Emmanuelle Savignac’s research on the use of gamification at work

Emmanuelle Savignac’s research on the use of gamification at work

Today, organisations and businesses are more and more frequently introducing an element of entertainment and game mechanisms in the workplace to fulfil a wide range of objectives, including recruitment, training, awareness of company values and culture, evaluating employee performance or even during business events such as team building or workshops.

But why are they choosing to do that? To explain the growing interest in the use of gamification in business, let’s talk about Emmanuelle Savignac’s research on the subject.

Who is Emmanuelle Savignac?

Emmanuelle Savignac is a French anthropologist specialising in work performance, a research fellow at the centre for research on social links (Cerlis) and a lecturer at the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris.

Since the end of the 1990s, Savignac has been working and researching the ethnology of work and management, as well as human and social sciences. Her research today focuses particularly on gamification at work and the import of game structures and elements of fun into managerial practices and techniques. She became recognised in France thanks to her fieldwork at the heart of start-ups specialising in the multimedia and internet sector for 5 years.

Observing these businesses of the so-called “new economy” has allowed me to investigate, in particular, the functions, effects and limits of gamification at work or ‘fun work management’.

So, Emmanuelle Savignac questions the reasoning and efficiency of games and therefore the use of gamification in a professional setting in business in her latest books published in 2017, such as The Gamification of Work: The Use of Games and The Work of Gamification. Challenges, methods and rhetoric of the translation of play to work in collaboration with Yanita Andonova, Pierre Lénel, Anne Monjaret and Aude Seurrat.

The different authors in the latter publication are all specialists in organisations and work, also coming from backgrounds in social sciences and information and communication sciences. The research carried out by Emmanuelle Savignac and her colleagues then lead them to take an interest in the use of play in business and their growing importance in today’s learning and management practices.

What have we learned about gamification at work?

Among other things, these are the structures and mechanisms of play, their form and integration at the heart of a business and work organisation that Emmanuelle Savignac studies. This approach deliberately criticises gamification in a professional setting and therefore questions the meaning and functions as much as the efficiency of the use of gamification in business.

So, based on the observation of role-playing games and simulation games, as well as interviews with those who set them up, Emmanuelle Savignac analysed the game mechanics specific to gamification and explains the relationship between work and play more precisely.

Over the course of her research, she also studies the reasons why play is used within the framework of business and studies the interest for managers and businesses to set up strategies of gamification at work for their employees.

So what does the use of games bring to management? Emmanuelle Savignac explains that the power of play is that it teaches and engages by downplaying it. Gamification will make it possible to carry out professional activities outside of the usual business framework, by bringing a fun and more relaxed dimension.

With a format and mechanics adapted to the goals of the performance and success of a business, coupled with qualities of casualness and learning, the game is perfectly aligned with the personal development of employees and enjoyment to be had at work.

The playful simulation that games provide also raises awareness of the right to make mistakes in a fictional context. In an apprenticeship and professional setting, the idea of a second chance is rarely present. One of the main interests of play is that you can lose and simply start again.

Thanks to games, employees who become players can therefore learn and start over to understand and learn from their mistakes. It also allows people to let their creativity thrive, explore and experiment with things that they could not do in real life.

Essentially, play never totally seperates itself from reality, and that has an impact beyond the game.

That means that even in a play format at work, actions carried out have real professional consequences as well as personal, and can therefore serve a variety of different objectives and business strategies. The business would then have great interest in investing in play to improve attention, motivation and employee engagement in the context of work intensification or remote work, for example.

Importing fun game mechanisms into a work environment is therefore a common process in businesses around the world because of their many advantages, whether that is in the form of serious games such as role-playing games, simulation games and board games or even reflection and strategy games.

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