Benefits communication has always been challenging - it can be difficult to interest employees in what can often be dry and confusing technical information. Yet interest them we must, because they'll fail to make wise choices if they don't understand their benefits options, which can negatively affect both them and the company.
Gamification offers an option that can help make the enrollment process more interesting to employees and, in the process, boost their understanding and utilization of available benefits. Are organizations finding gamification to be a useful means of connecting with employees and, if so, what best practices are they finding more effective in achieving their objectives?
Gamification Still a Viable, and Popular, Option
Vlad Gyster, CEO of Airbo, a benefit communication and engagement platform, and a former WTW consultant with experience in gamification and HR, says that his company's platform is currently being used by more than 400 organizations - from large companies like Fujifilm to smaller organizations around the country. It's most popular in the manufacturing and health care industries.
Rob Porter, head of market and business development for CoSo Cloud's eLearning solutions, has seen an uptick in companies using the technology. "We are seeing, across the board, organizations have increased their use of gamification to boost employee engagement and participation in open enrollment activities," he said.
Gamification can be especially impactful with younger generations like Generation Z, research firm Gartner has said, "by providing them with development through channels they are comfortable with, some as mobile-friendly, self-paced learning modules, gamification and simulations."
What Is Gamification?
When applied in business settings to improve processes like open enrollment, gamification involves the use of typical elements of gameplay like points, progress bars and prizes to encourage engagement, Gyster said. The goal, he added, isn't to create a standalone game, but to embed gamification mechanics into the product. For instance, points can be used to motivate people to interact by answering questions, which leads to the next piece of content being served up.
Gyster said it's important to make content shorter and tie points to answering questions to reinforce the content and improve comprehension. Prizes, he said, can motivate people to get through the content as it is presented.
Competition is a component of gamification, but is more focused around signaling progress to people to help them feel good about their understanding of content that may be complicated, Gyster said. "We've actually found that competition and competitive mechanics can actually drive a lot of disengagement," he said.
Signaling progress, he said, occurs in three phases:
- Motivating employees to pay attention by offering the opportunity to win prizes through participation.
- Signaling progress as they go through the material to give them a measure of learning through a progress bar and accrued points.
- Celebrating engagement upon completion, perhaps through giving prizes for participation.
CoSo Cloud, Porter said, is seeing organizations take steps to tailor their gamification tactics to suit their workforce's preferences and demographics, making the experience more personalized.
"We are also seeing an increase in mobile and/or responsive interfaces to deliver gamified open enrollment experiences, making them accessible to employees on various devices," he said. It's important, he said, for HR leaders to "understand their employees' preferences and demographics to design gamification elements that resonate with their workforce."
When launching a new program, Porter said, organizations should "communicate clearly and concisely about how gamification will be integrated into the open enrollment process." And, he advised, don't make it complicated.
"It's important to remember that more people play checkers than chess because the rules are simpler," Porter said. "In comparison, more employees will participate in gamification if the rules are straightforward." In addition, he said, "when considering the elements of the gamification effort, ensure they are accessible to all employees, including those with disabilities."
Another benefit of gamification from an HR and benefits administration standpoint is the ability to track progress. For example, Gyster shared, Fujifilm found that about 96 percent of employees said the gaming platform gave them a greater appreciation of their retirement benefits.
"That's a really incredible KPI [key performance indicator] to take back to the leadership team to reinforce investment in that benefit."
Leveraging the ability to measure effectiveness, Porter said, requires defining clear objectives for gamification - "whether to increase participation, improve benefit comprehension or simplify the process."
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer in Chippewa Falls, Wis.