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Gamification in the Warehouse: Q&A with Brian Carlson

It’s 2024, and you’re probably sick and tired of hearing about the tight labor market, and yet, it’s a problem that we must contend with daily. But what may not be spoken of nearly as much is less about the trouble with finding labor and more about retaining it. Bored and disengaged employees are a real issue, and organizations will do well to invest in solutions that can boost productivity and morale, and even attract younger talent. 

Enter gamification in the warehouse, a powerful tool that transforms routine tasks into exciting challenges, fostering healthy competition and driving real results. Let’s dive into a Q&A with Cornerstone Edge Principal, Brian Carlson, to explore the potential of gamification in your warehouse.

Q: Gamification is becoming more popular in warehouses. Production boards are great for keeping everyone informed, but gamification sounds like it takes things to a whole new level of engagement. So, what exactly is gamification?

Brian Carlson: Right, production boards can help, but there’s so much more that can be done. Gamification is all about boosting motivation and bringing an element of fun into the workplace by incorporating game-like elements into non-game settings. Think points, badges, leaderboards, challenges – anything that adds a playful layer and encourages participation. It’s been proven to work wonders in various industries, and warehousing is no exception.

Q: That sounds exciting! From where you stand, are there any downsides to consider?

Brian Carlson: Every tool has its pros and cons. Gamification can be fantastic for boosting employee engagement, morale, and even productivity. Studies show it can increase productivity by 50% and engagement by 60%! Attracting younger generations is a challenge for many industries, especially warehousing, where millennials and Gen Z may find the work less appealing. Warehouses have the challenge of attracting millennial (and younger) forces to stay committed to them for the long haul, not an easy ask for a population that is generally more entrepreneurial and independent.

Q: What are some potential concerns?

Brian Carlson: First, successful gamification requires thoughtful planning and resources. It’s not just slapping on a point system. Design, implementation, and maintenance all take time and money, which might not be feasible for every operation. It’s also not a one-size-fits-all approach. A game that works well within one department of a warehouse won’t necessarily excel in another. It’s important to learn what tasks can benefit from gamification, rather than adding it for the sake of just having. Monitor the impact of gamification with specific metrics, like productivity, error rates, employee satisfaction, etc.

Q: What about long-term engagement with gamification in the warehouse? Are employees likely to get bored after a while?

Brian Carlson: That’s a great point. Gamification is still relatively new in warehouses, and its long-term effectiveness is being studied. We need to ensure the “game” stays fresh and engaging to avoid burnout. We also need to make sure the gamification aspect of the job doesn’t get in the way of productivity. If tasks are falling by the wayside because employees are more focused on the game, there’s a flaw in the design. Like most integrations, it’s important to keep track of and monitor its impact so that changes can be addressed proactively. 

Q: And are there any ethical considerations?

Brian Carlson: Absolutely. We want to foster healthy competition, not encourage unethical behavior like neglecting safety or taking unhealthy risks to keep up with the game. Gamification systems need to be fair, and inclusive, and promote well-being for all employees. It’s also important to choose a game (or games) that work well for the majority of employees. You want to avoid overly competitive elements that could create a hostile work environment and ensure accessibility for employees with disabilities, that sort of thing. Just like some people don’t test well, the same can be said for an individual’s ability to game. You want to be sure you’re not inadvertently making some employees feel less-than or outcast because gaming isn’t their forte.

Q: How do you suggest warehouses implement gamification?

Brian Carlson: At CornerstoneEdge, data is our driving force. So, of course, I recommend a data-driven approach. Start by investigating what area of the warehouse needs attention and determine if gamification is the right approach. If yes, start small, maybe with a pilot program involving employees likely to excel in gamified environments. This will help you identify potential issues and refine your system before a full-scale rollout. If that works, it’s also an opportunity to have a handful of employees who are already familiar with the process and who can serve as guides for the rest of the employees. This allows you to incorporate a little bit of unofficial mentorship, which has also been shown to improve employee morale

Q: For warehouses already using production boards, is gamification the next logical step?

Brian Carlson: If your production boards are effective, then absolutely! Gamification can build upon that foundation and further boost engagement and efficiency. It’s not a magic bullet, but it has the potential to significantly improve your warehouse operations. 

Is gamification in the warehouse the right move for your operation? Every warehouse is different and will have varying needs. If you believe your warehouse is missing something, we can help. We’re supply chain experts dedicated to helping your supply chain become your differentiator. Whether you need a supply chain evaluation or a new warehouse layout design, we can help. Give us a call and let’s see what we can do today to make your tomorrows better. 


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