Before we talk about the future, let's remember the past.
Do you remember the performance review goal-setting blues? I do. You got this huge, over-formatted word document. In it, in letters so small they could be easily called "fine print" (font 8 and under) you had to state your three goals for the entire year. You went home and wrangled with yourself. You exercised your memory - what kind of departmental goals are there for you to use? Are there any company goals you should remember to state?
What could these personal three goals be? Can they be met? Should they be aspirational or concrete?
Before you fell asleep at night you asked yourself the million dollar question: what would your manager think of the three goals you eventually chose?
The day after, your manager called you - he must have the goals by noon, he needs to prepare the performance review. With a "do or die" feeling you sat at your desk. You opened the file. You strained your eyes to actually see what you're typing in the 8-point font and put in your "magical" three goals. You emailed the performance review to your boss. You hoped.
The world today is radically different. HR software is hot writes Josh Bersin. I agree. It's available in the cloud, HR managers are ready to switch out of old systems that haven't aged well, and talent acquisition is top of mind for many c-level executives. The way we understand productivity and goal setting is changing.
What is even more interesting is that the future of HR is driven by strong underlying trends:
The quantified self.
The term "quantified self" is attributed to wired magazine editors Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf which defined is as "a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking." A simpler definition? Think Nike fuelband, fitbit, jawbone, any food intake app, meditation and self-journaling apps and more. What seemed slightly odd ten years ago is impacting how people live, sleep and exercise. The quantified self is also extending from the physical (body) to the mind. Some people recommend tracking and quantifying your inner emotional life. The world of HR software is noticing.
New ways of thinking about team alignment and goal setting.
Google, Intel, Zynga, Twitter, Oracle, Sears and Linkedin (http://www.firstround.com/article/the-management-framework-that-propelled-LinkedIn-to-a-20-billion-company) have one thing in common. They all use the OKR - Objectives and Key Results - method to align their people and teams.
First conceived by Andy Grove at Intel and then popularized (most notably at Google, in 1999 and up to today) OKR requires everyone to state what their objectives are and the key results that indicate they are getting there. These questions are at the core of work on the individual level and are tied to team OKRs and organizational OKRs. These are done quarterly and not annually and are open to everyone.
BetterWorks raised $ 15.5 M in September with a platform using the OKR principles. Here's what its founder said:
"The inspiration for our dashboard and this product, in a way, is the concept of a Fitbit for work... In other words, it's the concept of quantified self, regular monitoring made engaging and encouraging
This isn't HR software. Most HR companies aren't thinking of operations. But this is not about performance reviews and all that stuff...
The concept is inherently social - you share your goals with team members by default, unless you set them to private, and you invite others along to participate if they are team efforts, so that they become everyone's objectives".
The (organization) world is flatter.
New management methods, productivity gains, working from home or remotely, downsizing, outsourcing and more have changed how employees and management interact. The manager is no longer there to walk the corridors and look over people's shoulders. This means that employees are left to state, track and progress towards their goals.
Inner work life matters.
Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer from the Harvard Business School talk about employees' inner work life. "People experience a constant stream of emotions, perceptions, and motivations as they react to and make sense of the events of the workday" - this is the inner work life and it is closely tied to performance.
They write "when managers facilitate progress, every aspect of people's inner work lives are enhanced, which leads to even greater progress. This positive spiral benefits the individual workers-and the entire organization. Because every employee's inner work life system is constantly operating, its effects are inescapable". This further drives the understanding that the workplace should be a safe emotional place, and that systems should be there to support this.
What is the future of gamification in this brave new world of HR and employee engagement?
All this is bound to leave a deep impression on today's enterprise gamification world.
Gamification cannot and will not stay focused on simplistic "drive competition!" mantras. Competition is important, but it is not the sole driver of human behavior. Gamification's focus will deepen, become more research based and will seek to drive complex behaviors and thoughtful actions. Gamification is certainly not over. It still carries enormous potential - but not a future of die-hard competition to outperform others, not a modern carrot. It will carry the potential of happier and more engaged employees, in flatter organizations, with better communication and alignment of goals (key objectives and results) and more learning opportunities.
Gamification isn't over. Just like the rest of the HR world, it is going to radically change. For the better.