Gamification: a new tool for improving performance

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Date: Aug. 2017
From: Healthcare Financial Management(Vol. 71, Issue 8)
Publisher: Healthcare Financial Management Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,060 words
Lexile Measure: 1580L

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Healthcare organizations should be prepared to engage a new generation of workers who are accustomed to tackling challenges with a gamer's mentality, and who may be best motivated by nonmonetary rewards of accomplishing goals within a game-like context.

Healthcare organizations' efforts to improve processes and manage change can all too often be thwarted by legacy structures and cultures that impede the flow of information, knowledge, and expertise. Change management presents a difficult challenge where resistance is pervasive throughout the organization and business processes are intractable to change efforts.

Nonetheless, it is a generally accepted principle that employees will change their behaviors so long as they have been provided with the right incentives to do so. Identifying the most effective incentives requires creativity, and although it may seem counterintuitive, studies have shown that the best incentives are not necessarily monetary. (a)

The effectiveness of nonmonetary incentives has been demonstrated through gamification, a new management tool that has been gaining momentum across various industries in recent years. Gamification is a means of engaging employees in the organization's performance improvement and cost reduction efforts by appealing to their inner motivations to accomplish goals and objectives that do not involve monetary rewards.

The term gamification can be defined as the use of game elements in any context that is not game-related, where users are encouraged to interact with learning material and usually are provided with rewards for accomplishments. Although the term is relatively new--with widespread use emerging only as recently as 3010--the underlying concept has existed for some time, and it has become increasingly touted as a potent means for shaping employees' behaviors to boost employee morale and productivity.

Gamification accomplishes behavioral changes by tapping into the elements of human behavior in three fundamental ways--through a person's motivations, abilities, and behavioral triggers.

All three of these elements must be addressed to change behavior, although there are trade-offs between motivations and ability levels that need to be considered. For example, an individual who has strong ability tends to require less motivation to accomplish a task, because the individual will find the task relatively easy to perform. Meanwhile, an employee who has less ability will likely require increased motivation to undertake the task because of the difficulties it presents.

Both of these, however, are not enough to entice the individual to perform an action; there must be a trigger. Simply stated, a trigger is a stimulus or prompt that gets the individual's attention. For instance, a trigger in healthcare finance can be as simple as placing a sign with key performance indicators (KPIs) in the office that reminds individuals of the key metrics to focus on.

If gamification is applied properly, it promotes an experience that engages the user and enhances learning and creativity--two properties that are critical to improving operations.

Rationale for Using Gamification

A widely cited statistic, based on findings of a leading research scientist at Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh, is that many young adults in the United States will have spent more...

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