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Report: Gamification of Labor Leads to Increased Productivity in Retail

A new report out of the U.K. suggests workers respond to gamification of the workplace with increased productivity—especially in retail, where half of the respondents indicated they might be more productive in response to gamified rewards.

For the “Workers on Top of Their Game Report,” U.K.-based firm Opinion Matters surveyed more than 1,096 U.K. employees. Of the industries included in the survey, retail was cited as one of the primary industries that could benefit from the gamification of labor, according to researchers. Only medical, hospitality and manual labor fields received more positive responses from employees.

Gamification, according to the report, refers to the technique of “setting small rewards for desired actions and then inviting workers to repeat that behavior, which they do in anticipation of the same result.”

“As we can see from the survey data, and the sheer number of retail workers who said that the implementation of a gamified reward system would make them work harder, the cost of implementing these kinds of rewards could soon be recouped by the increased productivity employers would benefit from,” Alan Smith, U.K. managing director of One4All Rewards, the survey’s corporate sponsor, explained.

Diving deeper into the details of the survey, retail respondents noted a clear interest in gamification—with productivity being the primary reward for the strategy. What’s more, 31 percent said they felt gamified rewards could actually increase their happiness at work, and another 42 percent said such a policy would increase personal engagement with their employer.

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As only 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations currently offer gamification policies, according to the survey, this could represent an advantage that small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) could exploit to compete for valuable retail talent.

“In SMEs, finding the budget for a rewards scheme can be tough, but gamified rewards can be more flexible in some ways and they don’t have to involve large budgets,” Smith said. “While some might think that these kinds of rewards are more complex to implement, this isn’t necessarily the case and there are many companies out there that can help with implementing these rewards.”

The survey also noted that the most popular gamified rewards among employees, perhaps unsurprisingly, were “monetary-based bonuses or rewards,” with 49 percent of those responding naming it their preferred outcome. Gift voucher and gift cards came in second at 33 percent, followed by an extra day off for a birthday at 25 percent.

In a similar report, fashion startup Shimmy found that using gamification was also valuable when retraining low-skill workers ahead of a transition to automation in the garment industry. To test this, the firm created a tablet app for garment workers that utilizes popular gaming techniques in order to improve the learning process.

One4All researchers also argue that gamification strategies, like the technique used by Shimmy, can be an incredibly useful tool to not only increase productivity but to also help employees quantify and appreciate their own efforts.

“By helping workers visualize their progress, recognizing their efforts and rewarding them accordingly, gamification adds a layer of excitement, enthusiasm and energy to the workplace,” researchers said.