- Managing Me
- Big Ideas
- Managing People
Peter Williams was the founding CEO of professional services firm Deloitte Digital. An accountant who became enamoured with the potential of the internet as far back as the 1990s, you’d expect him to gush about the latest technologies that can be used in business. But when LeadingCompany caught up with him recently, he explained that companies didn’t have to get high-tech to more effectively engage and connect with their staff and customers.
Williams had just stepped down from a panel on gamification at the Australian Games for Change Festival in Melbourne. He said the concept was often misunderstood.
Gamification is the use of the principles and techniques used in video games to drive engagement in broader contexts. For example, the use of things such as league tables, periodic rewards, badges and other forms of recognition, or a steady increase in difficulty, or new challenges can all be seen as gamification. These principles are increasingly being adopted by leading companies across the world to keep staff engaged and customers coming back.
There’s an increasing body of science behind why we work harder and enjoy ourselves more when our jobs or the companies we buy goods and services from incorporate the above principles. But gamification remains, Williams says, on the periphery.
He would know. Williams recently left his role at Deloitte Digital to head up the Deloitte Centre for the Edge, a research body that looks at ideas on the edge of conventional business practice that have the potential to revitalise organisations.
Williams says the businesses that are already playing around with gamification often get it wrong by assuming just making a computer game will fix all their problems.
“People often think, oh, we’ll go out and create a video game to get something to happen,” Williams says. “Developing games can be very costly, but often doesn’t deliver very much.
“Here’s something to remember – most video games that are developed by game developers fail. For every Call of Duty [a record-breaking war game], 5000 other games get nowhere.
“I would say to organisations: gamifying doesn’t mean going and making a game. It means taking the concepts around games and using them in an authentic way to drive the behaviour we want to get. That’s the key thing.”
Deloitte has made use of gamification in its own in-house training division, the Deloitte Leadership Academy.
“We regularly offer online training to our people around leadership. But we found many were using these programs like a gym membership. They signed up, they wanted to do the training, but then they didn’t.
“So, we incorporated little rewards and recognitions around people actually completing parts of the program. We put up leader boards so people would compete against their colleagues, we brought communication and social features into the program itself.
“That’s really lifted engagement. It drove the behaviour that we want. Usage levels have gone up more than 50%.”
Asked which other Australian businesses are making good use of such principles, Williams singles out Australia’s biggest telecommunications company, Telstra.
At the telco’s crowd support portal, customers can ask tricky technical questions that are then answered by other Telstra users.
Why would Telstra customers give up their time to help others in this way? Because, Williams says, the whole thing is set up to reward useful contributions.
“In ‘crowd support’, on the right-hand of the page, there’s a leader board. Each user has a level next to them. When you first get on and ask a question, you get a ‘new’ tag next to your name. Now, no one wants to stay a ‘noob’ [a video game term for a new, inexperienced member of a community], so when you join, you answer a few questions to build up your rank. Depending on how good your answers are, people give you points, as a method of encouraging you.”
Telstra’s crowd support portal is working. More than 60,000 technical queries are answered per month through the website. The crowd-sourcing saves Telstra thousands of dollars in hours spent on the phone to customers, and it works for users too.
“If I have a problem which is a bit unusual, or a bit technical, it’d take ages for me to get an answer through normal channels,” Williams says. “It’s difficult for someone in a call centre to have an answer. I go through crowd support, and within a few hours have a fantastic answer.”
On the other end of the scale, Williams recalls a coffee shop he visits.
“They have a sticky note with a leaderboard of who their top customers are. They change it every day.
“It’s as low-tech as you can get. But you get in there and think, ‘I wouldn’t mind being on that list’.”