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The gamification rule book for Australian mining companies

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The Australian resources industry continues to be troubled by low productivity, skills shortages and the loss of valuable company knowledge through retiring employees and the high churn of contractors. In this fast changing and technology driven industry, the demand for a highly specialised workforce has amplified, sending a wave of urgency through the industry.

Leading resources players are now looking to “gamification” one tool in their arsenal to satisfy skilled labour demands in an interactive, cost-effective and accessible way.

Gamification defined

Gamification – applying game elements and game design techniques to solve business problems – is a relatively new trend that many organisations are yet to realise. Methodically, it extracts the essence of what makes games so alluring (e.g. a shared sense of purpose, challenge and reward), decodes the mechanics that make them work (e.g. personalisation, rankings and leader boards) and then applies these processes in a multitude of imaginative initiatives for retaining and encouraging talent.

The revolutionary potential of gamification has become more obvious after the convergence of two major trends: the coming of age of Generation Y and the increased competition for talent among industry players.

In the mining industry, gamification has the potential to deliver business objectives in two main ways. The first uses gaming strategies and mechanics to drive specific behavioural change, such as collaboration or safety-related habits. The second uses “serious games”, such as immersive 3D simulations, to develop critical skills and capabilities by giving participants the opportunity to learn through experience within a safe environment. Gamification in itself is a flexible strategy that can be tailored and applied to many areas of an organisation. It should be thought of as an “accelerator” to an existing talent and change management program.

Achieving an agile business structure and knowledge capital for your company

Gamification encourages a culture of flexibility and responsiveness by driving behavioural change for adoption of new systems or more streamlined business processes.  Mining companies are already implementing gamification in processes like security, by using games to help people learn security behaviours and their relevance; and travel by providing metrics around the travel behaviours of employees and contractors to reduce costs and streamline bookings. Gamification can also support the adoption of health and safety initiatives at mine sites to reduce onsite injury and improve working relations with suppliers, logistics teams and other members of the mining supply chain.

In addition to compliance with operational change, gamification drives adoption of existing knowledge management tools and processes, as well as promoting the exchange of knowledge and ideas. As a way to combat the transient nature of the mining workforce, the use of gaming principles encourages contribution, discussion and innovative thinking to capture critical operational knowledge and change the common behaviour of keeping knowledge to oneself, whilst rewarding those who share and support colleagues.

Attracting and retaining a proficient workforce

The Australian resources industry is being challenged by a serious skills shortage and difficulty attracting and retaining talent. By using games and Gamification as part of development and education programs mining companies can showcase these with prospective candidates as part of the requirement process which appeals especially to Generation X and Y, who are quickly becoming a larger and more significant portion of the mining workforce.

Successful gamification programs have also been observed to significantly improve graduate program outcomes and are recognised for presenting an innovative perspective to employee development which is an important differentiator in a cluttered market.

Executing a successful gamification strategy

Gamification is not a silver bullet and should not be approached in a silo. Rather, gamification should be an evolution of the current governance models of learning and training departments that exist in mining companies today.  Gamification requires a long term ‘business as usual’ mindset to achieve sustained results.

Successful implementations leverage existing governance structures involving business operations, HR and health and safety departments.

There are five key steps that mining companies should take to implement and harness gamification strategy:

  1. Define business objectives and outcomes – determine the business problem you are trying to solve and the results you are you looking to achieve and their related metrics to measure outcomes.

  2. Understand your audience – understand what motivates them and therefore what approaches will be most effective while taking into account existing incentive structures.

  3. Define a gamification strategy – Determine what kind of gamification you will use and how this will be integrated into the business.

  4. Design and build – create your game design, mechanics and user experience with supporting programs such as onsite and offsite promotion, incentive and reward programs and necessary technology.

  5. Pilot, deploy and operate – use a pilot to test and gather data so you can optimise the design and then rapidly scale the deployment with ongoing improvements for sustained behaviour change among staff and contractors.

Gamification is fast becoming an important tool to manage today’s low productivity and high churn issues in the Australian resources industry.  For a competitive industry heavily reliant on improving these factors, gamification incentivises more frequent coaching and supports organisational change towards critical behaviours that lead to improved proficiency and knowledge retention for today’s workforce.

Geirean Marcroft is Accenture’s Managing Director of Management Consulting, Talent and Organisation responsible for Accenture’s Talent Development and Learning offerings.

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