Gartner recently issued its 2020 Hype Cycle for Frontline Worker Technologies. It’s a deep dive into all the gadgets and gizmos that could be used to improve the performance of those employees. It’s an intriguing read if only because a majority of jobs, 60% to 70%, are defined as frontline.

Frontline workers interact with customers throughout their workday. They’re salespeople, customer support reps, field service techs, and many other roles. The commonality is they’re the face of their companies. So, anything that can help to make that customer interaction both more positive and efficient is worth looking into.

The report (paywall) offers assessments of the utility and possible business impact of about 30 systems, devices, and technologies. Some seem pretty amazing, like galvanic skin response devices that help understand the wearer’s physiological and psychological condition. Others are more predictable, like social distancing technologies. Between smart watches and other wearables, sensors, and augmented reality devices, this Hype Cycle offers analysts’ opinions on a collection of tools that are just showing up or will be in the next five to ten years as part of the frontline employees’ experience. Including gamification. Which, in my view, is the most important of the lot.

It’s an assertion being made not because the company I lead, Centrical, was cited by Gartner as a vendor providing gamification capabilities (which, on its own, is great). Rather, experience has shown that more than tools, what enables frontline employees to perform well at their jobs is being motivated to do them.

And that’s where gamification comes in. To quote from the report:

“Gamification is the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. It is important to distinguish gamification from video games and loyalty programs as gamification uses techniques from behavioral science to ‘nudge’ people into achieving their goals.”

It is important to recognize, as Gartner noted, gamification is more than games or the badges, points, leaderboards that often come with them. The firm notes digital gamification is in the early mainstream stage of maturity, meaning the vendors, technology, and adoption are rapidly evolving. It’s gathering momentum. In large part because the various use cases have shown gamification works. For example, companies using Centrical have seen onboarding times cut by 40%, sales rise more than 50%, and retention and productivity improve 12%. In addition, our “always connected” culture has raised frontline employees’ receptivity to digital gamification efforts to move them to embrace and employ desired behaviors.

There are gamification solutions that can generate lots of interest and participation very quickly. And with nearly the same speed, employee engagement plummets. For gamification to work, it must sustain engagement over time. It’s like the ice cream example that professors teaching Introduction to Economics offer to explain the Law of Diminishing Returns. You’ll gobble up those first few bowls of ice cream but, if that’s all there is, interest and appetite will wane. 

For a frontline employee, it’s one thing to see where they are on reaching  their goals. It’s quite another to understand why they’re at that point and what’s needed to move ahead. In turn, it does little if employees and their team leaders don’t have access to the same data. It’s even better when that data is offered to all in real-time. Transparency helps keep everyone focused. Plus, when offered the data is fresh, not weeks or months old, the managers of frontline employees be better coaches to help overcome deficiencies or further strengthen skills by drawing on performance data that is still very clear and relevant to employees.

Gamification works best when it is blended with real-time performance data and personalized microlearning. This holistic approach uses gamification to draw employees in to more fully engage with their work and with the learning activities that will hone their skills or develop new ones. All with the aim of performing better and having fun in the process. 

To realize the full benefit of frontline worker technology innovation suggested by Gartner, there must be a parallel action on employee motivation. And that’s why gamification is the most important element of their Frontline Worker Technologies Hype Cycle.

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