The term ‘gamification’ may conjure up different images depending on your age. For some it may be groups of teenagers huddled around a Pac-Man or Space Invaders game in their local arcade, or adolescent boys locked in their bedrooms playing the latest ‘shoot-em-up’ on their consoles.
But in the modern business world, gamification is a tool which companies are increasingly using to improve employee or business performance, and which has implications for fleet operations too.
Fleets have long used gamification techniques to influence driver behaviour, with the publication of league tables and rewards for best performers, although it is not often described in that way.
The new factor is that digital technology and the spread of online gaming have made it easier to gamify processes.
“The term ‘gamification’ is not a helpful one,” says Gary Browning, CEO of HR and people management consultancy Penna. “We understand gaming to be typically associated with activity for individual amusement; games played on Sony Playstations, for example.
“Gamification is simply a means of tapping into the psychology of gaming, with the aim of motivating individuals to complete tasks in a fun, rewarding and engaging way.
“Have you redeemed rewards? Or used an app to track the distance you’ve just run? If the answer is yes, you’re engaging with gamification, probably without realising it.”
Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer 2015 research found that last year 76% of UK adults owned a smartphone, while at its peak Candy Crush recorded almost 100 million daily users and more than one billion games a day.
These figures show the vast reach of smartphone technology, although research carried out by Penna found that one reason companies were reluctant to introduce gamification was their perception of who plays games, on what device, and for how long.
When questioned on who plays the most games, 90% of the HR directors surveyed chose the wrong answer, with 67% believing it was men under the age of 20 – the correct answer was women over 45.
This ability for gaming to straddle age groups and sexes demonstrates the potential of gamification in fleets, says John Cameron, general manager of Trimble Field Service Management.
“The power of popular games captures the lives of people from all walks of life,” he adds.
“Owning a smartphone or a tablet is a staple in many of our lives today and downloading apps, particularly gaming apps, is becoming ever more frequent.”
Paul Foster, director of solutions engineering at Telogis, adds: “People at the older ends of the spectrum get the fact straightaway that this kind of approach takes away a lot of the hassle from their day-to-day work.”
This means van drivers, for example, will be able to spend more time focusing on their job than doing onerous administration work, he says.
Unlike smartphone games which may involve catapulting Angry Birds into pigs, or joining three brightly-coloured jewels to the sound of jaunty music, most business gamification apps work simply and discreetly to encourage employees to complete tasks.
“Gamification aims to take the drudgery away from tasks and make them something that is simple to do, something that people want to do and not make it onerous or intrusive,” says Foster.
“If you can get people using systems properly and engaging them properly you can then start to drive all sorts of behaviours, which is not only going to help you with your business but is also going to help the target audience as well, so it boils down to all-round productivity and general well-being.”
Many organisations look to improve driving behaviour by installing telematics in their vehicles, but Cameron says fleets often struggle to reap its full rewards as drivers may not always be fully engaged and motivated to improve their driving performance, mainly due to a lack of interest or incentive.
To counter this, Cameron has found that many fleets have begun to combine telematics data with gaming techniques to develop driver safety mobile apps.
“A driver safety mobile app typically records any extreme manoeuvres such as harsh acceleration, braking, turns and speed, the data of which is provided directly to the driver and sent back to the back office for analysis,” he says.
“Gamification is integrated in the form of a scorecard that employees can use to record their driving performance.
“Although the recordings can be both personal and impartial it is the direct feedback that incentivises drivers to compete against themselves, and each other, for the best scores.”
Foster adds: “You don’t necessarily have to make it driver against driver. You could make it shift against shift, or depot against depot and this will make it more game-like.
“This takes using telematics further away from the bad old days of ‘big brother, we’re watching you’. It’s far more to do with ‘we are all in this together, here’s where we see you are, here’s where we need you to be’.”
He adds: “If you can measure things like how you drive the vehicle and make that into a game, then why can’t you also do that in overall terms of productivity? For example, how many deliveries do you complete successfully? How many times a week do you get to your first customer late? That kind of thing can be brought into this as well.”
Many smartphone games have limited lifespans as their novelty wears off, but Cameron says fleet apps can reinforce focus over the long term by incorporating tips based on an individual’s driving performance.
“For example, if speeding is proving to be a problem, the app will explain that higher speeds will result in longer stopping distances and excess fuel use, therefore negatively impacting on their overall driver safety score,” he adds.
The three phases of implementing gamification
Phase 1: Establishing your mission
A business without a mission is like a ship without a rudder. Objectives may include reducing speeding incidents, hours of service violations or harsh braking.
Keep your objectives as specific as possible. No sport would ever become popular if the goal was vague, moved regularly or unclear to the players.
No matter what the objectives are – increasing productivity, decreasing fuel costs, improving driver safety or increasing asset utilisation – the secret to achieving them is keeping them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
Phase 2: Align your mission objectives
To make sure you stay on track to achieve your objectives, you need to check your alignment. This means reviewing your objectives to check they align with how you operate as a business.
For example, if your company puts more emphasis on working as fast as possible without respect for safety, then setting an objective to reduce speeding won’t align.
Get company influencers (normally managers or supervisors) involved and review your objectives with them.
It’s important they are onboard with the new objectives: they will play an important role in influencing others and ultimately help achieve a successful outcome.
Phase 3: Deployment
The size of an organisation will determine the scale of your deployment planning. Small companies may only need brief training that includes a quick-start guide to explain how it works and instructions on how to download, install and log in to the app on their mobile device.
Large businesses may benefit from tailored implementation.
For the game element to be most effective it needs to be ‘refereed’. This means monitoring results and rewarding the best performances.