Kinetic Consulting

'The world is changing' we are told... isn't is always? Over the last few months we have looked at robotics and how automation is changing the credit management workplace, but there is something more fundamental that that going on which started around 1947 and we are now feeling it's impact.

The working population is changing those born between 1947 and 1964, the baby boomers, are retiring and businesses have not been planning adequately for this...

The working population gaining influence in the workplace, business and with the disposable income are now aged 30. This ‘cohort’ are known as ‘Millennials’ born roughly between 1982 and 2000, so currently this group are aged between 17 and 35. At the top end of this scale they are the professionals, new managers, seniors and young ‘Heads of’. At the bottom end of the age range are those in University, the apprentices and new job seekers, essentially those recruits which enable business to grow, departments to bring in new enthusiastic youngsters, the credit controllers and credit professionals of the future.

The problem is that organisations are beginning to realise that these young professionals, the so called ‘Millennials’ are very different from previous generations, more difficult to manage, more impatient and with higher expectations. Waiting for the ‘…5 years and you will be a Credit Controller…’ won’t cut it with these guys – and so you know – this is a gender neutral ‘guys’ as this group is more politically correct than previous generations, wanting a more inclusive society. Broad generalisations these may be but from these starting points we can drill down into what we need to do.

Speaking to a very well known recruitment firm recently provided an insight into how this group behaves: tougher to satisfy and more likely not to turn up for a job interview if something better comes along. This lack of job satisfaction and urgency to ‘get on’ and do something ‘meaningful’ and ‘make a difference’ means that this group will change roles more frequently. 47% are expected to change jobs in 2017/18 and in the USA Department of Labor Survey of 2016, they estimated that by the age of 38 this Millennial group will have an average of between 10 and 14 jobs… so much for waiting for the ‘…5 years and you will be a credit controller…’.

So if we are to recruit, retain and develop this new group, or indeed those that follow them, we need to make work more engaging, interesting, fulfilling and worthwhile and this is where ‘Gamification’ of the workplace is being developed. So what is Gamification?

In short and in summary of several definitions it is ‘…the application of game-design elements and principles to improve user engagement, motivation and organisational, productivity.’ A great example of this is very relevant as we start a new year. We have all joined a gym with the best intentions of getting fit only to waste 9 months of the subscription, but wearable fitness bands and smart watches now provide us with rewards for achieving 5000 steps a day or climbing the 10 flights of stairs. The reward may only be a little buzz on the wrist, or a ‘well done’ mini firework display on the screen, but it is, as the definition states, ‘Gamification’ of fitness and this type of programming is arriving in workplaces now.

Back in September 2014 Credit Management Magazine published an article I wrote about ‘How to Incentivise a Credit Control Team’. At the time I said that it isn’t about monetary rewards and the new Gamification is the same. What is also constant is measurement, applying measurement and targets like all incentives are obviously critical and are the starting point in developing Gamification approaches to team engagement and motivation.

We all see this sort of activity every day, but may not have given it the Gamification label – encouraging loyalty to a brand by liking a Facebook page, gaining access to more information or products, limited editions, additional discount with a roulette wheel spin, and then further discounts with store cards and collecting loyalty points.

Gamification is about rewards, levels and upgrades, achieving a certain level of a staged target generates rewards and ‘progress’ to another level of difficulty giving more satisfaction when achieved and so motivation to move onto the next level thus driving staff engagement. This is of course all designed to drive a certain behaviour, otherwise what is the point.

Think of this as creating a ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ or ‘Super Mario Kart’ in the workplace, after all these were the computer games that the 17 to 35 year old Millennials grew up with finding them more ‘engaging’ than the ‘going out to play’ of the older generation.

Where to start? Well as mentioned like always with measurement, if you can measure it you can create a target, you can create levels and tiered targets that are related rewards and based on that create different levels for the team to achieve, and so different and escalating ‘rewards’. From an extra hour for lunch to go home early on a Friday to Monday morning off, or being a member of the ‘Top Tier Club’ for a given period through achievement of the highest targets, like all rewards these need not be financial and often non-financial rewards have a greater value than £10, £20 or £50 voucher or cash lost in a pay packet, these are also easier to award and cheaper to administer!

Like the article ‘How to Incentivise a Credit Control Team’ (CM September 2014) here are some simple pointers:

  • Rules – Make sure that there are a clear set of rules
  • Fairness – Make sure that the rewards and capability to achieve them is fair for everyone
  • Test – Use previous 3 to 6 months results to test structure before go live
  • Communicate – Make sure that everyone understands how it will work and how their individual contribution is linked to the department and company results
  • Start Simple – Start with a simple structure with easily understood targets

By starting simply you can use simple tools to manage the programme, which of course you will need to name. By simple I mean you can start with Excel Spreadsheets, as you develop the programme and the targets and results are tested, and you get a chance to experiment.

Next there are ‘stand-alone’ cloud based systems which can be tailored to meet your needs, but understanding what you want is important before you engage 3rd parties. Finally these cloud based systems are now linked to ERPs and in the future I have no doubt we will see these new engagement tools embedded into our corporate ERP’s indeed these are being developed now.

Over the last 6 articles on technology we have seen that the 3 elements of People, Process and Systems are undoubtedly coming together not just for the efficiency and effectiveness of the process but also to ensure the workforce of the future is more engaged and interested, becoming an integral part of the end to end solution. The people being driven by the systems and the processes not the other way around.

Despite the doom and gloom associated with new technology, people will never be completely replaced but as the world of work changes we will have to make sure that the people we do have in our teams are retained, developed and engaged. Otherwise, as the world gets smaller and the working population decreases competition for our people will increase as they search for the ‘making a difference’, ‘more fulfilling’ job and the credit profession will slowly become back-office once again.