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I have been using social tools in the workplace for several years now with my team. It all started with the question, “What if employees were as engaged with their work as people are with online games?”  As I prepared to head to the Impact99 HR Summit this week, to present my experiences using social in the workplace, I thought I would share my original 12 Most article with you here.

Republished with permission, courtesy of 12 Most.

12 Most Lessons Leaders and HR Can Learn from Facebook Games

by Mila Araujo

My first experiences with social network collaboration came from observing the power of Facebook games. For months I saw people posting invites to building farms, and joining mafias. I viewed these things as spam back then, slightly annoyed every time I saw a post. One day in 2009, I saw one of my coworkers post a request (probably for the millionth time) for help in slaying dragons. Normally, I would have ignored it, but given she’s a great employee at my company, and that it was the holiday season — I decided that in the spirit of helping others and showing gratitude, I would “click” to help.

Gaming seems like a very “unprofessional” and unlikely place to learn about leadership and HR, however when I finally took a look at it, the most striking thing was the power that these games had to move people and create true collaboration and loyalty. As I went to help my colleague, I noticed thousands of people on these “quests,” asking for help, commenting on “assists” and I thought, “Well, while I am here, it doesn’t hurt to help.” Then I saw the gratitude pour in, people who I had never met before, incredibly grateful for a “click.” In this, I came across some that had no help, and realized I knew others who were in the position to help them. That’s where it started. In an effort to help someone I knew from the office, I suddenly was involved in this world of “strangers” all working together to accomplish shared goals. It was fascinating. In addition, the people were kind, they were friendly, many of them became great friends. With a shared mission, your friend became my friend and tribes of people formed collaborating from around the globe.

Imagine capturing this level of engagement and power to move company goals forward; imagine finding a way to motivate employees to be this engaged with their work in the shared mission and vision of the company they work for.

By 2010 I had a well established following and was the leader of a tribe, with thousands of people and connections in the online game world. Beyond the game, we joined together to help whenever anyone had problems, we learned about each others personal lives, we talked about shared values, and we built farms, or fought dragons, or made pies in virtual cafes. We proudly wore our guild badges so all could see our strong alliance. My Facebook gaming environment was like the popular old TV show “Cheers,” a place where “everybody knew your name” and everyone cared and cheered when they saw you.

These games demonstrate the awesome power of shared goals and vision. Although I have not yet been able to bring the level of enthusiasm which has spread via online games to the workplace 100%, I have certainly been able to apply these principles, and seen the team get stronger, with sales and productivity increasing remarkably. I started using social collaboration tools in the workplace in 2009, as I realized the power of these Facebook games, and was an early adopter. We’ve seen such a difference — I’m honored to be sharing my experiences at the upcoming Impact99 HR summit in October.

There is so much that leaders and HR professionals can learn once they realize the possibilities. It is incredible that something that seems so “unprofessional” holds so many of the keys to workplace success and engagement. Here are the 12 Most Lessons Leaders and HR Can Learn from Facebook Games.

1. People like to see results from their actions

If actions are easy and results and gratitude are immediate, people respond well and become engaged. Find ways to create similar situations in the work place. These don’t have to be significant, they just need to be consistent small gestures.

2. People thrive when they feel they are part of something, they like to be connected

Find ways in your daily work environment to make this happen. Yammer is a fantastic tool that I use which can give your employees a network to communicate on and always feel “in the loop.” It also provides the opportunity for constant immediate feedback, assistance, and collaboration. The immediate nature of response is critical in this — give your team the benefit of always having someone there to listen and share with.

3. When people are involved in a joint venture, they leap to each other’s assistance

Find ways to show reward not only in individual performance, but in team collaboration. A team will drive themselves forward if well bonded. By empowering your team to openly share ideas in a unified setting, you will also allow for joint problem solving, creativity and even innovation.

4. People love being recognized

In a company setting, tools like Rypple and TribeHR offer great solutions to giving employees the opportunity to give kudos and feedback to each other.

5. People love rewards

The benefit to doing well in these games is that you advance levels or get special perks or recognition. If you can find ways to give your employees small perks for accomplishing tasks, on a regular basis, it will keep them motivated and engaged.

6. People love collaborating if it means there’s a win in it

Create situations for your team and employees to win by collaborating. Create this mindset within the team. Teams who work well together are proven to drive more sales, and have high levels of engagement.

7. People are naturally giving

When people feel supported, taken care of and appreciated, they naturally want to give back. People go out of their way to do good things for others.

8. People like to share their knowledge and skill

Give employees the opportunity to spotlight what they think their strengths are, or share their opinion as to how they can contribute on specified projects. Strong teams have deeper knowledge about each other, which helps them to work well together and leverage strengths. Give employees regular learning opportunities where they can learn more about each other as individuals. You can also switch it up and ask team members to present each others strengths — sing each other’s praises — talking about these things forms strong working relationships and collaborations. I also use Yammer, Rypple and TribeHR to foster this increased dialogue in the team and across departments.

9. People need to be united with a shared mission

Make sure the mission of the company is clear to every employee at all levels. People can’t join together on a common front if they don’t know what it is. Tie every aspect of their job into the mission and vision.

10. People need to have the right tools, or know how to get them

To do the job well, people need the tools. Equip your staff well with the tools they need. If some members don’t have needed tools, certainly other members of the team do. Help them to know who can help, and encourage these interactions.

11. People can enjoy constant change and challenge

It’s well known that people dislike change, however with Facebook games, what you notice is that the developers are constantly adding new levels, new missions and new challenges. This is actually what keeps the participants engaged. Therefore, what we can learn from this, and probably one of the most interesting points, is that if the right tools and right time frame are given to employees to master their tasks, at the right time, new situations and challenges may be welcomed and in fact necessary to continue engagement. One of the strongest take-aways is: add in change and challenge with proper coaching, and you will have buy in, enthusiasm and growth.

12. People like to be surrounded with positive, as a leader you must keep things positive

There is nothing like a negative force to bring the entire dynamic of the team down. In Facebook games, you see this clearly as negative people create an almost sick chaos. It’s only when these people are removed from the group or blocked from interaction that things get back into a healthy and productive groove. In Facebook games, it’s easy to make these decisions. When you lead a tribe and see a negative force, you identify it quickly, remove it and realize immediately that performance increases. Life is a bit harder, however — the reality is, the results are the same — remove negative forces and people who are not team oriented or sharing the vision of the company, and you will see an immediate turn around in a positive direction. If you need a little help, you can check out The 12 Most Humane Incentives to Fire Your Employees. It is critical to keep things upbeat and positive.

I never imagined there were so many potentially valuable lessons in participating and observing online gaming behavior — you may have never looked at things this way before either. However, you need only look at the level of engagement and success of all these online games to realize there is something very strong happening there, something powerful and engaging. I am truly grateful for what Facebook games, and all my online gaming friends helped me see early on, did in a way that I would have never imagined before: the empowering aspects of social collaboration for the workplace.

Apply the above to your workplace. Get people motivated, keep things challenging — then you will see engagement and productivity soar. It’s time for HR and leaders to take a hard look at what the possibilities are to truly move people with the power of social and what we have learned from platforms like Facebook with their games. Are you ready to drive engagement to a new level?

  • Do any of these points resonate with you?
  • Have you experienced the engagement online of playing Facebook games? Wouldn’t you want to see this kind of collaboration and dedication in your workplace?
  • How can you bring it into your workplace, or are you doing this already?
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