Gamification In Leadership Development: How Companies Use Gaming To Build Their Leader Pipeline

Gamification In Leadership Development: How Companies Use Gaming To Build Their Leader Pipeline


By Jeanne Meister –

Have you ever watched someone play Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, or World of Warcraft? They are totally absorbed in the moment. What are they playing for, you might ask? Often, it is just the sense of personal accomplishment in reaching a new level.

Now imagine if you could harness this same level of engagement and apply it to critical problem-solving, innovating new products or services or learning new skills at your company. That’s what NTT Data and Deloitte have done by using gamification for leadership development.

Gamification is defined as taking the essence of games—attributes such as engagement, transparency, design and competition—and applying them to a range of real-world processes inside an organization, like marketing, call center management, and– most recently – leadership development.

The key question for executives considering this strategy, is how gamification evolves from a fun way to engage employees to a tool driving higher levels of business performance and employee engagement?

Addressing the latter is more important than ever these days, with surveys like Gallup’s reporting that employee engagement levels are once again below 30 percent, with that number even lower for staff in the Boomer generation, despite those employees often being the ones in leadership positions. What’s more, the “actively disengaged,” who represent about 18% of the workforce as defined by Gallup, are so unhappy that they undermine their colleagues’ work and cost U.S. businesses up to $550 billion annually. It’s no wonder companies are finally focusing on how re-imagining leadership development can be part of the solution.

Two examples in particular have emerged that show how gamification platforms are being leveraged to develop future leaders. At the systems integration company NTT DATA and the well-known consulting firm Deloitte, gamification is being used to both engage leaders in training and have them experience what it means to be a leader.

NTT Data: Ignite Leadership Game

At NTT Data, the use of gamification to develop leaders is in the early stages, but is already showing impressive business results.

Imran Sayeed is the company’s Chief Technology Officer, was recently named as one of Computerworld ‘s top 100 IT leaders. “We believe Leadership cannot be taught, it has to be experienced,” Sayeed  said, “so our global head of gamification, Naureen Meraj, came up with the idea to develop a game that allows our employees to fully experience a variety of immersive leadership scenarios.”

The Ignite Leadership game offers NTT Data leaders the opportunity to learn more about new management subject areas, and about a role they aspire to within the company. It allows them to collaborate with each other online, get instant feedback from peers, and be recognized for their game play, all while becoming more visible to the organization as potential leaders.

The Ignite Leadership game specifically aims to develop five key skills for leaders, which include negotiation, communication, time management, change management and problem solving.  What makes this different from just another workplace game is how the Ignite Leadership Game is aligned to the NTT Data employee engagement framework, which aims to develop critical leadership skills among NTT Data employees. The Ignite Leadership game also provides managers with the opportunity to identify who these potential leaders are in the organization based upon their game play.

Ignite Leadership’s Metrics:

A total of 70 leaders have completed NTT’s gamified training program, and the results so far have been impressive:

  • 50 employees ended up taking on team leadership roles, which was 50% higher than had done so through traditional training and coaching methods.
  • Newly developed leaders proposed 30 new ideas to assist in current projects, as part of the ”Smart Idea Challenge.” This generated $1 million in revenue, as well as cost savings for current clients.
  • Employee referrals among those who completed the game increased by 30 percent, which reduced recruiting costs by $500,000 in the first year alone.
  • Finally, “graduates” of the Ignite Leadership Game together have generated 220 new ideas in the customer organizations, which led to a 40 percent increase in employee satisfaction and helped to lower attrition by 30 percent.

Deloitte: A Leadership Academy With Games As Lessons

Deloitte’s Leadership Academy, (DLA) is an online curriculum that the consulting agency uses to train both its own employees and those of its client companies – which include . With a structure that embeds missions, badges, and leaderboards into a user-friendly platform alongside video lectures, in-depth courses, tests and quizzes, the virtual academy encourages and promotes the skills most important to the arsenal of future company leaders at Deloitte.

Before learners even view the online learning programs they must complete a first “on-boarding” mission. They do this by watching a 3-minute video, which explains how to use the web site, and in the process of watching the video, they are instructed how to personalize the site to their individual learning priorities. Upon completion, learners receive a badge for their on-boarding mission and then have the option to connect to their personal networks on Linkedin and Twitter so they can easily upload your profile and photo. This required first step helps ensure the multi-platform engagement of users, and the level of customization deepens that engagement.

Deloitte then applies the principles of gamification and behavioral science to motivate learners to achieve their learning goals. As learners complete each online learning program, they receive badges to mark their achievements. Most of those badges are given out as a result of achieving straightforward competencies, but some are ‘secret’ badges, dubbed “Snowflake” badges, which are created to surprise and delight learners and are unlocked only by achieving certain goals. For example if all members of one department watch the same video during the same week, they all receive a snowflake badge. These surprise rewards have been shown to be great motivators, the company says.

The Academy’s leaderboard helps to further promote the successes of committed players. And its non-traditional 7-day reset avoids the discouraging affect of many leaderboards, in which the consistent top users with sky-high scores turn newcomers off with their dominance. Instead of displaying a rolling list of the top 10 scorers overall, Deloitte’s multiple leaderboards reset every 7 days, and the competition for top-10 on each is always limited to other users on the same general “level” as each other.

Metrics for Deloitte Leadership Academy:

  • Since the integration of gamification to Deloitte’s Leadership Academy, there has been a 47 percent increase in the number of users returning to the site each week,
  • Many users have gone from mediocre users to super-users (30 badges in a few weeks.)
  • Finally, anecdotes abound about Deloitte employees using the site because they don’t want the person who sits next to them getting above them on the leaderboard! So old-fashioned peer competition appears to be driving greater levels of engagement in learning & development!

Both NTT DATA and Deloitte have seized on exactly what is so effective about gamification, the ability to use game mechanics to drive greater levels of engagement and employee motivation. Gamification should not be just about fun. It should be consistent with an organization’s analytics-driven approach to workforce management and aligned to their business goals.

As learning becomes a lifelong imperative in all our businesses, being able to motivate and engage employees to participate in career development programs will only become more important as companies prepare for the future workplace.

So what are the key lessons in using gamification in the workplace? Three are critical:

  1. Think Strategy First: Identify and articulate what the business objectives are and how you will measure progress towards a desired business outcome.  A focus on analytics will help to determine whether a game is successful or not, and also how it can be modified for changing business objectives.
  2. Your company culture can propel or impede gamification results so it is important to create the right environment for a game to succeed. This includes understanding the demographics and behavior patterns of the gamers, as well as putting into place the right extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Sometimes the best reward is simply greater visibility for the winner in a large organization or the flip side, ensuring a coveted top spot on the game leaderboard.
  3. Use design thinking before you build or buy. Building an impactful game that wil yield business results is not just about selecting the right gaming platform. To be successful, a game has to be contextual and relevant for the community. It has to have the right visual and sensory appeal, as well as a relevant storyline. This requires designing the game with a strong behavioral mindset. Imran Sayeed pointed out the best proof of how important the company thinks games are, “our Gamification leader, Naureen, is not a technologist but a behavioral psychologist! She understands what motivates our employees and clients and how to design a game that fits well within the culture of the organization.”

Readers, what is your experience using gamification in the workplace?  Has your company used it? Has it worked, and how? Share in the comments here…

Subscribe for the best of HR Management by email:
Subscribe for Email Updates

No Comments

Post A Comment