Employee Engagement and Gamification in Retail

I recently saw Kenexa Institute’s 2012 WORKTRENDS REPORT, “THE WORLD OF RETAIL: HOW EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT CAN HELP THE REGISTERS RING”. Two things struck me:

There is a strong correlation between employee engagement and productivity, quality, competitiveness and turnover. It may sound obvious, but companies with high employee engagement scores perform much better than companies with poor engagement scores.

In worldwide testing, employee engagement scores at Retail were worse than any other industry.

The causes of the poor scores at Retail can be attributed to many factors including the age group, the high percentage of seasonal and part time employment and fewer long term employees.

Even though a number of these factors are baked in to the business models of many retailers, it doesn’t mean that we should accept substandard performance and poor customer service at our stores. That is a sure guarantee to send our customers seeking better alternatives down the street or on the Internet.

So, how do we improve employee engagement? There is no simple one-size-fits-all solution. In his book, Employee Engagement 2.0 , author Kevin Cruse suggests that the core of any employee engagement program must include Communication, Growth, Recognition and Trust.

These are also some of the driving principles underlying Games and Gamification:

Communication – game mechanics provide a constant stream of information and timely feedback to enable players to make the best decisions possible; social games go even further making communications part of game play.

Growth – success in most games is dependent on acquiring new skills and knowledge and then learning to deploy them. Aaron Dignan, in Game Frame, makes the point that as human beings, we are wired to learn and to feel good about learning.

Recognition – games provide recognition to players for achievement in a timely fashion by awarding points, levels and badges. In addition, many games feature Leader Boards to allow players to see how they stack up to the other players in the game.

Trust – players trust that they will be scored and evaluated fairly and consistently based on a common set of rules.

When you consider these factors along with the young age of a large percent of our associates, you realize that activities grounded in game mechanics can serve as a highly effective structure for organizing and delivering employee engagement programs.    .

Just as retailers have unique cultures and go-to-market strategies, employee engagement programs come in many shapes and colors. Gamification should not be viewed as an end-all, be-all engagement solution. Gamification should be thought of more as a delivery mechanism for a well considered employee engagement strategy. Especially for those organizations where it is essential to engage a young and transient workforce, gamification may be the most effective way to organize and structure an employee engagement program that will deliver tangible results.

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