From Fatbit to Fitbit: Can Gamification Work in Corporate Learning?

Gamification.

Does it really work or does it just another trend that will eventually fizzle away like so many others? 

If you asked me a few years ago, I'd probably have told you not to waste your time. But now I believe it has a place in corporate learning. 

Why did I change my mind? Well, a personal experience that involved private health insurance, free coffee and a FitBit. 

It was time to make a change 

Over the summer I decided to get private medical insurance. After a bit of research, I signed up for Vitality Health. I did chose them because I was interested in the benefits that came with it. I also got half price gym membership and discounts on health gadgets like a Fitbit or bicycle.

I get rewarded for improving my health with things like with Starbucks credit, iTunes vouchers and cinema tickets. All stuff I love!

I decided to get a discounted Fitbit. I had no major expectations (and maybe in the back of my mind I knew this would end in failure...).

What happened next has completely changed my life - and it's all down to a clever use of gamification within Vitality Health and Fitbit.

Here are four of the key things I’ve observed about how gamification helped me achieve my goals to lose weight. I've also shared some of the ways I think we as learning leaders can use gamification to drive performance.  

1. Data can empower us to make better choices

I really can’t get enough data.

The Fitbit app shows me my heart rate in real-time, my goals (steps, calorie intake, water, distance etc.) and educates me on my choices (high source of protein, low in calories).

A data-driven dashboard and real time feedback has empowered me to change habits and keep me on the right path. Not by following somebody else's rules, but by changing my own.

Some of the data is captured by the Fitbit and some of it I input myself, such as what I've eaten. It's not about calorie counting or dieting, but making better, more informed choices through education and positive reinforcement of a healthy lifestyle.

Food for thought for L&D

What if we had a gamification system that puts a data-driven dashboard into the hands of employees and empowers them to make better choices?

How great would it be if a user could see their current performance, talent reviews, coaching and learning histories and make the choice to learn about a subject because they can see it will help to improve their overall performance?

2. Levelling up needs a (fun or rewarding) purpose

One of the things I found most interesting about the gamification system used both within Vitality Health and Fitbit is that it doesn't focus on levelling up and moving between tiers. Instead, you have different levels of benefits based on your continuous performance.

So when I joined Vitality Health I was bronze and there are levels all the way up to platinum. How to level up? I had tasks to complete which would earn me points, such as get a health check or going to the gym.

So what? Well, every time I levelled up my rewards would increase. As a bronze user I got 10% off British Airways flights. I didn't mention this benefit above because 10% isn't an awful lot. However, when I looked at platinum... it reached 50% off!

So now my goal is to lose 5 stone, have a healthy BMI and treat myself to a discounted holiday through British Airways!

Food for thought for L&D

Here's a thought.. how great would it be if a corporate gamification system was tied into corporate benefits. The better you perform, the more you receive. Points for completing tasks on time and under budget, for having a great performance review and being top or emerging talent, strong sales performance etc.

3. Use friendly rivalries to motivate and refocus

As the Fitbit app is also a social tool, I can connect to Facebook or my phonebook and add friends in a couple of clicks. You can then invite them to different challenges such as most steps in a day or over a work week.

The system adds updates when the Fitbit syncs to let me know how my opponents are doing and I've found this is a fantastic way to keep me engaged and focused on the goals.

I don't want to be last in a group challenge so I will start to make better decisions - getting off the tube a few stops early, go to gym even though I'm tired, take the stairs rather than use the escalators and so on. It taps into that basic human instinct to want to win and be the top dog.

Food for thought for L&D

In a corporate environment, we can make the mistake of grouping people within a hierarchy because we want to enforce departments and functions.

However, wouldn't it be more effective to allow users to set up their own groups? For example, all the managers of a certain region in Retail, or within a team in Support Functions (such as marketing or finance).

Handing the control back to users empowers them to be competitive with others they feel comfortable sharing with. This leads to higher engagement and brings out the will to win in many!

4. Use leaderboards, badges and other social elements

I've never really seen the point in leaderboards and badges within an LMS as I didn't believe that it really made a difference in isolation.

However, as part of a reward programme within a well thought-out gamification system, it really can work!

I spent about 5 days hovering around the 'lost 10lbs' badge (below) and knowing I was so close to achieving it spurred me to exercise harder. I really pushed myself and then flew past it - whilst sharing the badge on Facebook!

On reflection, there were two elements that stood out here:

  1. I had a clear goal and knew what steps I needed to take to achieve this, and 
  2. I could share my (small) victory with a group of people that I felt comfortable sharing with.

Food for thought for L&D

This is something that is often overlooked in corporate gamification systems. Badges are tucked away on a little-viewed page or lost in a busy feed, leaderboards have no contextual relevance to an audience and you can't show off your achievements to friends and colleagues.

Social plays an important role here too. If we earn something, we want to be able to show it off! Something to ponder if you are building a system for this.

How great would it be if a corporate gamification system was tied into corporate benefits. The better you perform, the more you receive.

Conclusion

I suppose you'd also like to know how I'm doing? Am I still a 'Fatbit', or a 'Fitbit'. Drumroll please 🥁...

So far, I've lost a stone (within 4 weeks) but I feel completely different.

I've formed new habits and, with another 4 stone to go (eek!), I'm confident that these changes are permanent because I'm not dieting and I'm not forcing myself to do anything I don't want to do.

I'm making smarter, data-driven choices because I'm seeing the benefits and being positively reinforced through the Fitbit app and the mirror.

I'm getting rewarded for those choices with Vitality Health and I'm well on the way to reaching my ultimate goal and having a half price holiday courtesy of my British Airways discount! After the pandemic of course. 

 

I'm really interested in hearing what you think about Gamification. I've yet to see it happen successfully in a business environment outside of a gamified eLearning module or leaderboards on an LMS. What about you?

Rhys Giles
Aug 20 2020

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