Gamification a promising and untapped market: MDeC: Page 3 of 3
By A. Asohan July 11, 2014
Internal Gamification: Nettium
Nettium is an e-commerce solutions provider, and a lot of what it does revolves around web and mobile development.
“We do software development, so our people have to deal with tight deadlines, unhappy customers sometimes, and quality assurance,” said its chief executive officer Lam Mun Choong.
“We also provide 24/7 support, so a lot of our people have to work shifts and we have to assign night shifts. Some people have to deal with hardware and software installations.
“All in all – in the words of some people – it’s very boring and mundane work,” he added.
The company however has a very young workforce, with about 70% of the 150 or so people it has being below the age of 27. Keeping these young people, the very definition of Generation Y (Gen-Y), motivated and excited can be a real challenge.
“Let’s look at what I, a certified member of Generation X, do. I use Foursquare and Waze, and part of my behaviour is motivated by trying to get those badges, to get a high rank on the leaderboard, and even mayor-ship,” said Lam.
“I have friends on Foursquare too, and sometimes I compare myself with them. Even the fact that these achievements are not rewarded by any tangible benefit, my behaviour has been changed by these apps. So I asked myself why,” he added.
Lam said he found the answer in the Need Theory proposed by psychologist David McClelland.
The McClelland Need Theory, developed in the 1960s, is a motivational model that attempts to explain how the needs for achievement, power, and affiliation affect the actions of people. The theory is often taught in management classes.
“Essentially, the McClelland Need Theory is about what motivates us,” said Lam. “It’s very similar to what Reza [Terato Tech] has presented to us in terms of the type of gamer personalities.
“These are basic human needs that are driving us, and it doesn’t matter if you’re Generation Y or Generation X.
“So what we did was create what we call an ‘achievement system,’ to try and gamify the boring work we do,” he added.
Nettium developed what it calls the Atas system, in essence a gamified performance management system. In the Malay language, atas means ‘on top’ or ‘above.’ That certainly resonates with Nettium’s use, but is also the acronym for the full product name: Always Trying to Achieve Something.
Atas involves the issuance of badges for staff achievements or milestones. When a person first joins Nettium, he is assigned a ‘newbie’ badge. Staff members are also issued badges when they complete their probationary period and are confirmed. They get anniversary badges for certain numbers of years of service, and also for completing projects to customers’ satisfaction.
“We also want to motivate our people to learn and to get certified, so if they do some self-study or pass a Microsoft exam, they get a badge,” said Lam.
“Not all of it has to be directly work-related. It can be social, it can be fun,” he said, adding that the company issues badges for participating in volunteer programmes, and even for losing weight.
“Atas, for us, means a few things. It is part of performance management. Unlike traditional performance management, where you talk to your staff member once every few months, you’re instantly recognised for achievements,” said Lam. “Meanwhile, employees get instant feedback too.”
“And it’s not just about individual performance because we also have team KPIs (key performance indicators). If you’re in one the best three teams at the end of every month, you get a team badge too.
“It’s also about loyalty rewards as well – the longer you stay with the company, the more loyalty badges you get,” he added.
Collecting these badges is not just about vanity either. Some of the badges have a point value associated with them, and employees can accumulate them and trade them in for certain flexible benefits.
Nettium does not include optician visits or dental as part of its standard benefits package, but employees can trade their points to get the company to cover such expenses, or to even upgrade their medical coverage.
Points can be traded for certain types of ‘approved usage’ as well – for example, to register with the KL Marathon, Lam said.
While Nettium uses it for performance management, Atas is not part of its performance appraisal process, he admitted.
“Today, we still do performance appraisal the traditional way, but managers can go into Atas to get a quick look at what their staff have done. In a sense, it’s a record of what you’ve done for the last six months,” he added.
Nettium has been using Atas internally for about a year, and Lam claims it has definitely changed behaviour within the company. One example is that more than 10% of its staff has not applied for medical leave since Atas was introduced.
“In the past, nobody wanted to work the night shift, saying it was bad for their work-life balance. But after we introduced badges for how many night shifts you took, people now complain if somebody else has had more night shifts,” said Lam.
“Something that was previously undesirable has become desirable,” he added. “Now everyone can see who the good performers are, and they can also motivate themselves to do better.”
No surprise then that Nettium has plans to commercialise Atas. It is currently piloting the system with two companies in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) space.
“The system is still being worked on as we speak. The core system is there, but in order for Atas to be externally friendly, we need to look into integration with customers’ core systems as well – like their human resources or administration systems, and so on,” said Lam.
“The truth is, a lot of companies are interested in this,” he claimed. “It’s very difficult to motivate people with yearly performance appraisals. This gives you constant feedback, tells you how well you’re doing relative to another person.”
Atas works on the Microsoft Windows platform on the backend. The front-end is HTML-based and can run on any browser.
Once Nettium has completed its pilots, it would need to spend some time to package Atas properly for any commercial launch.
“We’re hoping to launch Atas by the first half of next year,” said Lam.
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