August 13, 2013

Puzzled: Can Gamification Be Accurately Measured?

Gamification is a growing trend in all aspects of modern business. From customer loyalty to employee engagement, gamification is heralded as a powerful way to enhance results. Brief research will boast that gamification can lead to enormous gains for your products and workforce. But, how are these results actually measured? More importantly, can your business fully quantify the gains from gamification?

Gamification is a comprehensive and dynamic model where concrete results are extremely difficult to gather. Beyond the struggle of measuring the specific strategies you implement, there are ever-changing external factors that cloud the window of conclusive results. It can be easy to see effects in some capacity, but difficult to establish exact values. One of the biggest issues facing gamification analytics is the existence of both hard and soft concepts. Hard concepts are values that are easily measured like sales revenue or the amount of participants. However, soft concepts like employee morale and fun are difficult to measure with concrete values.

A strategy commonly suggested for enterprise gamification is to measure the desired goals before and after a system is impemented. Although this gives a rough estimate of success, it ignores important external factors and can lead to misleading conclusions. Another option is to use a control group. Implement gamification for one part of your sales team but keep another part of your team game-free. After several months, assess the differences in results between the two groups. Like before, it is helpful but not definitely conclusive. Moreover, neither of the strategy provides accurate information for long-term realization.

To make matters worse, properly assessing your results is essential for the long-term implementation of gamification. Foremost, evaluation is integral in establishing game design because there needs to be a way to determine if your game is really meeting the desired goals. If it isn’t, the results of your analysis must be used to alter the design of the game. Second, results are critical for determining the effectiveness of your monetary investment. Is the game worth your money? An increase in sales revenue is great, but if it is vastly overshadowed by the cost of implementing and maintaining the gamification procedures, your strategy and costs might need to be evaluated. On the flip side, how worthwhile is employee happiness? Although an increase in morale might not lead to an immediate numbers jump, the improved workplace could have significant long term benefits like employee retention and increased productivity.

With these complicated factors in mind, it becomes clear that determining criteria for success and a desired outcome will greatly improve your gamification investment. As we discussed with “3 Ways to Boost Your Employees’ Acceptance of Gamification,” it is a dynamic and ever-developing concept. It is a multi-faceted issue because it can introduce color into a previously black and white environment. There are aspects of gamification that elude conventional measurement and analysis, yet the great power and potential is clear. Hopefully as gamification grows, new frontiers for assessment will emerge.

Have any direct experience with measuring the returns of gamification? Share with the community in the comments below!

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