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SW Lending Conf: How Real-Time Engagement Drives CU Success
Friday, May 19, 2017 6:20 AM

Patrick McElhenie

At Wednesday's Southwest Lending Conference in Austin, Patrick McElhenie from CUNA Mutual Group gave a talk on the application of gaming mechanics in the work place. He related the surprising results of a pilot program called "Inside Track," which involved five credit unions.

Why apply gaming mechanics to work production? Three billion video games played per week are good indicators that some of the things attracting people to play those games can be translated to production at work.

The average age of video game players is 35. Gaming is not only challenging and exciting, it's fun, encourages intense focus, and provides gamers instant feedback on their performance. For their achievements, gamers receive points, badges, and other rewards of achievement. So the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts has the potential to engage audiences (employees) in a big way inside credit unions.

According to McElhenie, the gamification cycle, or gaming mechanics, used in the pilot study included:

  • Status
  • Challenges
  • Win conditions
  • Leaderboards (real-time feedback)
  • Badges
  • Social network

Playing games gets people really engaged. They're into the moment and having fun, as well as getting feedback. Can you bring feedback, focus and fun at work?

McElhenie offered some relevant stats about employees:

  • Only 13 percent of employees are engaged.
  • Engaged employees create 57 percent operating income improvement
  • Engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave.
  • Highly engaged employees are 4 times more likely to recommend the credit union's products and services to members.
  • Among disengaged employees, only 13 percent recommend the credit union's products and services to members.

Objectives of the pilot program?
The purpose of real-time engagement is to solve problems and answer the question of how your staff can do better. Enter the three concepts of fun, focus, and feedback. Participants in the pilot program used digital leaderboards that they could access on their computers or iPads. The leaderboards measured specific goals, provided positive reinforcement, recognized top performers, and gave context for personal performance.

People used selfies, or avatars, so others could see their rankings. Data was refreshed every 15 minutes throughout the day. The top three people were recognized on leaderboards, and participants could see those who scored higher than themselves, but never those below to prevent embarrassing anyone who wasn't doing as well.

We can't measure everything, McElhenie said. In fact, in the words of Jon Stewart, "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing." He indicated that credit unions will want to use metrics that help people focus.

For instance, at checkout, Target customers get to give employees an immediate grade. It's real-time feedback and pushes sales clerks to do better. Consider that many credit unions only give feedback to their loan officers once a month. Instant feedback changes behavior because it's real-time engagement.

Fun. It works!
Fun can change behavior for the better, McElhenie says. Disengaged employees might feel like "another day, another dollar" or like they're working in silos. By incorporating fun into the job through games and friendly competition, the engagement quotient rises. In addition to making the job fun, engagement also promotes teamwork.

The pilot offered a built-in notion called a duel where an individual can challenge a peer to a play a game, or duel, and see who wins or gets bragging rights. Results are measured in metrics that are important. A step further is something called a gauntlet, a 10-person duel. Top winners all receive rewards of some kind... coins, badges, etc.

Before participating in the pilot program, lenders might get monthly or quarterly reviews or only hear from manager when there's a problem and no way to capture peer feedback. During engagement in the pilot program, standings among participants for various activities were posted on leaderboards and updated every 15 minutes. This created positive feedback that also empowered peers to deliver feedback to each other.

The pilot program also introduced scenarios, which are two minutes a day of customized focus on the job learning how to do better. The exercise identifies training gaps and fulfills intrinsic needs for competition and competence. From the scenarios, managers got instant feedback and assessed knowledge and participants earned points, etc. Pilot credit unions used these strategies and engagement tactics and results were striking.

Two credit unions that monitored and reported every fifteen minutes saw better results than those who monitored less frequently. Another great result, McElhenie said, is that managers became more involved, which also improved performance. The challenge in the work place would be keeping scenarios fresh and coming up with new games and engagement activities.

Some takeaways
What gets measured gets managed, and what's fun gets done. The timing of feedback (based on frequency of data) really matters. The future of the workplace is fun.

You don't necessarily need technology to run scenarios in your credit union, McElhenie said, but think of ways to accomplish these same sorts of things. Run competitions, keep public score, do things in line with goals and objectives, reward performance and accomplishments, and take time to celebrate.