Want to Play a Game?

As a multi-billion dollar industry built on identifying player preferences and employing game mechanics designed to capture our customer’s attention and income, we have a dismal record of utilizing these same resources to retain our employees. With the cost of hiring and training qualified employees at an all-time high, why haven’t we focused a portion of our efforts on utilizing these same theories and methods on retention of our staff members?

If you were to jump on the Internet right now and visit Foursquare, Nike or General Motors, you would see elements of game mechanics used to drive behaviors, engage customers and generate consumer loyalty. These businesses clearly understand the value in creating a fun environment for customers that allows them to work toward a rewards-based goal. The Gartner Group estimates that by 2015, 70 percent of the Forbes Global 2000 will be using gamified applications, and M2 Research forecasts that U.S. companies alone will spend $1.6 billion on gamification products and services by that same year.

Common game elements like points, badges, leaderboards and levels have proven they engage customers and encourage profit-driving consumer behavior. In our own industry, WMS executives have launched “Player’s Life,” a website that allows players to continue to make progress on their favorite casino game utilizing a free online portal in the comfort of their own home. This progress counts when they log in to their game during their next casino visit. WMS focused on the player experience and customized it by recognizing a player’s status in achievements, both in the casino and through a social network environment.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that 65 percent of adult Internet users in the United States use social networks. Using those statistics, over half of your staff, regardless of language or background, actively engages in sites that promote virtual badges of achievement. How many other tools in your casino had a familiarization rate of 50 percent before you implemented them?

The potential employee pool for most casinos is filled with people that are attracted by the idea of a fun and exciting work environment where time passes quickly. The reality is much different. We are a highly regulated industry that places security of funds and assets above the comfort level of our staff. This is not a criticism; this is a reality.

The employees we hire are indoctrinated in to our business utilizing a training program that is long on information and regulations and short on entertainment. Is it any wonder why the staff members we hired for personality don’t measure up to our expectations? It isn’t that they want to fail; they don’t have the adequate tools needed to succeed. They spend the majority of their first three months trying to learn a set of protocols that haven’t been adequately explained or demonstrated. It isn’t the fault of the trainers or the supervisory staff, either. These hard-working employees have more responsibilities on a daily basis than ever before. It just isn’t possible to cram months’ worth of instruction in to one week and expect sustainable success.

The concept of gamification or “Funware” is taking tasks that we might not otherwise be interested or engaged in and attaching game mechanics in an effort to draw our attention. Attaching a high score to a service goal taps in to our competitive nature. As long as that high score carries a perceived value in the eyes of the gamer the focus and fun is established. Enrolling a customer in a players club can be made an interesting activity if there’s some sort of “reward” for doing so.

Operators have the opportunity to utilize “Funware” in the products and services we employ in our facilities, for both employees and patrons. We need our staff members to achieve their assigned tasks quickly and efficiently, as well as completion in a fun and friendly manner.  The intention of game mechanics is to integrate tools that can instruct our staff on a daily basis and keep them up to date on the rapidly changing landscape of the casino environment. Take the clear-cut behaviors you’ve defined at your property and design games that will entice your staff to consistently deliver desired service. These tools can deliver consistent and sustainable training for your staff employees and measurable results for your management.

The advantages of game mechanics are not limited to the gaming floor. Human resource surveys, health and welfare programs, food quality standards and facility cleanliness are examples of areas ripe for gamification within the casino environment. Games can be used to drive almost any user behavior. As Marc Metis, president of Digital Chocolate puts it, “Games have the potential to tap into the full range of human emotions and motivate a wide range of behaviors.”

Over time, gamification can penetrate every area of the casino by offering badges of achievement and virtual rewards to employees that lead to significant awards in the “real” world. Most casinos ask their staff to set goals each year during their evaluation process to keep them engaged and to give management tools to measure employee growth. Why wait a year? Why not build the goals in to the game elements and show measurable achievement on a daily basis? The act of unlocking achievements that allow a video game player to level up can actually be the tool we utilize to pick our next generation of supervisors. The achievements can be designed to specifically aim for the requirements necessary for a promotion to a new position with increased responsibilities. In essence, leveling up in the game will allow the employee the ability to level up in their career.

Game mechanics are here for the foreseeable future and as in all other areas of gaming our industry should capitalize on its potential. Utilized correctly, elements of game theory can increase staff retention and decrease training costs. Gamification has the ability to engage your staff and provide measurement tools for management.

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