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Is Your Business Ready for Gamification?

Are you and your business ready for gamification?

gamificationAs you probably already know, gamification is the latest hype in the business world, with companies ‘gamifying’ everything from order forms to customer reward systems. But before you jump on the band wagon, it is advisable that you take the time to understand what it means and what it could do to improve your business and help you reach your goals.

Although it can be a useful tool, it is not necessarily right for every business. By the time you finish reading this, you should be fairly certain about whether or not your business is ready for this new trend.

What is Gamification?

Gamification uses the same techniques as video games, in order to engage an audience. It has the potential to change a routine or boring task into a creative or at least passable activity, which is why some businesses use it as a motivational tool for employees or customers.

Companies have found that gamification can be used in their marketing campaigns, as a way to increase traffic to their websites, get feedback or even get employees to complete tasks that would otherwise be undesirable.

Google recently found a way to gamify the routine activity of reading news articles by awarding readers with badges based on the specific topics they read about each day. Users can also choose to share their badges with other Google+ users, which brings an element of social pressure into the picture.

Another interesting example of how gamification has been used in the business world is the Finnish National Library, which uses an online game to get volunteers to help update the library’s online e-archives.

Does Your Business Need It?

If you think you would like to start using gamification techniques in your business, you should first ask yourself what you are looking to accomplish by doing so. Are you just following along with the trends or do you have a clear end goal?

Gamification is not just about awarding points and prizes or creating a fun atmosphere to work in. Although these things can be beneficial to your company, you should learn how to gamify your product or service in a more complete way, to engage and collaborate with other users.

When you can’t identify a clear reason for gamifying your products, or you can’t see how it would benefit your customers and employees, make their lives easier or provide them with meaningful interactions, then it is probably not going to be of much use, and you would be better off using different methods to generate interest in your business. On the other hand, if you have a clear set of goals in mind and an idea of how get users to help you reach those goals, then you may be onto something.

Who Are You Targeting?

Once you have decided that this is the path you want to take, you need to identify your audience. Who is it you want to target and what are they interested in? By identifying a clear demographic, you can zero in on that group and see what makes them tick.

What kinds of games are they already playing? Do they like interactive or competitive games? If you are going to spend the time and resources to create a gamified product, you had better be sure that you have the answers to these questions, or you will be wasting your time and money.

Research has shown that advertising is ineffective for 95% of all people who see an ad on a billboard, television or online. The same is true for the use of games in marketing. Your gamified product probably won’t appeal to a very large group of people, so you need to make sure that you know who you are targeting and how you can best engage them.

Some people make the mistake of assuming that a more general gamified product will appeal to more people. The problem is that by making your product too general, you stand the chance of not really engaging anyone fully. So narrow your focus and find out what will work for your audience.

Find the Right Balance

When creating a game for your business, you will have to find the right balance between challenging tasks and relaxation. If the game is too difficult, your users will tire of it quickly, especially if they don’t see any rewards for their efforts. On the other hand, if it is too easy and they fly through it without any difficulty, they aren’t likely to bother playing it a second time.

The key to a greater user experience is to use both long and short-term goals throughout the game. The long-term goal should be whatever goal or objective you have previously identified for your business. Then, in their quest to reach the long-term goal, users should be kept busy with smaller challenges, mysteries to solve, tasks to complete or meaningful interactions with other users.

There should always be rewards and feedback loops along the way every time a small challenge has been completed, as this will motivate the user to continue.

Obviously, there is still a lot you will have to learn, but you should treat it as a work in progress. If you have set clear goals, weighed the cons against the pros and decided that this is the right path for your business, then it’s best to make your move as soon as possible. Be honest with yourself, and if you see that it’s not working, be prepared to step back and consider how you can improve your methods.

Gamification is not the only way for you to engage customers on your site. Having high quality content and the ability to debate will do this as well!


Have You Devised Your Disaster Plan Yet?

The importance of a disaster plan for your business.

disaster planUnfortunately, too many business wait until it is too late to consider the effects that a natural or manmade disaster would have on their business. The truth is that one out of every four small businesses are never able to recover after disaster hits. The good news is that if a business has a well-organized disaster plan in place, they are likely to see less overall damage or loss and reopen for business quicker. When devising a comprehensive plan, your management team must consider the important questions.

Who Do You Need to Run Your Business?

The first major question to ask yourself is who are the key players of the business. This includes essential employees and suppliers who are necessary in order to operate your business. Your essential employees should understand your disaster plan and know that they will be needed in case of an emergency. You should keep the contact information for all of the essential members in several locations and gather the necessary information such as phone numbers, emails and account numbers. You should also consider creating an alternative list in case one of your employees or suppliers is unavailable during the disaster.

What Supplies and Files Do You Need?

You will also need to consider what supplies and files you will need to successfully operate your business in case of a disaster. This includes the necessary inventory, equipment and tools that are used on a day-to-day basis. If at all possible, keep back-up materials and equipment in good working condition and at a separate location from your business. Regularly back-up the vital documents, such as payroll, account receivable, account payable, personnel, insurance policies and account information.

Where Can You Relocate Your Business?

As part of the business disaster plan, you must decide on several locations that the business could relocate to if necessary. Take in to account the current location of your business and the area in which it resides and list a few good alternatives places. If the business can operate out of a person’s home for a while that would be a great alternative, but if an actual new site needs to be found, you must be the first one to find it. You must also understand your insurance policies and how they work in case of a disaster. By quickly submitting your insurance claims, it can provide you with the necessary cash flow to relocate & execute your disaster plan effectively.

When and How Can You Reopen for Business?

The goal for any small business is to reopen as soon as possible after disaster strikes. The most important thing during your downtime and even after your business reopens is to keep the line of communication open between you and your customers. Use any method necessary to communicate to the customers that your business is prepared and they will be reopening soon. When possible, post messages on your website, send out emails and call vital customers to let them know the status of your business.

Why Do You Need To Be Prepared

If disaster hits your business, things will be chaotic enough without trying to quickly devise a plan of action. By creating a plan ahead of time, it allows you time to think through the process, so that your do not forget any of the important thing. Depending on the nature of the disaster, afterwards may be too late to fix an oversight. For example, if a fire destroys your business it may be very time-consuming, difficult or even impossible to retrieve all the important files that have been destroyed.

Hopefully disaster will never hit your business, but if it does it is imperative that your business has a organized plan in place. This will help your entire team know exactly what needs to be done to ensure your businesses success. From communication with employees, suppliers and the customers to relocating the business to gathering all the necessary materials, a disaster plan can have your business reopening in no time.

By having a disaster plan in place you can now focus on more important things such as customer engagement! “Is Your Business Ready for Gamification?”

Six Leadership Styles You Find in the Workplace

Six Leadership Styles You Find in the Workplace

leadership stylesEvery company has people in management that use certain types of leadership styles. Depending on how your personality clicks with the leadership style used, you can either prosper in your position or despise going into work. There are six leadership styles that you can find in the workplace. Leaders can adopt one or a combination of all styles to best suit the company’s and person’s needs.

You may see your boss using the visionary leadership style. This style works well with new companies or ones needing a new direction. Visionaries see all employees working as a team to meet the same goal and company dreams. They visualize what needs to be done by having an innovative spirit and love of experimentation. This leadership style believes productivity relies on taking taking risks, but at the calculated level. Visionary leaders do not concern themselves with the day-to-day activities of how the group will achieve the visualized goals.

The second type of leadership style you may find in the workplace is known as the commanding style. Think of a military leader and strict disciplinarian, and you can better understand this type of leadership. If your boss barks out orders and does not concern him or herself with your response or ability to do the task, they are using the commanding style. Criticism is common and positive feedback almost nonexistent. Common results of working with this type of leader are poor productivity, lack of morale and minimal, if any, job satisfaction among employees.

Another leadership style involves coaching. If you thrive in dealing with bosses who like working with you on a one-to-one basis, this leadership style is for you. Coaching styles work best with employees who the initiative to work up the corporate level while improving individual skill sets. This style concentrates on helping employees reach their potential by improving performance, productivity, communications and working on goal setting. Coaches believe that when employee goals align with company goals, great things can happen. On the negative side, the coaching leadership style can be perceived as micromanaging employees. This can come across as not trusting the employee’s judgment and capabilities.

You will see the democratic leadership style in use when your boss thrives in creating a group of people with a variety of skills and knowledge that can be used to the group’s advantage. He or she will work with the collective wisdom of the group to meet goals. This style believes that goals are achieved by building consensus among the group. On the negative side, this style is not appropriate in times of crisis. Crisis warrants quick decisions, and this leadership style does not fit that bill.

The affiliate leadership style feeds off team work by creating group harmony. Goals are achieved by increasing communication among group members. Leaders are comfortable giving praise for a job or idea well done. This leadership style increases employee morale, restores trust in an organization and helps form a bond among team members. Since this leadership style depends upon praising so much, poor behavior can not be dealt with properly. Mediocrity can come across as being acceptable.

The sixth leadership style you can find in your workplace is known as pacesetting. If your boss sets very high performance standards and appears obsessed about getting things done quicker and more efficiently, he or she is probably using this style of leadership. Everyone is expected to perform at the same level. When used extensively, this style can undercut employee morale and negatively affect the work environment.

Many times, management personnel can adopt one or a combination of all leadership styles to best suit the company’s and person’s needs.

Finding the right leadership styles can make or break a company!

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Keeping Your Intellectual Capital & Utilizing Your Older Staff

 Retaining Intellectual Capital and Seasoned Staff

intellectual capital

The aging work force of America has grown in recent years, and this has made a huge impact on businesses. As large numbers of baby boomers are retiring, the amount of intellectual capital that businesses have is shrinking. Although underestimated, intellectual capital has the knowledge and skills that younger workers may not have or have overlooked. These workers have the technical skills, the background knowledge of the industry or company, and the knowledge of the history and evolution of a product or service. These workers carry with them valuable information and maintain valuable contacts that are essential to a business.

In this budget conscious time, employers are laying off or giving early retirement to those who make the most: the intellectual capital. Without intending to, these companies are ridding themselves of their most valuable asset. Some experts have nicknamed this as “brain drain” or “knowledge collapse”. Although in the short-term the company will save capital by replacing high salaries with lower entry salaries, the long-term effects are costly and potentially devastating. Imagine the top sales rep leaving with all of his contacts and relationships, and a new sales rep stepping in to take over. With no knowledge of the personal relationships, this could be a disaster. Many retirees do not take the time to write down everything they know to pass along to the next guy. Additionally, the number of people entering the work force is significantly lower than those retiring, which can cause a long-term money drain on a company. With fewer candidates, higher salaries can be demanded with large sign-on bonuses. Very soon it becomes clear that it would have been less costly to keep the older employees rather than forcing early retirement.

Using What You Have

As an employer, it can be confusing in how to handle this shift in employees. Several options are available for employers to help ease this transitional period without causing damage to the company.

Most importantly, employers need to analyze what information needs to be passed to the new employees. Organizing this information in an easy to use database, preferably searchable, will ensure that all employees can access what they need quickly, without frustration. Although this seems simple, keep in mind that employees sometimes keep knowledge to themselves to remain valuable to the company. The mindset is if you are the only employee that knows how to do something, you are less likely to be downsized. It is vital to ask yourself if you reward your employees for sharing, or do you run a more private information shop. Leaning to the information sharing route will make this transition relatively easy.

It is also important to periodically review your existing situation and analyze if you are ready for anyone critical to the operation to leave. How long will replacing that person take? Does that person hold the information vital to your organization to themselves or is it readily available? Those are a few of the questions to ask before making a plan.

Not To Overlook

  • Baby boomers are changing the face of retirement. Many boomers plan on working through their retirement, whether it be full-time or part-time. As an employer, look at retaining some of these workers, or even recruiting them for part-time positions.
  • Analyze your workplace culture. Are the efforts of your older workers rewarded, do they get projects, are they treated fairly in comparison with the younger workers? Be sure to not engage in age discrimination, even unintentionally.
  • Flexibility is the key to retention. Many retirees want to continue to work, but do not want the long hours or rigid time constraints. Try new schedules or ideas with these boomers to keep them on your team.

Phased retirements are an attractive option for both employees and employers. Consider taking on some of the retirees as contractors, giving them the freedom to work with flexibility and less pressure. Restructuring, such as flex time employees or job sharing can offer retirees another option. This also can help keep young talent with your company as well. If a company shows that they are willing to work with their situations, the talent will be more likely to stay with that company. Another option is to offer your part-time retirees benefits. Many are willing to take lower salaries in exchange for better benefits.

Other Ways to Succeed:

  • Make a plan for those potential retirees. Find ways to offer them a plan that will retain the information and the employees themselves on terms that work for everyone.
  • Actually run the numbers and figure out which is more beneficial to the company: keeping an older employee or hiring a new one. Be sure to include all factors.
  • Recognize that a wide range of ages in your workforce means diversity.
  • Acknowledge all factors in aging. Everyone’s personal aging is different based on their circumstances, and thus some older workers are in better health than younger ones and take less days off for their health.
  • Allow older workers to engage in training sessions. Let them teach when appropriate, and if not appropriate, have them train with the younger staff. Refresher courses never hurt!
  • When creating teams, put younger and older workers together to allow sharing of knowledge.
  • Make the workplace friendly for the aging, keeping in mind that aging sometimes means hearing and vision changes. Also keep in mind that joint and back problems can be prevalent in aging, so provide ergonomic furniture and workspaces.
  • When recruiting older persons for volunteer positions, give them duties relative to their talents. Don’t just have them answering phones, give them leadership roles as well.
  • Find agencies that can help employ aging workers and can allow businesses to circumnavigate the tangled rules of Social Security and Retirement Acts.

With the retirement of so many baby boomers, businesses need to be aware of strategies to retain the intellectual capital needed. Long-term effects must be examined in order to view the whole picture of what impact these losses can create. Keep in mind that passing the office to the younger workers does not necessarily mean that the knowledge is passed as well. Using the above strategies can help retain the intellectual capital of businesses and be a major factor in the betterment of the economy.

Up Next is a guest article by Chase Smith of “How to Stay Positive& Productive”
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