The Buzz on Gamification

As I’ve been conducting my research to find resources for my daily blog posts, I seemed to be spotting the word “gamification” popping up more and more. I became intrigued once I saw this term trending on a more regular basis and finally decided to investigate what all the hype was about. I had figured that it had something to do with video games or gaming of the sort, so you could imagine my pleasant surprise when I learned that it was much more than that. Gamification does involve some of the structure and competitive aspects of games, but this trend is used to help increase employee and/or customer engagement. Needless to say, the topic was perfect for my post today.

In short, gamification is the concept of integrating game-like function and processes into non-gaming activities. Some common consumer examples of this would be frequent flyer miles for airlines or hotel upgrades for hotel chains. However, gamification has taken on a whole new form for human resources. Companies now use this concept as a tool for recruiting, employee engagement, recognition/rewards, and employee wellness programs. Some examples of these are as follows:

  • Recruiting: Companies have created games that are similar to Facebook’s Farmville or The Sims, but customized a structure that is relevant to the company and job function. The idea is for candidates to virtually display their abilities to multitask, perform job functions, and handle unexpected issues. Recruiters are able to see the candidates’ activity and distinguish which individuals clearly display the competency and experience needed to successfully perform the job duties. It is considered to be a virtual way to “test drive” candidates before hiring them.
  • Employee Engagement: Gamification can tap into employees’ competitive side which will increase their motivation to do certain tasks. This can also help employees be more engaged while doing boring, mind-numbing functions.  In addition to motivation, this tool can allow employees to collaborate easily and work as a team towards organizational goals. Collaboration can help employees build relationships with one another which will also increase employee engagement.
  • Recognition/Rewards: Gamification can allow managers to see which employees are putting in the effort and also determine which employees have the qualities that are worthy of reward or promotion. This can give all employees an even playing field instead of allowing the more outgoing employees to have the upper hand in catching management’s attention. On the other hand, if a company does not have the resources for monetary rewards (which can be common with the downturn of the economy), gamification can give employees awards and recognition. Even a simple thank you or virtual award can go a long way with employees.
  • Health/Wellness Programs: Gamification can be a fantastic way to get your employees on a healthier track. For example, I worked at a company where majority of employees sat through their shifts and obesity and health issues were becoming a problem. The company started a contest where employees were to set exercise goals and log their workouts on an online website for three months. At the end of the contest, the individual that lost the most weight and/or inches would win an iPad. Employees loved this contest. Even if they did not win the prize, they still felt like winners because they had now made a workout regimen routine and were seeing results.

Gamification can help make HR professionals’ jobs a lot easier and also provide some great benefits for employees. Employees will feel happier going to work, can grow professionally, prove that they’re worthy of promotion, and can even help their health. I suggest that more companies take a look at which “games” would be useful to their company and test it out. The results may be interesting!

More information on gamification:

Forbes: Gamification: Three Ways To Use Gaming For Recruiting, Training, and Health & Wellness.

Gamification Summit Videos.

Gamification.org

Employers and Brands Use Gaming to Gauge Engagement.

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Micromanagement Kills Productivity

The other day I had posted a conversation on Ted.com and was delighted to get an interesting comment. This individual had mentioned that her ideal employer would be one that explains why we do certain processes. Also, another ideal quality would be an employer that does not micromanage. I was so glad that these things were brought up because it is a subject that my peers have passionately discussed in the past. Why do managers think that micromanaging is actually helping? In reality, it does more harm than good.

To start, I’m going to dive into this post by discussing the first part of this person’s comment: why the company exists and why do we do the procedures. Nothing is worse than being trained by someone who only shows you how to go through the motions but doesn’t give an explanation. It is important for employers to train in a way that allows employees to get a full understanding of why they do certain things and how it impacts the business. If all an employer does is train an employee how to do “A. B. and C.” and nothing further, then the employee’s thought process most likely will end there.

A good training program should almost be like a story. For example, a trainer should show an employee how to do “function A.” but also explain what that function’s purpose is and why it’s important to the company. Giving this background and additional information will allow employees to have a clearer picture and retain information easier. Additionally, giving employees those details can allow them to be innovative. If an employee truly understands why they do specific tasks, they may be able to figure out a better and more efficient way to get to the end result. Essentially, you’re allowing employees to have the knowledge and ability to take their job duties a step further.

Once the employees get the swing of things, managers need to learn how to loosen up on their micromanagement. It is perfectly OK to mentor them this way in the beginning since new hires are bound to make a few mistakes through the first few months, but managers need to eventually give them room to do their job without breathing down their necks. Micromanagers feel like they need to be in control of things because they believe that is the only way they can ensure results. Contrary to their belief, it actually kills productivity rather than helps.

These employees were hired for a reason: they are competent; they are educated; and they have experience. In other words, this isn’t their first rodeo. Once they learn the basics of how your company works, what the processes are, and what the expectations are, then they should be good go. If they are micromanaged after that point, it can cause a few issues:

• Employees will be distracted by constant monitoring.
• Employees will feel like they aren’t trusted by the employer.
• It will cause stress and frustration.
• It will limit employees’ feelings of empowerment, accountability, and responsibility.
• Micromanaged timelines may actually slow down efficient employees.
• Constant updates and status meetings will take time away from the actual task at hand.
• It will kill employees’ drives to be creative, innovative, and find better solutions.
• It will make employees question their abilities and limit their professional growth.
• It will make employees feel disrespected.
• And—it’ s just generally suffocating.

When I was recruiting, I used to hate it when I received a job order alert, and within a minute my manager was hounding me about filling the order. At that point, I had barely even got time to read the job requirements before she was down my back. (I often wondered if she had some sort of super power to read the e-mail and get to my desk that fast). Anyway, she started to come off hostile by doing this and employee morale went down tremendously. The stress from being micromanaged caused employees to be unhappy at work to the point where absenteeism and turnover became high. Without these employees present, the company lost a lot of business because there wasn’t enough manpower to keep them competitive.

If you want employees to be happy and engaged, then give them the freedom to do their work. They are capable professionals. The best thing a manager can do is to give employees clear goals and timelines then allow them to work on it without having their every move observed. Even without micromanaging, managers can still make themselves available to the employees if they have questions or need guidance. Perhaps this is a suggestion to keep both ends happy?

If you’re a micromanager, please try to loosen up the control a bit. Your employees will appreciate you for it and you may end up discovering that giving them the empowerment will allow them to be more productive. Giving them the “why” in their training can allow them to be exceptional employees without the need for hand-holding.

Links:
Ted.com
Forbes-How to Manage a Micromanager

Is Workplace Bullying Affecting your Performance?

Today’s topic references a discussion that I had posted to the LinkedIn:HR group a few months ago. The discussion asked HR professionals and employees to contribute stories of workplace bullying and also offer suggestions on how they have or would have handled it. The amount of feedback I’ve received is astounding and made me feel that it is a good subject to bring to light. This was especially true when I learned that some employees kept quiet about hostile situations that they were in. I originally chose HR as a degree because I wanted to be able to protect my employees. Hopefully, this information can bring a sense of awareness to victimized employees and help them learn what they can do to remedy this scenario.

First, I’m going to start this off with an example of workplace bullying that happened to a friend. I felt this was appropriate because a decent amount of individuals had similar stories:

My friend, Anna*, was recently working for a well known employer that had a great reputation. However, there was poor management at this particular branch. Over a course of a year, Anna would come to me extremely upset about things her manager had said to her. These things would range from criticizing her looks, talking down to her, inappropriately yelling at her (even outside of the office), and making offensive comments about her competency. I’ve worked with Anna before, so I was well aware that she was a respectable employee, a fast learner, and a self-starter. I urged Anna to talk to the Human Resources department about the hostile work environment, but she brushed it off saying she was being an emotional woman and didn’t want to rock the boat for no reason.

Within the first few months of her employment there, I started to see the bullying take a toll on her work performance and her personal life. These negative effects are also common in most cases of bullying and harassment:

• She had heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
• Insomnia from the stress ended up lowering her immune system, causing her to get sick often.
• She was absent more than normal.
• She lowered her productivity to avoid being publicly criticized in a hostile way.
• Her self-esteem hit an all time low which led to depression.
• Her husband found her to be inconsolable, which caused strain on their relationship.

After a year of this, she finally contacted the human resources department about this situation. She soon found out that several other employees were also being affected by this but were scared of losing their jobs, so they did not speak up. The HR professional stressed that Anna should have come to him sooner because they take this very seriously. Although the problem was taken care of soon after, the damage was already done. Anna and several other employees promptly left the company because they did not believe that the solution to fix the hostility issue would be permanent and did not want to deal with it if it wasn’t.

Anna’s case seemed to be very common. However, individuals also informed me of extreme cases in which the bullying led to depression that sometimes resulted in suicide. Besides the frequent or extreme cases of workplace bullying, there are also more subtle circumstances. Some examples of these are: constant criticism; regular referencing of an employee’s mistakes (especially in front of others, causing embarrassment); gossip; and even isolation.

Another important fact to keep in mind: workplace bullying also affects other employees besides the targeted individual. Because of this, workplace morale can be lowered by each situation co-workers witness. Lower morale can hinder productivity from these employees. If it isn’t handled, this can also lead to lack of trust in higher level of management. Employees could feel like their well-being is threatened. These feelings could result in high turnover.

Different HR professionals informed me of multiple ways they bring awareness to workplace bullying:

• Training for all levels employees on the subject.
• An online class that ends with a test to determine how well the employees understand.
• Emphasis on a bullying policy that is separate from their harassment policy.
• Partnership with an anonymous hot-line in which employees could call if they don’t feel comfortable directly speaking to a manager.

Employees must realize that if a manager isn’t stepping in to resolve this, it may be because they aren’t aware that it’s occurring. If you are an employee and feel like you are being bullied, be sure to keep a record of the incidences and speak to your manager or HR department as soon as possible. Your mental, physical, and emotional well-being is important. I am confident that your employer would want to keep you as healthy and happy as possible.

*Name changed for privacy.

Links with additional information on the topic:
Bullying Statistics
Forbes- 10 Signs You’re Being Bullied at Work
Forbes- Examples of Workplace Bullying

Finding a Company Fit through the Interview Process

For those who have read some of my previous blogs, I’m sure you can see that I enjoy writing about finding a fit between candidate and company. I strongly believe that job seekers can find what will make them happiest if they spend time determining their values and what they truly want out of an employer. If they have the luxury of time, I typically urge people to hold out for a company that can offer them the closest to their ideal. If not, then I suggest for those who need to take a job for financial reasons to still continue to search for their perfect situation. Although this information is all fine and dandy, it does not give suggestions or tips for what happens once you land an interview.

So, let’s fast forward a bit. Let’s say you took the time to dig deeper into your inner self and were able to determine what you really wanted out of a company and job. After a little soul searching you were able to find a few companies that seemed to be aligned with your requirements and decided to apply to an open position there. Well, it was all smooth sailing up to that point but what happens when someone actually calls you in for an interview? How do you prepare for the interview to ensure that the company is how you perceived it?

My best suggestion is to have well-thought out, structured questions. Unfortunately, candidates in this economy have shied away from asking questions for fear of turning off the interviewer. Contrary to popular belief, most interviewers actually enjoy speaking to candidates that ask solid questions. This shows that the candidate did their homework, was genuinely interested in learning more about the company, and actually took the time to think of ways to contribute to the interview rather than it just is one-sided. Good questions can not only impress the interviewer but also help you get a better feel for the company before deciding to accept a job offer that might come your way. The interviewer may also get a better feel for you, too.

To prep for your interview, re-research the company by doing a deep dive. Get down to the nitty gritty and find all the legitimate details you can in regard to the company. Once you’ve compiled all the important information, compare those notes against the things you want out of a company. Connect the link between the two and take the time to formulate some intelligent questions. If aren’t sure where to start when it comes to creating these questions, feel free to look at the link at the bottom of this article written by Jacquelyn Smith from Forbes.com. She had some great questions to ask, as well as questions to avoid.

I’m sure you’ve done your research before committing to anything big, pricy, or long-term: buying houses, moving, purchasing a car, deciding on a college, and so on. Why should a job be any different? You spend a good portion of your life at a job and typically, most people try to find a company they can commit to long-term. Try to get the most information you can before making that commitment. That includes asking questions and getting informative answers from someone on the inside. It pays to take this extra step.

Take control of your employment choices and continue on the path of finding that perfect fit for you. Don’t let it all fall apart once you get to the interview stage. After all, you’ve made it this far in your career goals- don’t give up on what you want now. Best of luck!

Ideas for interview questions:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2012/07/06/the-questions-you-should-and-shouldnt-ask-in-a-job-interview/2/