Rypple was described by a spokesman as a private, internal social network for managing all aspects of performance, including goal setting, coaching, recognition and feedback. (Only positive reinforcement is used; negative correction is handled offline.)
"We wanted to roll out cool, fun things for the employees," says Cassandra Yates, human resources manager at VivaKi. "People can create their own badges to give out, and some have gotten creative. For instance, someone did one with a picture of Yoda, for mentoring. You see new people using the system to thank those who helped them, from the first day on the job."
The end result is that employee performance reviews are much easier to perform, she indicates, since so much feedback is available. She is also confident that the users are not gaming the system, so to speak, to make themselves look good. "Everyone can see what they write, so they don't make anything up," notes Yates. "And they're not just saying 'great job today' -- they're giving special thanks for specific things on specific projects."
Neither Mathur nor Yates report significant problems. But Ryan Elkins, founder and CEO of iActionable Inc., a gamification vendor based in Provo, Utah, cautions that it isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Employee-facing gamification "tends to work well in job functions that don't pay well. In boring jobs or call center jobs, people come in and detach themselves from their work. Gamification helps bring them back and gives them something to focus on."
Conversely, Elkins says, the harder it is to quantify a person's contributions or participation, the less likely gamification is to work. "And you need a big community, since it is hard to promote competition with only a few people."
But even among high-paid, isolated salespeople, Elkins says that he has seen gamification used to encourage them to keep their paperwork up to date.
As for pitfalls, "If you are trying to drive specific behavior, but you don't understand the behavior of the end users, you may create a false dynamic, such as driving salespeople to make [time-wasting] phone calls in situations where normally they only use email," notes Scott Holden, a director at Salesforce.com, a San Francisco-based SaaS vendor that offers gamification features.
More potential pitfalls
The gamification field may be too new for it to have run into two problems that Michael Wu predicts. Wu researches online behavior for Lithium Technologies of Emeryville, Calif., which provides social networking services for businesses.
For consumer-facing sites, the problem is called over-justification, he explains.