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32. Game vs. Job


Goal of gamification is to motivate employees to do something for a business benefit, but employees may be overly focused on the game.

For example, gamification using PBLs for a call center sets the rules of the game focusing on efficiency (e.g. number of calls per hour), rewarding points for high efficiency may result in agents trying to get customers off the phone ASAP, and not to provide god customer service. Alternatively, if the points are issued for good customer satisfaction, then the game is encouraging employees to optimize on satisfaction.

Sometimes, employees are motivated at work for things outside the job as in corporate citizenship, situations where they do things at work just to be nice to colleagues or to be good for the company.


  • Altruism – people do things just to be good to others
  • Consciousness – people take pride in what they do resulting in them working hard and want to do a good job
  • Civic virtue – a sense that you are part of a larger community and you care about doing your part for the community, even though its a business community where you work as opposed to a social community at home
  • Common courtesy and sportsmanship – being fair to others. These are normal human motivations, and they are true for people at work as well, and they can be tapped into for company’s benefit.

Microsoft Language Quality game tapped into people’s desire to make Windows a better product by volunteering their time to find localization bugs. Ross Smith developed a framework to understand which applications lend themselves well to this approach. His structure involves 2 different kinds of behavior and 3 different kinds of skills.


  • In-Role behavior – Part of your normal job description.
  • Citizenship behavior – Things done to be a good employee, not necessarily the specific things you are hired to do and compensated for
  • Core skills – Skills everyone in the organization has
  • Unique skills – Skills that are limited to a particular employee or group of employees
  • Future skills – Skills that an employee would like to obtain

These productivity games are best used in just 2 of the sections of this chart.

  1. Core skills that involve citizenship behavior
    • Example: Language Quality Game. Speaking your own language is a skill that everyone in the company has. But they do it not because it is their job but because it is part of being a good corporate citizen.
  2. Future skills that involve in-role behavior
    • It is about things that you want to learn how to do. That is where gamification and productivity games can help in terms of training and improving people’s behavior.

These are 2 big categories of gamification application to the workplace. One involves groups, getting as many people as possible to participate. The other involves the individual, typically improving their skills or performance at work.


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