, market research firm Gartner predicts.
"Gamification offers engagement and motivation techniques to rally opposing forces to work toward collaborative goals," writes Gartner analyst Elise Olding.
To be sure, gamification has been overhyped in Silicon Valley, and it can have a gimmicky quality that may turn off employees if done wrong. As a productivity enhancer, it usually flops. The game effect will wear off, management will quit watching the game, and people will go back to their usual work patterns and productivity levels.
In organizational psychology, that's called the Hawthorne Effect.
But when it comes to employee feedback, gamification is a natural fit. That's because getting a pat on the back from your boss or coworkers never gets old. Gamification just makes those gestures easier and more public.
If the pat is immediate and visible to the whole company, like a badge on a leaderboard, it's even more effective than a private thank-you via email.
"Games do not wait to reward you: buildings collapse and make noise, scores increase instantly, and virtual money may even change hands. In real-world scenarios, however, an individual’s action may go totally unnoticed or unrewarded. Adding hyperfeedback to a process can provide the right reward at the right time," the Deloitte team wrote.
When the employee receives a constant stream of feedback, documented as challenges met or missed, there's may be no need to sit down for an annual recap. All you need to do is check the leaderboard.
NewsGator, a social-collaboration company, recently took a look at how gamification can fit into a company's overall employee software usage. Here's an infographic they used to explain it:
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