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Between the Death of the Performance Review and Millennials, Workforce Optimization and Gamification Set to Change in 2016

2015 saw the birth of new and exciting trends that are set to transform workforce optimization. They also gave birth to new ways of engaging employees and the real time management of their performance, through gamification. In many respects, 2015 was a landmark year in workforce optimization, as larger workforce trends began shaping the future. The gist of the change was a dramatic transformation in how enterprise make use of performance management.

At the core of this is a movement away from a post-facto evaluation of employees into a proactive approach of managing employee performance in real time. As enterprises change workforce management, goal setting and workforce optimization, corporate culture is changing.

Here are the five key trends affecting workforce optimization and gamification:

1.    The performance review is disappearing

2015 saw Deloitte and Accenture announcing that they will no longer use performance reviews, marking a dramatic change in management practices. If in the past ranking all employees and communicating their ranking was considered a best practice, determining their futures, the practice suddenly fell out of flavor.

The reason for the change was simple. Companies came to the conclusion that too much work went into performance reviews, but that the result wasn’t worth it, sometimes alienating employees.  An interesting point into the matter is that most of us are subject to the “Illusory Superiority” fallacy, which, in layperson’s terms, is the belief that you are better than the average. Now imagine that fallacy interacting with a 3 grading in a performance review – quite a disappointment that can result in employee alienation.

Another problem with reviews is that fact that their goals are stale. The business can go through multiple changes throughout the year, but the performance review will relate to something that was defined a year ago. Ideally goals should be set in real time, and employees be given feedback in real time, so they can correct course in time, or get coached to excellence.

That’s how we’re moving away from employee evaluation to employee development. The future isn’t looking into the past to assess performance, it is about real-time tracking and coaching, relative to clear short-term objectives and goals.

2.    2015 was about goals

Moving away from the performance review requires a fresh look at goal setting and goal tracking. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a method for setting and tracking workplace objectives, pioneered at Intel and used by Linkedin, Twitter, Google and others.

An OKR mindset, where goals are set and tracked continuously, means that managers are no longer task masters, but rather more focused on development and coaching, since goals are constantly being set and tracked. Another result is better alignment with corporate objectives, since goals are a derivative of corporate objectives. The overall impact is transparency and a sense of fairness.

3.    Activity Trackers and the Workplace

The Internet of Things and the activity tracker isn’t about refrigerators ordering your food for you (although that can happen too). It’s more about setting goals and tracking them. Tracking “steps taken” makes you increase the number of steps you take. If fitbit works for fitness, can it work at work, with the goals we just described? Tracking performance in real time provides real time feedback to the employee about how they are doing, driving self-reflection and engagement. This is how employees begin to work better. The idea of the activity tracker for work also gives management a great opportunity for coaching – since they can see what is going off course and intervene in time.

4.    Analytics

The geeks have arrived” said Josh Bersin in 2015, writing on the subject of people analytics. He argues that HR is beginning to use analytics to understand and manage workforce performance. It is no longer a fuzzy business but rather a user of data science.

5.    Millennials

Millennials are expected to become 50% of the workforce by 2020. In 2015, Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce. How do you accommodate a generation that is more digital than any preceding generation and expects transparency?

Millennials are less comfortable with hierarchy, expect information to be shared and ample feedback. In other words, they  will bring a change in corporate culture. Tracking goals and focusing on continuous improvement feels natural to them.

Gamification and Workforce Optimization in 2016?

Workforce optimization and gamification are certainly evolving with the five trends described about.  Gamification today is about setting goals, and then expressing them as workforce performance KPIs, such as call handle time, conversion, customer satisfaction and more. “Pure” OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is more suitable for knowledge workers, yet, transactional employees, like call center employees, need a definition of their targets KPIs.

KPIs can be set to define ranges of “good” performance, while getting a good overall score, that is dependent on several, often contradictory KPIs, drives a balanced achievement of KPIs.

Using gamification to drive engagement has the same impact on performance: a drive to continuously improve, a clear indication of areas for improvement and the creation of a fair and transparent culture. Gamification also ties elearning into gamification, by guiding employees to train in areas where they are lacking. Its social abilities tie into people’s craving for social recognition of their performance.

Gamification and Workforce optimization in the contact center free management from being task enforcers or “evaluators”. It transforms then into coaches, as the real time data from gamification uses employees’ intrinsic motivation to do better.