Amazon is not playing games (oh, yes it is) with warehouse worker performance
Everyone knows that Amazon.com sets high performance standards for those fulfilling orders in its distribution facilities. While some say they like the pace of work at Amazon’s warehouses, others contend the company is setting unrealistic goals that set workers up for failure.
The e-tailing and technology giant has sought to continue to meet its productivity goals while introducing an element of fun into getting the job done with a gamification system that translates common job tasks performed by warehouse workers into rewards as they level up their performances, in a manner of speaking.
Amazon, according to a story originally reported by The Information and picked up by others, is installing small video screens near the workstations of employees in its warehouses. The screens display video games involving such competitive activities as racing and castle building. The ability to progress during the games, with titles such as CastleCrafter, Dragon Duel, MissionRacer and PicksInSpace, is tied to completion of tasks as associates go about their jobs. Workers can play the game individually or compete as part of small or large teams. Those playing the games receive points, virtual badges and other incentives as they work/play through their shifts.
The company developed the FC Gaming system in-house as a means to remove some of the boredom that may come with the execution of repetitive tasks and, in the process, to improve performance.
Jane McGonigal, a video game designer, said that the competitive aspect of games can have a negative impact on performance, as well, and needs to be closely monitored.
“Competition is only enjoyable for a short time,” she told The Washington Post. “As soon as workers start underperforming against their colleagues, it becomes less fun and can actually be counterproductive.”
Amazon originally tested gamification at a warehouse in the Seattle area back in 2017 before bringing it to five other facilities in recent years. The company, according to the most recent reporting, is now rolling the system out to warehouses in 20 states.
Amazon, which has been criticized for its treatment of warehouse workers, says that it does not monitor the results of the games or penalize employees who do not play. Workers are tracked and assessed, however, for a variety of different performance factors as part of their regular routines. Whether those assessments become more rigorous once games are introduced is not yet publicly known.
Editor’s note: Amazon emailed the following statement to RetailWire in response to this article. “Employees have told us they enjoy having the option to join in these workstation games, and we’re excited to be taking their feedback and expanding the program to even more buildings throughout our network. Even with this expansion, the program remains completely optional for employees; they can switch in or out of different games depending on their preference, can play anonymously, or not play at all — the choice is theirs.”
- Amazon Expands Effort to ‘Gamify’ Warehouse Work – The Information
- ‘MissionRacer’: How Amazon turned the tedium of warehouse work into a game – The Washington Post
- Amazon expands gamification program that encourages warehouse employees to work harder – The Verge
- Amazon’s warehouse ‘mini-games’ for workers are expanding across 20 states – Engadget
- Amazon Is Expanding Its Dystopian ‘Games’ for Warehouse Workers – Vice
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the pros and cons of using gamification in workplaces such as warehouses and stores? How should Amazon and others using gamification in the workplace assess the value of their investments in this area?