Playing the Change Game: How change management gamification helped an international financial services company energize a multi-year SAP implementation.

Setting the scene.
Nobody has ever complained that an SAP implementation was too exciting. And it’s even less of a riveting topic of conversation if you’ve been talking about it for so long that it’s become old news before it’s even begun. That lack of excitement would be all fine and good if you didn’t need your people to care. But if you want people aware, informed, trained, and ready to go at the time of launch (and you do want all of those things, since the success of a new initiative is totally dependent on them), then you absolutely must get those people engaged.

For one large national financial services company, this situation was a reality. When we met them, they were in year two of a four year implementation of an SAP module, an implementation that wasn’t particularly popular with the 600+ impacted employees to begin with. And since little had been rolled out to date, those employees had long since stopped paying attention.

The organization desperately needed to get their people to re-engage, and fast. They needed new energy. And, to make matters even more complicated, the impacted employees were a cross-generational group spread out across the country, many remote in home offices.

Enter PeopleFirm.
PeopleFirm quickly realized that this challenging situation was going to require something a little more creative than a basic best practice change management solution. The client needed different. They needed results.

And so the Race to RE-Align game was born.

If your first response was, “Wait, gamification?? In the banking industry?” you aren’t alone. In fact, some of the organization’s leaders were just as doubtful as you are. Bank employees are conservative, right? They don’t play games, right?

Well, wrong. They not only played the game, they gave it a life far beyond anything we’d hoped for.

Here’s how it worked: stickersFirst, a brand was created so it would be easy for people to spot the activities that were part of the game. Then the stakeholders were divided into teams of around 20 (grouped around immediate managers), and awarded points for a variety of actions. Those actions weren’t random; they were chosen to support the change strategy (in other words, they were things we wanted people to do in order to get prepared and engaged). They included:

• Participating in readiness and information sessions
• Responding to a ‘what did you learn’ question at the end of a learning video 
• Attending training sessions
• Answering surveys
• Taking sticker selfies

Yes, you read that right – taking selfies was one of the most popular parts of the game. Contest designers had “Race to RE-Align” stickers designed as a low-budget, grassroots way to spread the word. Stakeholders got points for taking a selfie with the sticker and emailing the picture in. While a selfie isn’t exactly necessary to get up to speed on an SAP implementation, it was a catalyst for real enthusiasm for the game.

Sticker selfies weren’t the only catalyst, however. Another important driver was the friendly competition between groups. The PeopleFirm team stoked this competitive spirit by keeping a leaderboard up to date on a dedicated SharePoint site. People could see their actions turn into points for their teams, and teams could see where they stood in relation to others. That’s when it all got real.

Finally, remember that “bankers don’t play games” thought? It actually triggered one of the most unique aspects of the game – it’s low, low budget. Because of that initial hesitance, the PeopleFirm team kept everything on the cheap. As they say, out of necessity comes invention. Everything was low-cost: stickers (cheap), selfies (free), email (free), and inexpensive prizes. In the end it was bragging rights that mattered, not loot.


So how well did it all work?
The “Race to RE-Align” took on a life of its own. Sticker selfies flooded in. The leader that had doubted the most admitted that he was seeing stickers everywhere. Even teams that weren’t even involved in the competition (like the SAP implementation team itself) asked for stickers so they could be a part of the game that was generating so much buzz. Ultimately, more than 400 people attended Get Ready sessions, more than 700 attended information sessions, more than 900 viewed the RE-Align video (with 40% of viewers emailing about what they learned from the video), and, most importantly,

a whopping 82% specifically said they were ready to use the new tools and processes.

Of course, this didn’t all happen overnight. To get the momentum started, the PeopleFirm team primed the pump with email updates that included the selfies they’d received (including a “selfie” featuring key business leaders that they took themselves to get the ball rolling), points updates, and emails to team leaders designed to foster competition. But once that ball started rolling, the results were extraordinary.

Some key takeaways:

  1. Have a leaderboard. And, as Tim Gunn would say, “use it wisely”.
  2. Give stakeholders points for what they would need to do anyway as part of the change plan – don’t waste their time.
  3. Promote, promote, promote!
  4. Make it simple, since people won’t pay attention if it’s too complicated. Do all the points calculations and tabulating yourself.
  5. If you believe it will work, keep the faith, and keep selling your idea until you bet buy-in. But also make sure you have a backup plan if it doesn’t work. Some games just might not take off, and you want to be able to change course if you have to. This is another great reason to keep things low-cost, since you won’t have sunk a lot of investment into it before you know whether or not it will go viral. Ditch the fancy apps!
  6. Keep your teams the right size. For us it was around 20 people, all under an immediate manager.
  7. Be prepared to prime the pump! You’re going to need to do a little pushing until it gets to critical mass
  8. Don’t try gamification in charged or hostile atmospheres, like around unpopular decisions or layoffs. Games are best for getting people’s attention, not improving morale.

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PeopleFirm is a management and HR consulting firm dedicated to helping you achieve that ultimate win-win: inspired people driving inspiring performance. We focus on effective tools, measurable outcomes, real results, and getting your people out of their seats and engaged in your company’s growth. We use people strategy, talent management, organizational performance, and change management, to help you partner with your people to build an organization that excels in today’s new world of work. People are your last competitive frontier. Make them count.

Your people = your success.

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