Employee referral programs suffer from perpetually low participation rates, an average of up to only 20%. The majority of employees are not actively involved due to unawareness or indifference. Introducing gamification into the program can change this: you’ll drive more excitement and engagement, resulting in an increase in resumes – and since employees will be motivated to bring in excellent referrals, you will have a first-rate talent pool to sift through.
Background of Gamification
Gamification uses game mechanics to drum up excitement by systematically engaging and rewarding participation in a non-game activity. Science supports this concept: when you play games and receive rewards, the dopamine levels – a.k.a. positive behavior reinforcement – in your brain are stimulated. These play a major role in getting you chemically ‘hooked’ on the game, activating a feeling of “Wow, this is fun, I want to keep playing so that I will keep getting rewarded!” (And lest you think that you are immune to this so-called brainwashing, be aware that we are surrounded by examples of gamification everywhere – frequent flyer programs, anyone?)
Focus on Enterprise Gamification
To understand the relevance of gamification within referral programs, we first need to grasp the importance of using it in the everyday workplace. Enterprise gamification is a trendy new buzzword, in which the goal is to motivate the workforce. Indeed, recent research by Gartner has found that around 70% of large-sized companies will implement some sort of game mechanics into their workplaces by 2014.
And you’ve no doubt heard of the various players in this field, such as BigDoor, Badgeville, Bunchball and Rypple. These gamification platforms have one universal trait: they use game mechanics to tackle a problem (such as low employee engagement, sales rates, or general employee productivity) and solve it. It’s not about turning the office into an amusement park; obviously, everybody is there to be productive. But, as Kyle Lagunas of Software Advice explains, “gamifying a process leverages basic elements of gaming (e.g. levelling-up, progress bars) to enhance user experience and motivate employees to take a more active role in the work (be it learning or otherwise).”
And the experts agree – gamification can work for work. Mario Herger, technology strategist at SAP Labs, says that while some might critique this approach, with the claim that games are for kids, the statistics speak for themselves – the average gamer is about 37-years-old (indeed, Gen-X – not even the youth of Gen-Y who were weaned on this stuff!)
In her 2010 TEDTalk, Jane McGonigal, renowned game designer and researcher, states that, “We feel we’re not as good in reality as we are in games,” and that when we play games, we are “inspired to collaborate, and to cooperate.” When we fail in real life, we feel sad and downtrodden. But when we fail in games, we are that much more motivated to pick ourselves up and prove to ourselves – and others – that we can “beat the boss” of the game (no pun intended). It therefore follows that gamifying work tasks would drive better results.
How can gamification be implemented within referral programs? Stay tuned for Part 2 – Sigal’s Six Tips to Implement Enterprise Gamification in Referral Programs!