What The Heck Is Gamification?

You may not know what gamification is, but it is coming to a workplace near you, and soon.  It consists of making any activity, including work activities, a game.  Not just "fun" but a competitive match, pitting employees against co-workers.  

The gamification industry refers to this new trend as fun and engaging.  I think it sounds Orwellian, where Big Brother tracks and monitors every action you take, or fail to take.  On Monday, January 19th, the Wall Street Journal described gamification as "getting people to do what they don't really want to do."  To that extent perhaps it won't be so bad.  Perhaps then I would assure myself that staff is keeping the dreaded filing up-to-date.  

But will head-to-head competition create a collegial workplace, or a cut-throat operation where only the strongest survive?  Will it eliminate teamwork and training?  Will it value results over ethics and relationships?  Who will input the factors or activities to be monitored, recorded And measured?  Will those reflect the company's values or just the bottom line?  What happens to those who finish low on the results chart?  

For HR professionals, gamification could replace evaluations.  Imagine that -- real time evaluations, measured with points accumulated or lost playing the game of work.  No more need to push supervisors to complete their evaluations.  No more guess work whether an employee is average or above average.  The game gives the employee his/her numbers and automatically awards high scores.  

The same video-addicted young workers who value their freedom and independence have created a game that controls their work environment.  Ironic isn't it!  

Whether you like this idea or not, the gamification industry claims its day has arrived.  If an activity can be quantified, it can be gamified.  Is that even a word?  Maybe not, but it's real.