Salesforce brings 'gamification' to the office with Work.com

Salesforce.com's Work.com release seeks to increase collaboration and improve performance in the office through "gamification."

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Salesforce.com's maneuvering across the enterprise continued this week with the announcement of Work.com, a social performance management platform billed as the "first step toward transforming human resources for the social era."

Work.com represents a "gamification" of the typical office routine. Goals are set and employees receive gifts and badges when they are achieved, in much the same way a video game player "levels up." A Gallup poll cited during a Dreamforce keynote address stated that $300 billion is lost every year in the U.S. due to lack of productivity. Work.com was presented as a way to keep employees engaged and -- through Salesforce's Chatter collaboration software -- get them to work together towards common goals.

"Getting people to be passionate at work and wanting them to complete activities is a good thing," said Elise Olding, a research director at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

Salesforce.com acquired the technology behind Work.com last December when it purchased Rypple, a Toronto-based company that offed cloud-based human resources software.

Salesforce breaks its Work.com strategy into three parts, according to company officials and IT analysts that attended the conference. The customer relationship management (CRM) giant wants to provide customer companies with a way to align and communicate business goals in a transparent manner, incentivize employees to perform better through rewards, and increase the ability of employees to provide feedback about systems and processes. The tool is integrated with Chatter and can be used inside other Salesforce platforms, like Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud.

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Salesforce Executive Vice President of Social Applications John Wookey led the Dreamforce 2012 audience through a demonstration of the platform using Facebook as a customer example. The choice of Facebook made sense later in the keynote, when the company unveiled its new Salesforce Identity product and described it as a "Facebook-like identity [service] for the enterprise."

Wookey explained how Work.com is used by managers to set goals for employees, monitor performance in reaching those goals, give feedback and reward success. He demonstrated a Facebook-like feedback setup using Chatter. He displayed the employee performance review template that allowed a manager to examine sales metrics, goals and previous feedback to create an employee review.

"I think it is [a good idea] because it provides transparency," Olding said. "If you're using the same criteria across [business units] it can be fairer. It takes a lot of the politics and favoritism out of performance reviews."

The idea of gamification comes in with the rewards options. There are levels that can be bestowed, recognitions like "thank you" or "good job," and specific badges that represent expertise. Some badges come with points attached, which are directly transferrable into dollars that can be used on Amazon.com, a partner with Salesforce on the project.

"Now you can take public recognition and augment it with tangible rewards," Wookey said.

While Wookey used the example of a salesman besting a quota and getting rewarded, he made it clear that gamification is more about engaging employees and getting them to work collaboratively on team goals. Olding agrees with that approach.

"I would caution against using gamification for competition. I'd like to see it used around collaboration," she said. "There are a lot of game mechanics that can be focused around collaboration."

Work.com also partners with Workday to integrate into its human capital management software. Workday's HCM is a data source about employee activities that feeds into Work.com. Salesforce said Work.com will become available later this year. Pricing begins at $5 per user.

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