Three-quarters of employees want gamified rewards system, survey suggests

25 Apr 2019 By Francis Churchill

But experts warn of ‘pitfalls’ of gamification, and that workers may just be seeking better recognition for their contributions

Over three-quarters of employees would welcome the introduction of a gamified rewards system by their managers, a survey has found.

Out of 1,000 employees polled, 79 per cent said they would like to see a gamified bonus system introduced in which achievements or good behaviours are reinforced by giving out points or small rewards.

However, experts said this might be an indication that employees want more feedback and recognition of their contributions and their efforts rather than any particular type of incentive package.

The survey, conducted by One4all Rewards, found half of employees had any form of gamification in their workplace, and that less than half of employers (48 per cent) currently offer gamified rewards or incentives to their employees.

Gamification is a management style where elements of competition and rewards are built into the role to motivate and incentivise employees. Traditionally, this is through non-cash incentives, such as virtual prizes, progression up leaderboards or other gifts, but can also be part of a cash bonus scheme.

The report claimed organisations were deterred from using these sorts of incentives because of their added complexity.

Alan Smith, UK managing director at One4all Rewards said: “Some companies shy away from rewards systems based on gamification; however they are not only incredibly powerful, but they can be quite cost effective as they rely on giving out small rewards rather than large bonuses.

He added it was understandable that companies used to making one-off bonus payments at the end of the financial year would be hesitant to introduce a more complex system, but said there were a number of ways managers could manage the introduction of a gamified system.

The report said communication was key when rolling out a gamified benefits system, with one in four (25 per cent) of respondents saying they would want clear communication about the system from the start.

However, Charles Cotton, CIPD senior performance and reward adviser, said the research might indicate employees more generally might be looking for more feedback and recognition of good work.

“What’s important is employees being rewarded and recognised for their contributions in a frequent and supportive way,” Cotton said.

“Gamification is one way of doing that, but there are others, and what the organisation should be thinking about is ‘how can we be better at recognising the contribution and achievement of our employees in ways that add value to our organisation’ – then think about what means they should go down.”

He added that gamification had its pitfalls, and suggested businesses consider it as an incentive tool to be used in specific situations and to be constantly monitored.

One such concern would be “crowding out”, where employees become so concerned with winning incentives that other business objectives fall by the wayside. “It’s important for the organisation to think, if this was to happen, what could be the unintended consequences,” said Cotton.

“What research seems to indicate is, to work, games need to be designed to build in scope, autonomy and control. If it’s quite controlling and people don’t have much autonomy then it probably isn’t going to have as much impact as would be hoped.”

He added that the power of a lot of incentives, both cash and non-cash, can erode very quickly as employees get used to them, so businesses need to think about adapting their processes.

The study follows findings earlier this month that poor management was one of the main causes of declining productivity in the UK.

Official data on the UK’s labour output per hour, released last week, predicted productivity growth of just 0.2 per cent in 2019, down from 0.8 per cent in 2017 and 0.5 per cent in 2018. The Bank of England (BoE) said this represents a widening gap between the UK and other large, mature economies.

Andy Haldane, BoE’s chief economist, blamed poor management practices for the sluggish productivity growth, and added that businesses refused to invest in skills, lean management practices or new machinery.

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