Ouvrir le menu

NEOMA's world

Thematics :

When a company’s human resources department offers employees motivational games on mobile devices, their engagement and job satisfaction rise, as do the company’s results. This is the conclusion of a study carried out by three co-authors, including Laura Ruiz and Ales Popovic from the NEOMA Business School, published in March 2022 in the journal Information and Management. It is a valuable finding, especially for firms whose growth is hindered by increasingly widespread trends such as disengagement and rising staff turnover.

Is it really a serious idea to offer employees game-like experiences dreamt up by HR that they can play on mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, PDAs and the like)? Especially when we know how much they cost? “Yes” reply the three authors of the study, who drew on the results of an in-depth survey, citing instances of companies that have jumped in with both feet.

Marriott Hotels, Microsoft and Disneyland banking on gamification

There is a great deal of varied feedback. As part of its recruitment process, Marriott asks candidates to simulate performing certain tasks. The US company LiveOps urges its call centre operatives to share their knowledge and connect with each other, while Microsoft uses games to encourage employees to identify selected performance indicators. In Spain, the supermarket chain Coviran targets its staff working in stores and logistics teams.

Yet, these initiatives do not always meet with success. Take the case of Disneyland, which came up with a game designed to make its laundry workers more productive. The employees, however, soon renamed the new system the “electronic whip” since it exacerbated competition between colleagues.

HR gamification: helping improve financial performance

Curiously, academic research has shown scant interest in this area, preferring to study the impact of gamification in education or the effects of certain game features (rankings, for instance) on player behaviour. All of which means that the authors have broken new ground with this study of 134 of the most prominent companies in Spain in highly varied sectors: distribution, banking and insurance, transport, manufacturing, agri-food, chemicals, and so forth. In each of these industries, the researchers quizzed the IT director or one of the senior executives.

Their main finding was this: mobile-enabled HR gamification contributes to a company’s financial performance by improving employee engagement, job satisfaction and results. In other words, mobile devices and their dedicated apps are resources that can be used to create value.

Games make day-to-day work more “engaging”

 This is an important lesson for companies that have reservations about the potential risks and costs of these initiatives. The management at Coviran, for instance, were opposed to the idea of gamification for a long time: they had to purchase numerous Microsoft 365 licences, and the cost-benefit ratio of the operation raised concerns.

Why do games on mobile devices boost employee engagement? The mix of competition and cooperation, together with the challenges and rewards – not to mention acceding to a higher status – generate expectations, suspense and curiosity. Day-to-day work becomes more “engaging” and may even evolve into an immersive experience if, for example, the game provides very quick feedback about the quality of the tasks undertaken.

Committed, proactive and constantly-improving employees

These mechanisms also fuel job satisfaction. If the game is well designed, it can turn into a byword for enjoyment, independence, personal expression and group belonging. It stimulates a feeling of efficiency and competence that boosts self-esteem: employees are then more incentivised to fully engage physically, cognitively and emotionally.

This high level of engagement and satisfaction explains why operational and financial results improve. Employees are not so distracted or disturbed by problems that are unrelated to their work; they are also better equipped to overcome obstacles and be innovative. Furthermore, they make more suggestions, spot opportunities, anticipate incidents and constantly seek to improve.

The fact that these games are played on mobile devices (rather than online or on desktops) means they make an even bigger impact. Mobile devices can be used anywhere, making it easy to connect with playing colleagues and partners. They also streamline data sharing since there are no compatibility or format problems. Furthermore, the games identify each player and come with customisation options: avatars, a choice between several rewards, the option to display scores, etc.

A lever to raise a company’s appeal and retain employees

The list of the beneficial outcomes of HR gamification is even more impressive given that the study’s authors arranged control variables to isolate the impact of other motivational factors: a positive internal climate; robust, consistent corporate values; autonomy when performing tasks, etc.

So, yes, using game-related elements is a “serious” option for enhancing your turnover, and decision-makers, HR teams and IT departments can appropriate them.

And yes again – porting games to a mobile device is more effective than online or desktop versions: it means they are omnipresent and improves connectivity, information sharing and personalisation.

Finally, in the context of 2023 when companies are struggling to recruit, motivate and retain employees, HR now has a new tool to address these challenges. And – the icing on the cake – they can demonstrate the positive return on investment.

Reference: Jose Benitez, Laura Ruiz and Ales Popovic, Impact of mobile technology-enabled HR gamification on employee performance: An empirical investigation, Information & Management- doi.org/10.1016/j.im.2022.103647