Make your Employee Referral Program as addictive as Pokémon Go


In case you don’t know, Nintendo’s Pokémon Go has broken the internet. It released on 6th July and is making 2 million dollars a day. The game has beaten all top social media apps — Twitter for its daily active users, Tinder in terms of installs and Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp for its usage time.

What makes Pokémon Go addictive is its strong gamification framework. Gamification is applying elements of game playing (point scoring, competition, badges, etc.) to other areas of activity, typically to encourage engagement. High engagement from employees is needed for making a referral program successful. Gamification can help do that. In this article, we cover gamification elements from Pokémon Go that can encourage engagement and make your referral program addictive.

Before I begin, it is important to know Pokémon and understand how Pokémon Go works. If you already know what it is, please go ahead and skip this section.

What is Pokémon?

Pokémon is a media franchise owned by The Pokémon Company, created in 1995. It is centered on fictional creatures called “Pokémon”. The humans are known as Pokémon Trainers. Their tagline says “Catch ’Em All”. It means that players can catch and train Pokémon to battle each other for sport.

What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based mobile game. Virtual Pokémon appear on your phone at real world locations. The players traverse to that location, capture, battle, and train the virtual Pokémons. The game uses your GPS and camera to detect your physical location as you move to different real world locations to catch Pokémon. The organization makes its money through in-app purchases of additional gameplay items.

How do you play Pokémon Go?

The game detects the player’s current location along with a map of their immediate surroundings. The immediate surroundings include a number of PokéStops and Pokémon gyms (usually cafes, restaurants, parks, etc.). Players travel in the real world to these locations. Simultaneously, the game displays the image of a Pokémon as though it were in the real world. Once at the location, the player captures Pokémon. After capturing a wild Pokémon, the player is awarded two types of in-game currencies: candies and stardust. Stardust and candies can raise a Pokémon’s “combat power” while only candies can evolve/level up a Pokémon. Players also earn experience points for various in-game activities.They level up as they earn experience points and ultimately win to be the Pokémon Master.

Now that you know what the game is all about, let’s make your employee referral program as addictive as Pokémon Go.

#1 Fun > Serious, Purpose > Money

In Pokémon Go, players have to move from one location to another in order to capture Pokémon. Players don’t realize it immediately but they are exercising while playing the game. Pokémon Go could easily have been promoted as a health and fitness app but instead it is simply a fun game.

Communicating your message the right way matters.

Today, most of the organizations promote cash rewards to motivate their employees for participating in the referral program. They fail to realize that money is a very limited motivator. To motivate employees, they need to shift their focus from money and leverage intrinsic motivators like cause or altruism. For instance, aligning referral bonuses to a social cause would be a better way for encouraging participation than giving away cash. One of our customers used the message: “Help a friend land their first job, have them owe you for life” and it resulted in a relatively high engagement. Promote the right way and participation is a sure shot.

#2 Pokémon Master = Employee of the month

Pokémon Go has no monetary reward at the end of the game. Yet, the whole world is collecting stardust and candies and battling with other Pokémon, only to become the ultimate Pokémon Master.

Reputation matters. And the case with employees is no different.

Being recognized for bringing in a great friend is valuable to employees. It adds to their reputation and leads to repeat behavior. It is also human tendency to desire to excel. Have employees compete with each other to refer talented and suitable friends.

In most organizations, employees are only awarded on successful referrals, i.e., when their friend is hired. But, in 7 out of 10 cases, employees face rejection for their referrals. This causes them to lose interest in the referral program. Gamification can solve this problem. Points, badges and interim rewards collected during the candidate’s journey mitigate the effect of rejection and continue to drive participation.

Using gamification, you can also engage passive employees who are normally disengaged. Some disengaged employees participate out of curiosity. Some due to the hefty promotion while some check it out because everybody else is engrossed. One of our customers experienced growth in new user participation by 7% week on week. We noticed a spike in logins immediately after lunch. Gamification drove a fun experience resulting in word of mouth promotion.

#3 Gamification drives business outcomes

Pokémon Go’s success added $7.5 billion to Nintendo’s market value in just one week. Players were engaged with features like Pokéstops and placement of Pokémon literally everywhere.

Gamification, when designed well, drives strong human behaviour leading to groundbreaking business outcomes.

To drive these outcomes, you can run referral campaigns using different motivators. The campaigns increase participation which correlates to an improved referral hiring percentage. The number defines the health of your organization’s culture. And a good organizational culture leads to better employer branding. Employees as your biggest advocates helps in attracting better talent. It lowers the cost per hire and time to hire. Best of all, both employee and referral are retained in the organization longer.

These are three things from Pokémon Go that you can apply to your referral program. Did you catch ‘em all? Shoot your comments below!

Blog originally published on Brainwaves.

Share This Post

Leave a Reply