Gamification: Turning Corporate Responsibility Into An Authentic And Fun Experience

A lot has been said about the Great Resignation being tied to corporate culture, compensation, and the emotional impact of Covid-19. Whatever the reasons for the exceptionally high turnover rates in today’s employment market, I submit that companies were likely going to find it challenging to recruit and maintain skilled employees as the 2010s became the 2020s.

As older generations retire and younger workers advance through organizational structures, the corporate culture is changing to reflect the needs of the incoming workforce.

Both Millennials and Generation Z bring with them a strong commitment to social causes. According to findings from CCS Fundraising, 51% of Millennials donate to charity every year. Gen Z places even more importance on the idea of social good––according to Deloitte, 77% of Gen Z say that working for an organization whose values align with their own is important.

People are putting their money where their mouths are. According to the 2021 Charitable Giving Report, prepared by Blackbaud, a cloud software company powering social good, last year overall giving in the U.S. grew by 9% in 2021—the largest increase since 2012.

This new generation of workers is looking for organizations whose sense of purpose aligns with their own along with elusive work-life balance to focus during the work hours on the causes that matter most to them. In addition to being passionate about social responsibility, this generation is known for being true digital natives. They have never lived in a world without the web and have little patience for outdated tools they view as both inefficient and boring.

Most savvy business owners know that lip service in a mission statement won’t convert to real employee retention and engagement. But everything in the workplace happens so rapidly these days that it’s difficult to know where to begin with implementing a real change for good.

In a recent study conducted by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence on behalf of Games for Good, 78% of those 14 to 18 years old identified themselves as socially conscious individuals who see online gaming as a vehicle for doing good.

This trend isn’t lost on corporate social responsibility professionals worldwide. Many Americans work for companies with charitable-donation matching programs. However, as much as $7 billion in potential corporate donations go unused every year simply because those giving are unaware that their employers’ gift matching programs exist.

Today, Microsoft matches each employee’s donations of money (dollar for dollar) and time ($25 per hour) to nonprofits, up to $15,000 a year. Microsoft’s employee giving program, coined “dollars for doers” has generated $1.7 billion since its inception. Employees can choose from Microsoft’s database of more than 55,000 nonprofits, and if they don’t see the one they love, they can nominate it to be added.

​​The Coca-Cola Company provides a 2:1 philanthropic match, up to $20,000 in contributions per employee or retiree each year.

ExxonMobil offers multiple employee-giving programs including matches to other eligible organizations. However, they reward employees for volunteering their time. For every 20 hours an employee volunteers, the company donates $500 ($25 per hour volunteered.).

Much like a game, these programs include rules, points, and rewards and recognize employees’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. There are a variety of methods for turning corporate responsibility into an authentic and fun experience. For organizations without the resources to create a custom gamification program, here are some tips based on my experience as the chief creative officer of a gamification company.

1. Find the right motivation.

Games work by tapping into the things that are important to the players. This includes intrinsic things, like money that is contributed directly to causes, but it might also include employees feeling like they are part of something, getting something done, building a community, getting recognition and accomplishing their goals.

There are lots of ways to dig into the motivation of your employees, like using personality tests or observing performance. But the best way is usually just to ask. Use surveys or a simple voting system to find out what your workers want to work for.

2. Keep it simple.

Once you know what motivates your employees, you can come up with a gamified construct to help them achieve those goals. The key here is to create a platform or outlet that everyone can easily understand and participate in. Adding too many steps or requirements leads to workers getting lost and giving up. Communicate exactly what you want them to do and then follow up.

Visuals really help here. Think about the “thermometers” used in elementary schools to track progress and help kids see how far they need to go to reach a goal. Use something familiar to your audience to assist in communicating what is happening.

3. Get constant feedback.

Every project can be improved by listening to participants and making adjustments as needed. If a gamified approach is not working (and even if it is), check in with workers to find out how they think it’s going. What are the roadblocks to them fully engaging with the giveback program? What are their favorite parts?

Asking the right questions inevitably leads to effective gamification solutions.

Corporations are embracing gamification to enhance employee engagement. It can easily be tied to outside causes, helping solidify the organization’s commitment to doing social good and prioritizing employee passions. Not only can a gamified approach help to attract and retain skilled workers, but it can actually help raise more money and do more good for the causes and organizations that are important to you and your brand. Why not be good at what you do and put some good out into the world while you do it?

First Published for Forbes Human Resources Council by The Game Agency’s Head of Creative Strategy & Innovation Stephen Baer as a member of Forbes Human Resources Council Member

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