The whys and hows of internal gaming

The team at Inward Strategic Consulting is formalizing the standards of creating trivia games for employees to help make them hands-down experts in the brand.

People play a lot of games now.

Whether it’s on their smartphones, tablets or home gaming consoles, video games, many of which have social components, are as popular as ever. Indeed, 71 percent of employed Americans play one kind of game or another for recreation.

“It’s familiar to them. It’s not something that’s hard to absorb,” says Allan Steinmetz, founder and CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting, a firm that makes internal-communications games for companies.

That, plus the rise of enterprise social tools, created an environment perfect for using games to communicate with employees, Steinmetz says. In mid-2011, Inward began working with clients to develop games.

“Clients did not come to us with, ‘I want a game,'” Steinmetz says. “Clients came to us with a challenge of, ‘How do we get our people engaged in a fun, collaborative way?’ Our response back to them, after doing our own research and brainstorming, was ‘Let’s gamify it.'”

Steinmetz and Inward Account Manager Whitney Cook answered some of the key questions about why using games for internal communication makes sense.

What’s the right business for this type of communication tool?

Steinmetz listed a few of the traits of a company where an internal-communications game could do a lot of good:

  • Employees strive for collaboration.
  • Executives have clear-cut, transformative objectives and outcomes.
  • Managers desire to transform and transmit company culture and values.
  • Leaders wish to promote continuous improvement.

What’s the benefit to employees?

Games grab employees’ attention so that they’ll seek out information themselves rather than have to be directed toward it.

In an article about gamification, Cook pointed out that games are 10 times more effective in terms of employees retaining information than traditional computer-based learning (CBL) programs.

“The majority of our clients, when we do our research with them, when they talk to their associates, say traditional CBLs are like drying paint,” Steinmetz says. “They hate them.”

Specifically, CBLs have a retention rate of about 28 percent, which falls to 4 percent after six weeks, he says. For games, it’s an 86 percent retention rate, which falls to 46 percent after six weeks.

Is gaming really the future?

In a Gartner report on what the landscape of gaming will look like in 2020, the authors cite survey data showing that 53 percent of respondents believed the use of games for communication will be widespread in less than a decade.

Other companies, such as Bunchball and Badgeville, which have largely focused on customer-driven games, are getting into the internal realm.

What can these games teach?

“We can gamify pretty much everything,” Steinmetz says.

He says he can’t share any specific information about clients yet—the work is too preliminary—but he did say that one client is using an Inward game to teach employees about upselling and cross-selling products. For example, if they’re selling dog food, the game helps them add dog toys and bowls in with it.

Steinmetz says the main goal of Inwards games is to make employees brand advocates, so many of its games equip employees with facts about the brand. Other games facilitate crowdsourcing and problem solving, he says.

What does one of these games look like?

Cook says the company’s retail games are similar to a now-defunct mobile app called Qrank, which was a trivia game. Employees answer multiple-choice questions to earn points. Scores are displayed on leaderboards.

Steinmetz adds that there are two ways to earn points: Accreditation, which means answering questions, and participation, which involves simply following instructions and trying new parts of the game. Employees can win prizes and badges, too, which can funnel into the wider social intranet.

What’s the cost of a game?

Inward’s games can range in cost from $50,000 for a simple trivia game to $250,000 for a more complex game.

How long does it take to develop a game?

Some games can be made in three months, Steinmetz says. One client’s game is 14 months in the making, but it’s “damn good,” he asserts.

What do I need to do to make a game work for my company?

Steinmetz lists a few traits:

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.