Christa HolmborgChrista HolmborgMarch 9, 2020
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10min1410

Most of us have fond memories playing (or arguing) our way through a game of Monopoly with the family or bringing together a group of friends for a game night.

That said, few people would associate the term “board game” with business, although gamification has the ability to bring people together to discuss challenges in an objective way, and to enable participation of a variety of stakeholders.

Additionally, the ‘out of the ordinary’ setting of a game creates a more relaxed and informal environment, which fosters learning, creativity, and idea generation. It is therefore unsurprising that design games are increasingly being adopted by organisations as a method for meeting business objectives, especially related to co-creation and collaboration.

Design games are tools which are created for a specific context and purpose, e.g. building consensus, training, or project planning. The purpose, as well as the research during the game planning phase, influence the look and feel of the design game and the types of prompts/artefacts which are used.

However, they include a physical ‘board’, game pieces, cards (e.g. question or ‘what if’ cards), profiles (e.g. different types of customers), and future scenarios. These prompts help trigger ideas and reactions and help players approach a topic from multiple perspectives, while game rules help maintain a focus and downplay potential power-relations and contradictions between interests, improving collaboration.

Hellon has created a large number of tailored design games for a variety of organisational contexts and aims such as: training and development, project planning, future scenario building, embedding strategy, and facilitating ideation. Irrespective of their context, design games can have a massive impact in a business setting, whether through developing new innovations or improving internal processes.

The benefits of gamification in a business setting

Making the unknown tangible: Design games can present a variety of potential future scenarios which help ground future alternatives into reality. This enables discussion around future opportunities and challenges, to guide e.g. policy making.

A recent example of a ‘futures’ game includes the Nordic Urban Mobility 2050 game Hellon created for Nordic Innovation. The game presents a number of scenarios for what the future might look like in 2050 when it comes to mobility (transport modes, infrastructure, energy) and acts as a conversation starter for municipalities, businesses, and policy makers. It facilitates co-creation and consensus-building on how to meet future mobility needs in urban cities.

Gamification promotes creativity: Design games are visual and playful tools, which facilitate exploration and idea generation. Most people like to work in the safe field of knowledge, which unfortunately limits innovation.

Through the prompts and artefacts of a game, people are enabled to improvise, question habits, and consider different perspectives, giving rise to ideas which might not even have been thought of before.

Facilitating ideation and co-creation: Through gamification, organisations are able to participate a wide range of customers in the planning of new services or gain their support in coming up with new ideas.

The City of Helsinki, for example, used a design game created by Hellon to enable citizens to generate ideas on how an annual citizen-allocated budget should be spent. The Participatory Budgeting Game concretises budgeting for players, which enables a more varied group of people to participate and helps people come up with ideas using cards as prompts.

The game resulted in an unprecedented number of ideas on how the City of Helsinki could be improved, out of which a selection was shortlisted and then voted on by citizens.

Learning through playing: Design games can be used as engaging and inspirational tools for learning. The hands-on approach of a game, as well as a relaxed environment, opens up the field for discussion and thinking outside of the box, enabling people to show their personality and participate to a much higher extent than traditional lecture-based learning.

Hellon created a design game to support personalised and engaging training at Stockmann, a large department store chain in the Nordics and Baltics. The Diamond Game presents salespeople with various scenarios through a board game and cards, which allows them to use their own personal approach as a starting point, followed by suggestions on how to improve their skills without losing their personal traits. The game is also taught through a train the trainer methodology, which allowed the game to be used to train over 3,000 salespeople (see main image).

Building a common language: Design games create a common language in multi-disciplinary teams who may use similar terms but mean different things by them.

Games concretise the meaning behind the words and generate a common understanding of the language which is used. This is particularly useful in, for example, training customer service teams or embedding a new strategy, which was the focus for a development discussion game Hellon created for Airpro, a company providing aviation services across a range of Finnish airports.

The game set a structure for development discussions, but also supported the grounding of a new strategy by engaging employees to think about how to manifest the strategy in their specific roles.

The game as a safe space: Design games allow participants to step out of their ordinary working day and, because people associate games with play, encourage a more relaxed and informal setting. This enables people to speak out, even on difficult and sensitive topics.

The focus is on the game and its outcomes, rather than on any specific person. As a result, it is easier to explore various feelings and ideas and to think of the “art of the possible”.

Design games are fun: We recently heard a conversation between two designers, who discussed the outcomes of a design game which had been introduced in a large UK public sector organisation. In addition to a variety of business outcomes, one of the unexpected results of the project was that the process of playing the game was seen as very enjoyable.

In the world of spreadsheets and reporting, why shouldn’t we embrace an element of fun into our working lives – especially when the benefits attached are plenty?


Gethin NadinGethin NadinJanuary 15, 2020
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9min1855

This article was co-authored with John Petter, CEO of HR software provider Zellis.

 

It isn’t a new discovery that money worries have a direct impact on your employees; financial concerns are a serious cause of mental health issues, which themselves result in increases in both absenteeism and presenteeism, reduced engagement and productivity, and all manner of personal problems that make day-to-day working life a struggle.

Unfortunately, the prevailing social and economic conditions have made money worries increasingly common. Only rarely are employees, especially amongst the younger generations, faced with one specific financial challenge. It’s much more likely they are dealing with some dangerous combination of home ownership struggles, slow wage growth, too much borrowing, being a victim of a scam, and worries over their retirement savings.

This is all underpinned by low financial literacy, which Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, has said is actually getting worse in the UK. Financial education is supposed to start in school, but many students say they don’t receive it. And once they leave the school system, most people aren’t exposed to any kind of financial literacy education unless it’s self-taught.

What role should employers play in addressing this issue?

The answer is that employers should take a greater role in increasing literacy and awareness. Currently less than half (44 percent) of UK employees are offered financial education, according to research from Zellis. The traditional view that personal money matters shouldn’t be discussed in the workplace is still pervasive. In fact, according to The Close Brothers, the majority (58 percent) of UK employers don’t have any sort of financial wellbeing strategy in place.

But let’s look at it from a different perspective: what’s the central transaction in the relationship between an organisation and its employees?

That’s right, it’s pay and reward.

So it only seems natural that the employer should play a part in helping employees make their money go further, by explaining how key concepts like benefits, tax, and pensions actually work. Zellis’ research indicates that this is currently an underserved need. They found:

  • Most (58 percent) employees don’t fully understand their payslips
  • Less than a quarter (24 percent) check their statement every month
  • Around a third (32 percent) say they don’t have enough information about benefit choices
  • A quarter (25 percent) say the same about their pension options

And while trust in traditional financial institutions like banks is at a low point, employers can step in to provide much needed support and education. But we must make it clear that they shouldn’t try to provide financial ‘advice’, which is something regulated, professional, and typically relates to money choices (i.e. investments) that involve a degree of risk.

What practical steps can organisations take, then, to support employees – and what are the potential business benefits? Here are a few quick ideas:

Run financial literacy programmes

These could be created internally, or you could bring in an external expert to help. They should be inclusive of different ages, background and levels of knowledge, and could cover topics such as how to understand a payslip, how to access benefits, how the tax system works, and how to manage your pension.

Closing the awareness gap can make a huge difference. Consider, for example, the hundreds of thousands of low-wage employees who don’t claim Universal Credit simply because they don’t know they are entitled to it. An organisation that helps to bring this information to light can really change the lives of its employees.

Communicate benefit choices 

Your benefits package can make all the difference when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. However, organisations struggle with low levels of employee uptake either because the benefits on offer are not deemed relevant and useful, or because not enough is done to promote them and explain their value.

A solution is to involve employees closely in the process of designing a benefits package, improving both relevancy and awareness. Benefits awareness can also be boosted using a ‘total rewards statement’, offered as part of or alongside the payslip, which shows the total value of all pay and benefits received from the employer.

When employees are more engaged with their benefits it not only contributes to better financial wellbeing, but to better employee-employer relations as well.

Re-think your HR systems

Of course, helping your employees feel in control of their pay and benefits means having modern and user-friendly HR systems. When these systems are outdated, clunky and not mobile-friendly, important life-admin tasks such as updating bank details, checking your payslip and making pension contributions become harder and more frustrating.

The reality is that today’s employees expect near consumer-grade levels of technology in the workplace, so organisations that still rely on archaic systems need to re-think their approach. Convenience is key – if employees can get easy access to important pay and rewards information, they’re more likely to take positive steps towards improving their financial wellbeing.

Offer mental health support

The last tip is the simplest, but arguably the most important. Stress and worry can be made considerably worse in the absence of having someone to talk to. As an employer, you can help fill this gap by offering counselling. While it won’t be a direct fix for most financial problems, it will offer reassurance and let your staff know that it’s OK not to be OK.

Now we are into 2020, it would be amiss not to find a place for financial education and counselling in your HR strategy.

We’ve known for a while now that money worries aren’t good for the health of your staff or your business – so why not do something about it?


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 5, 2019
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2min1972

US Mexican food chain Chipotle is employing nurses to validate the claims of employees who call in sick, its CEO has revealed.

The chain, famous for its burritos, tacos, and guacamole, provides nurses to check the claims of workers who call in to let their colleagues know they are ill.

Despite sounding a touch extreme for some, once the illness claim has been validated, the employee will receive a full day’s pay while being told to stay at home and recover.

The practise, revealed at a conference in New York’s Barclays Center this week, is part of the firm’s improved food-safety initiative, and was implemented following an outbreak of norovirus in a Virginia outlet in 2017 which was partly attributed to an ill employee.

CEO Brian Niccol said: “We have nurses on call, so that if you say, ‘Hey, I’ve been sick,’ you get the call into the nurse. The nurse validates that it’s not a hangover – you’re really sick – and then we pay for the day off to get healthy again.”

He continued: “We have a very different food-safety culture than we did two years ago, OK?” Niccol said. “Nobody gets to the back of the restaurant without going through a wellness check.”

 


Alf RehnAlf RehnJuly 10, 2019
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6min1668

The following article has been written for CXM by bestselling author and Professor of Innovation, Design and Management at the University of Southern Denmark, Alf Rehn

 

We might call this the tragedy of niceness…

So used are we to thinking of business as a cold, hard space, bereft of emotions and ruled by calculated rationality, that even when issues more aligned with caring and compassion are discussed, they are often presented as marginal concerns.

Consider, for instance, the issue of diversity. A plethora of studies has shown that diversity is a key business driver. Organisations which rate high in diversity, particularly when this includes top management, outperform less diverse companies when it comes to things such as performance and profitability, and in particular when it comes to innovation.

A recent study from the Boston Consulting Group showed that companies with more diverse leadership teams reported almost double the innovation revenues than companies with below-average diversity scores. In today’s highly competitive environment, such figures can literally be the difference between life or death for a company.

That said, diversity is still often discussed as a ‘nice to have’ for an organisation, rather than something of critical and strategic importance. I’ve sometimes referred to this as “the aestheticisation of diversity”, by which I mean that diversity is looked to more for its superficial benefits and less for the manner in which it responds to core business requirements. Coupled with the tendency to frame diversity as an ethical and moral issue, this ends up presenting diversity as a fundamentally nice thing – and this is a problem.

Damaging: Alf Rehn highlights ‘the aestheticisation of diversity’ as a problem for firms

As long as issues such as diversity – and we could easily replace this word with e.g. care, compassion, or civility – are presented as issues that make ethical or aesthetic sense, they will fail to become adopted as core logics in an organisation.

This is not only problematic from the perspective of diversity itself, it actively damages companies. We thus need to push far harder for the point that diversity is done for logical reasons, fully in line with the profit motive companies tend to operate under, if only to ensure that these principles are taken seriously.

In my research into innovation, this has played out in the starkest ways possible. Studies have consistently and for a very long time shown that team and company diversity are some of the most critical deciding factors for creativity and innovation success there are. Further, I have myself seen how organisations that embrace cultural values such as respect and compassion do considerably better when it comes to idea generation and development than organisations that are lacking in these dimensions.

Still, whenever talk turns to the way in which diversity and compassion might be developed in an organisations, CEOs and key executives often treat these as marginal issues. Rather than seeing them as strategic engagements, they are shunted off to HR, or given short shrift by at best being discussed as a possible theme for a workshop some times in the future.

This needs to change, as in an increasingly competitive environment, companies simply cannot afford to lose the cognitive surplus that lies in having diverse and compassionate organisations. Whilst it might sound troubling to some, diversity isn’t only nice, nor is compassion just pleasant. Both deliver where it counts, in creativity, in profit margins, in improved customer relationships.

Squandering such riches isn’t just about being a boor, but about being an incompetent executive. So let the aestheticisation of diversity and compassion take second place to what truly matters – the cold, hard reality that diversity and compassion drives results, generates innovations, and makes companies better. That they’re nice is a lovely added bonus.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 19, 2019
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3min1793

The need to praise staff for good work has been highlighted in a new study showing employees would turn down a pay increase in favour of a culture of support.

Global employee engagement firm Reward Gateway carried out a survey of UK employees, managers, and HR staff, and found that more than three-in-five would rather work for a firm that offered praise, than for a company offering none but paying 10 percent more.

While the survey provides overwhelming evidence that HR leaders believe recognition and reward programs make a positive impact on business outcomes, 45 percent of HR workers don’t agree that their current recognition and reward program is as effective as it could be.

The top frustrations HR leaders have with their recognition and reward programs are that employees aren’t motivated by the rewards; moments of recognition aren’t seen or celebrated by other people; and it doesn’t allow for continuous or immediate recognition. To overcome these challenges and improve their programmes, almost three quarters of HR employees surveyed said they would be likely to invest in recognition and reward within the next year.

Another barrier to successful recognition programmes is that managers are ill-equipped to give effective recognition. Only 16 percent of managers strongly agreed that their company provides them with the tools and understanding on how to recognise their colleagues effectively.

Meanwhile, many managers are failing to recognise their employees effectively, as just 20 percent of managers strongly agreed that their company praises or thanks employees for the good work they do based on their company’s values, and over a quarter agreed that they struggle to find the time to give out thanks and praise.

Doug Butler, CEO at Reward Gateway, said: “While it’s great to see so many HR leaders understanding the positive impact of employee engagement on business, traditional methods and manual processes to achieve current workforce employee engagement goals are no longer an option. What employees want is continuous, instant and impactful recognition which reflects the ‘always-on’ workplace culture and the ‘always connected’ personal life many now have.”




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