Translated from a Chinese article on 06-06-2010:
SNDA, a company that is dedicated to developing massive online multiplayer games, online games in short, integrates "game playing" in management. In 2010 when there are many conflicts caused by too-low wages in many companies in China, the SNDA Game-Management System could be an inspiration to other companies.
Let’s learn the SNDA model from a common employee, Yuan Li (alias). In Yuan’s case, when he just joined SNDA his grade is SD30; the correspondent salary is 5000yuan/month. Together with the grade and salary he got 2 experience points. In order to go from SD30 to SD31, Yuan needs 500 experience points which will take approximately 250 work days, equivalent to a year.
In reality, it took Yuan 8 months to get SD31. He achieved 498 experience points mostly by working on extra projects. When he reached SD31, his salary changed from 5000yuan to 5250yuan/month. This model, under which the employee gains not only experience but also a salary raise, is called Game-Management System in SNDA.
The HR Vice President Jing Zhang said: "There are more than 700 projects initiated and done via this system. In the entire 2009, in average, the grade of employee rises 1.62 grades; salary raise, 14%. Some employees upgrade as many as 16 grades; the correspondent salary raise is at least 100%."
Is self-managing in conflict with the traditional linear management style?
Jing also said: "The Game-Management System allows employees to achieve self-development, promotion and career path. It also allows the management to arrange the human resources in the most efficient way". According to Jing after 2 years of practice the SNDA Game-Management System is quite mature.
Adopting a Game-like system to manage the company was straight forward since SNDA is a company that develops online games.
Two years ago, just like those of any fast-growing companies, the top managers of SNDA started to ponder: "Why online games could satisfy so many users; why employees of even Fortune 500 companies are often unsatisfied?"
Why don’t we embed games into management?
Every SNDA employee has a personal portal that resembles a game portal in which there are some bars that represent important measurements for the current status of the employee, just like live, blood, level in games. By monitoring the bars an employee can easily see how far or close he or she is to an upgrade.
Among the measurements in the portal, the most important measurement is experience. Because experience level links directly to salary level. "There is also an upgrade assistant in the portal. Through the upgrade assistant one could estimate the needed experience points for the next 5 upgrades." according to Jing, the HR Vice president of SNDA.
Two ways to get upgrade
How to balance extra projects and responsibilities of daily work?
Just like Yuan Li, other employees in SNDA don’t have to wait hopelessly for an promotion or salary raise, they can upgrade their experience and salary through the Game-Management System by their own hard working. The fastest way to get an upgrade is to work on projects.
There are two ways to gain experience points: 1) by performing well in the daily work, which is called job experiences; 2) by working on extra projects, which is called project experiences. An employee gets job experiences everyday when he or she performs well on that day. If an employee doesn’t perform well he or she might lose job experiences. On the other hand, you gain project experiences by working on extra projects. In principle, employees will only gain experiences and never would lose experiences when working on projects.
The most popular phrase in SNDA is "start a project". It happened often that one employee leads several middle managers in one project. The project experience system really motivates normal employees to coordinate and start projects. Meanwhile those employees also showed HR managers how capable they are. "In a sense, it really makes our job much more effective and efficient" said Dr. Li Xiong, the person who in charge of the Game-management system in SNDA.
If you don’t like to start a project, you could also take tasks. People have experience with online games must know the term "tasks". In games tasks are often set to attract players to go further and gain experience from accomplishing tasks.
Through the portal the employees can also find various tasks. When you accept a task and accomplish it, you gain certain points of experience.
From statistics of 2009, the actual ratio of job and project experience is 5:6.25 respectively. About 25% of the employees gained 86% of the total project experiences; about half of the employees gained 99% of the total job experiences.
According to Dr. Li Xiong, in Q3 and A4 2009, there are 2000 employees achieved upgrade through the Game-Management System. None of the 2000 employees needed any sort of permission from any manager.
The concern is that if the project experience is more attractive than performing daily jobs, how about daily jobs? Will extra projects give negative influence in daily jobs? A senior manager asked: "What does the Game-Management System truly motivate, the daily jobs or extra projects?"
How to keep it fair and refreshing?
Gain experience and then promotion is not far. It sounds really fair and simple. However, in reality it has its problems. For instance, an office cleaners, will they gain more and more salaries just because they clean the office well everyday? "Of course not, for the cleaner, the highest grade they can achieve is SD5" according to Jing.
Dr. Li Xiong gave further explanation. According to the job and working experience there are limit for upgrade. For instance, HR managers and product managers are both managers. However, product managers are considered to contribute more to the growth of the company. Therefore the grade range for product managers is 50 to 55. And that for HR managers is 40 to 45.
How to set the grade range for various roles and jobs in the company is a challenge and the key to the fairness and success of the system.