Article:

Using gamification to engage and inspire drivers and improve staff retention

Alistair Aitken | December 20, 2016

If you’ve ever played computer games, you know that they create their own set of high achievers. We all have stories from our teenage days about the guy at school who no one could get near on the leader board!

Video game developers today use sophisticated psychology and neurochemistry to determine what motivates players and keeps them coming back for more, turning gaming into a multi-billion pound industry. The business world has quickly taken notice, with more companies adopting gamification techniques to improve engagement with both employees and customers.

What is “gamification”?

While games have been around for thousands of years, gamification is still in its infancy. The term gained traction a few years ago with the rise of ubiquitous mobile devices, wireless technology, wearables, sensors, big data and cloud computing, all of which have made gamification affordable and scalable in recent years.

According to Gabe Zichermann, one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject and author of the book "The Gamification Revolution", the term refers to the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage users.

The beauty of gamification is that it can lend itself to many different purposes. It's being used for marketing, company culture building, project management, recruitment and even managing employee health. 

One classic example is US retailer Target’s approach to keeping cashiers engaged during their shift. Target stores implemented a game cashiers play during the check-out process. The cashier is given either a red or green light when each item is scanned; green if the item is scanned in the optimum time and red if not. At the end of the check-out process the cashier is given an overall score, reflecting how well they have performed and designed to act as an incentive for future check-outs. This resulted in increased cashier efficiency, lowered checkout times, and increased employee morale.

Driver attrition and retention

One sector that is quickly embracing gamification is the transport industry. Advances in telematics have given bus operators, for example, a massive repository of information that can be communicated back to managers and drivers, and existing telematics and driver training platforms use driver scorecards to foster a sense of healthy competition.

However, many current approaches to gamification in this sector fail to truly engage drivers and risk being viewed as  “big brother” type intrusions by bus company employees. The objective should be for gamification to take a more aspirational, carrot-based approach, with the technology designed with driver engagement rather than simply measurement in mind.

Engagement of bus drivers is important because almost half of new employees leave after 12 weeks. There’s also a trend widely recognised in the industry in which drivers are susceptible to leaving during the first two-to-three years, but once beyond that point the attrition rates reduce significantly. Essentially, the rule is: keep them for three years and there’s a good chance they’ll stay much longer.

On top of this, the working population is also a lot more transient these days. For Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1996) job-hopping is the new normal and this group has now overtaken Baby Boomers to become the largest generation. Gallup recently found that 60% of millennials say they are open to a different job opportunity - 15 percentage points higher than the percentage of non-millennial workers who say the same. 

If devised correctly, gamification can work positively to engage and even compel drivers to improve their performance. For example, a driver who can see a day-to-day improvement can be encouraged to repeat this if there is a specific reward or rank they are aspiring to. This level of engagement in turn helps to address the pressing issue of driver attrition. Driver retention is a key priority for operators because it costs money to train and recruit drivers. An overly transient work force can also impact on an operator’s level of customer service.

So how does gamification influence drivers to want to stay longer?

At Trapeze, we have been working to develop traditional driver training platforms that go several steps beyond existing solutions. Currently, we rank drivers according to the way they are driving, with classification into Green, Yellow or Red zones based on their driving score over the period of their shift.  For example, if they brake or accelerate harshly this will be scored appropriately by the system.

Platforms need to go further, however, to engage and incentivise good practice. Drivers should be rewarded for performing well in the “game”. For example, the driver could receive a number of points for attaining ‘Green Zone’ status and these could be traded in for incentives such as a gift card or an extra day’s holiday. It is also possible to measure personal milestones, such as if a driver has stopped through every bus stop in the city or driven every vehicle, or even if they’ve reached the landmark of one million miles! The idea is to tie this data into schedules and to offer awards for day-to-day progress too, ensuring there is always something to strive for.

To be effective, gamification must ultimately put players' interests first. That’s why elements such as reward points, achievements and badges are important because it comes down to individual motivation. Gamification that is perceived as a means of exclusively highlighting and punishing poor performance quickly loses any sense of fun and thus engagement.

Drivers are encouraged to log-in to their personal portal to see how they did the previous day and to discuss the feedback with managers. Small adjustments in their driving can have a big impact on their scores. For example, a small change may be bringing the bus to a stop more effectively, perhaps saving one millilitre of fuel. But repeated thousands of times per day across each depot’s drivers, this could soon add up to tens of thousands of litres saved in fuel costs each year.

Operators can also combine it with a teamwork element where, for example, drivers are placed in groups based on the week or month of induction, with a team-based league table running for the overall workforce. Adding a degree of collaboration and teamwork to what has historically been a fairly solitary role, the points system can be used to offer rewards at key dates, such as the 12 week milestone mentioned above.

Gamification in the transport sector is a win-win for employees and operators alike. By engaging drivers and improving their performance, companies can retain staff and save money. The challenge for bus companies is to deploy this system in a positive way to drive employee engagement and help improve performance. It’s a powerful tool that can raise the standard of all drivers but, crucially, can help operators keep hold of the best drivers who may be tempted to move on.

Share this story

Alistair Aitken's photo

About Alistair Aitken

Alistair has worked within the UK passenger transport sector for over twenty years. In that time, he has worked in areas of emissions and revenue control, and software solutions. Alistair joined Trapeze in 2012 and remains enthusiastic and passionate about the role technology can play in supporting commercial bus operators in the public transport industry.

{/exp:channel:entries}