A man gives feedback to a team member and awards a badge as a reward

Lead Developer Nuwan De SilvaAt PDW, we strive to use innovative features and concepts to enhance user experience. In this article, PDW’s Lead Developer, Nuwanjith De Silva discusses how Gamification can increase user engagement.

Gamification is when you use game-design principles and elements in a non-game environment. It can be an incredible tool to motivate users to engage with the software on a regular basis.

The idea first became popular with the Foursquare mobile app which encouraged users to “check-in” to locations they regularly visited, if you checked-in enough you could become “mayor”.

Foursquare’s platform was used as a way to gather information on local hotspots, they now operate a City Guide website that uses the data they collected, but developers soon took on their ethos of turning “life into a game.”

Since then, many businesses have adopted gamification as a part of their software: Fitbit encourages users to exercise by rewarding them with badges when they reach a milestone, and navigation app Waze encourages users to report road information such as construction and heavy traffic by offering points that are used to upgrade their avatar.

I first came across the concept whilst conducting a research study as a part of my post-graduate dissertation. I attempted to use an application to raise people’s awareness of how the food they consume impacts the environment with the hope that their behaviour would change when shown evidence.

A summary of a user's points and badges on the PDW learning management system
Rewards Summary on Immerse Learning

Users were encouraged to keep a food diary, then, using a database of information about the amounts of energy and emissions used in the production of that food, they were shown the impact the growth, production, and transportation their meal had on the environment.

I decided to use gamification to encourage users to continue using the application as I did not believe that simply telling them about the problem would be enough of an incentive to change their behaviour.

A leaderboard was created so users could compete with other participants in the study to see who could reduce the amount of emissions they were responsible for most, and badges were awarded to the users with the lowest total emissions.

One Participant said:

This is when I realised that gamification can be used in a professional environment to make applications used for employee management more enjoyable, increase user engagement and that it can motivate people to complete objectives.

The PDW HR's gamified feedback tool
The feedback tool on Immerse

At PDW, we believe that the key to a business’ success is its people. When a company has a team who are passionate about what they do, are keen to learn more and develop their skills, and can communicate with each other as well as clients effectively, the company benefits. We also know that complacency is a part of human nature and any form of encouragement to keep teams on track can be incredibly helpful.

Because of this, we have been gradually incorporating aspects of gamification into some of our own applications in order to promote positive behaviour as well as to encourage its use.

Our world-class online HR management system, Immerse, includes peer-to-peer recognition and feedback tool. This feature lets employees show appreciation to one another on an informal and frequent basis. This promotes a positive work environment where an employee’s successes and contributions are celebrated, but it also encourages people to appreciate their colleagues. The feature incorporates the ability to add a badge to your feedback making the feedback even more memorable and impactful.

We believe that the greatest opportunity for gamification in business is in training and e-learning. The only way to ensure staff are maintaining high standards and implementing good practice, as well as striving for self-improvement, is through continuous training and assessment.

The PDW leaderboard showing ranking of a team's learning progress
The leaderboard on the PDW Learning Management System

As formal classroom-based training isn’t easily available in all workplaces, the most cost-effective and convenient way of doing this is with e-learning. The difficulty is in getting employees to partake in this e-learning, the material in traditional e-learning systems can often be dry and demotivating which can lead to them “just ticking the boxes” and not actually internalising the content or developing themselves.

With this in mind, we designed our Learning Management System (LMS) with user engagement as our main priority. As experts in e-learning, we recognise that in order for people to learn and develop they need to love learning. We strive to bring out the competitive side in everyone by including leaderboards to celebrate those taking their development seriously and we reward them with badges, trophies, and points. As well as company-wide leaderboards, we include team rankings to drive them towards making themselves better at what they do.

Our development of the LMS took gamification to a new level when we decided it was possible to directly evolve learning into a game format using elements like the Gameboard and “Question of the Day” rewards to encourage users to continue their development on a regular basis.

At PDW we believe gamification can be an incredible tool to increase employee engagement and development. If you want to talk to us about how this can help your business, our team would love to hear from you.

This blog makes reference to publications on gamification by experts such as Deterding S and others.

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