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Gaming and employee engagement – the missed opportunity?

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Earnest looks at the developments in gaming and considers how marketers can utilize this space

Two things we already know: gaming is huge, and it’s unbeatable at human engagement.

In a time of record game sales, the PS4 swansong Ghost of Tsushima has been a surprise hit. It stealthily became the most downloaded exclusive of last year and the second most completed open world game of all time. The game’s star is not so much its silent assassin protagonist but the ancient Japanese island itself.

For all its sunset tranquility and zenned-out vistas, more than 6.5 million people have virtually trampled over Tsushima, running through its grasses, disturbing its lakes and climbing its coastal ruins. Post-Covid tourism for the archipelago is set to boom. Fans of the game have taken to the island so much that when an ancient torii gate in real-life Tsushima was destroyed in a typhoon, they smashed the crowdfunding target for its repair.

So, is there an opportunity to use gaming in business?

Here, and in many other games, fans have become advocates, going above and beyond to elevate a title they love and spread the word. Such die-hard passion is obviously harder to drum up in business, but organizations looking to reconnect with their staff should consider pushing the boundaries. Staff engagement is at an all-time low, with only 14% of employees saying they are engaged in their work. This is no surprise – training, mentoring, staff development and work socials all have become much harder during the pandemic. And, let’s face it, they usually weren’t done that effectively previously.

If employees do become fans, the rewards are clear

There are many reasons organizations want their people to ‘become fans’. When employees get behind a content strategy, for example, the numbers speak for themselves. By sharing just six bits of content on LinkedIn, a brand will see six job views, six profile views, three company page views, one new company page follower and two new network connections.

When a dedicated employee advocacy program supports content, it can increase its reach by 28% – no paid social necessary. Plus, customers are more likely to trust a regular employee (54%) than a chief executive (47%), says Edelman, and when employees share company content, they create a higher degree of brand trust.

In an age of Zoom fatigue, it’s not just how companies can stay connected with their brand champions – but where?

No more bored room?

Many new contenders are trying to put their own virtual environment on the map. With an Oculus Rift headset, Gemba is creating virtual workspaces to collaborate in, its whiteboard overlooking a virtual azure blue sea. Then there are the 2D anti-Zoom coffee bars of Reslash and storybook world of Topia. Or there’s gather.town, which recreates the office as if in an ’80s arcade machine.

These are online spaces where colleagues can gather, chat and brainstorm in as wacky a realm as they wish. But is this really what we want from the new world of work? Could it be that the fastest route to advocacy is not avatars and VR headsets, but good old-fashioned fun?

Using gaming thinking – how to better engage

Seven in ten professionals believe that video games are the best icebreaker with colleagues, and three-quarters think online gaming is the way to bond with coworkers from afar – so says research by Xbox, which partnered with Rough Guides last year to encourage digital tourism.

It’s no surprise that a new breed of players are emerging focused on using ‘gaming thinking’ to tackle better staff training and development, such as Game Learn.

When it comes to staff social engagement, we’ve probably all tried various attempts at virtual cocktail making or whatever. It’s not bad, but what about team-building exercises involving gaming that also raise money for charity? This would tick a lot of boxes. Companies like https://cea.gg/ are offering this as a fresh alternative.

Ready player one?

Employee engagement remains essential, but it’s harder than ever to achieve. Think of your people as ‘an audience’ just like in any marketing program. We all know we need to engage with audiences on their terms – and our colleagues and co-workers are no different. Let’s start now.

Colin Gentry is head of content at Earnest.