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Goals + Gamification = Engagement

Formula For Success
The more I study the concept of employee engagement in the restaurant industry I see the need for innovation. One of the biggest challenges is how to get hourly employees to really engage with the company’s mission. The formula I’m seeing emerge in other markets could change foodservice engagement if readily embraced.


Goals + Gamification = Engagement


We all know that annual reviews in foodservice are impractical. With high turnover, seasonal staff and a growing job market, employees aren’t committed to being with your restaurant for a year. So when does a manager work with his or her team on setting and meeting goals? How do shift managers, who work with a rotating workforce, help ensure consistent communication and feedback?


Gamification may just sound like a catch phrase, but the concept behind the word is proving to be remarkably effective in the workplace. So what exactly is it and how can it help you? I’m glad you asked.
Gamification Improves Learning and Performance


Kids as young as three are ‘gaming.’ Gamers try, fail, learn and repeat the process by trial and error until they succeed. As they grow and enter the workforce, these digital natives expect instantaneous goal-oriented success akin to the games they played growing up. They move from level to level, building status and self-esteem.

Gaming is about engagement and repetition, two things that are critical in training your restaurant’s staff. Using gamification is about changing training from something that involves watching, reading and testing to an activity that employees can really engage in. Active learning makes the information stick with people more.

We are all competitive. With games, small failures are neither public nor permanent — they are another learning tool or a stepping-stone. Gamers log in, play, fail or succeed, save and come back later to continue. It’s not just a form of enjoyment or interaction, but how they compete with and prove themselves.

Gamification can be used in the workplace to improve learning and performance. A good foodservice gamification product doesn’t end with training. It would engage employees and allow them to continue to progress and succeed. Restaurants need their employees to want to flourish — to strive to be better servers, better cooks and better brand ambassadors.

Why Gamification for Staff Engagement?
 Gamification in training and engagement provides your employees with authentic practice, a focus on “doing,” active collaboration from “Day 1” and a way to control their own levels of engagement without relying on supervisors. For managers, gamification can offer data collection that allows for more strategic staffing.

As every aspect of HR trends towards data analysis — gamification offers a unique look into staff development. Just like games, everything people do is tracked. What they do, how long it takes them … gamification results can provide a quick overview into which employees show leadership, positive attitudes and time management. (See Fig. 1, Source: VenueGen)


Gamification levels the playing field between extrovert and introverted employees. It also allows managers to see where engagement is lacking and which employees are working to improve skills. A new waitress could start with no experience, but “play” your program over a couple weeks and show a 55 percent improvement and a mastery of the menu.

A Foodservice Gamification Example…
Basic gamification is already seeping into foodservice on the consumer side. Programs like Foursquare, Gowalla and Checkpoints allow clients to earn rewards for certain actions. In restaurant operations this could be translated into employees earning virtual rewards for receiving manager approval, co-worker recommendations or completing a sufficient number of tasks. Even retention could be rewarded and used as a stepping-stone towards “leveling-up” in the career game.

Already many businesses have courses that allow employees to go through a series of situations presented in a game-like set-up where they must make the correct decision to proceed.

Companies like Bunchball and VenueGen already design gamification programs tailored to your business needs. They take a similar concept to the game-like series of questions and can build out a game scenario. As the concept grows I predict that gaming will be incorporated in most talent management and marketing solutions — especially those aimed at engagement.

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