The City of Espoo’s strategy was formed by deploying a game celebrating the city’s 50th anniversary
What kind of a vehicle could the 50-year-old Espoo get to satisfy its midlife transition? How would Espoo describe itself in a dating profile? These are some questions that were asked when Espoo’s new strategy was being practicalized by means of a Seppo game at the employee appreciation day for the Economic Development and Employment Unit.
In 2022, Espoo celebrated its 50th birthday as an official city. Espoo had also undergone a strategic overhaul during the previous years, which was being implemented at various units during the anniversary.
At the same time, the city’s Economic Development and Employment Unit was going through changes, where government employees are working side by side with city employees at various services for the duration of a so-called employment trial as part of a nationwide change.
The Economic Development and Employment Unit recognized that working on a new strategy would be challenging in a busy, change-filled daily life. Thus, they wanted a new way to engage staff in the process of putting the new strategy into practice and working on it.
Gamification turned out to be a novel and agile way of committing personnel to the strategy
The personnel of the City of Espoo's Economic Development and Employment Unit had already been involved in the strategy process through surveys, but there was still room for more intensive work to put the strategy into practice.
As such, the unit began to consider gamification as an option. It was thought that a game could be used to work on the story or strategy of the city and the unit; what do words actually mean for it and how can they be interpreted?
– We were on board with an open mind right from the start. We wanted a tool that was new, befitting of a large group, and also cost-effective. Workshops and similar are already quite time-intensive. This is why we wanted to find some nice and agile way of working on Espoo’s new story in the midst of hectic everyday business, says Senior Adviser Annika Forstén of the City of Espoo Economic Development and Employment Unit
Undertaking strategic work with joy
The original idea of using Seppo came from an employee who had got to know Seppo at their previous job. With the city’s 50th birthday coming up, the unit started thinking that the theme would fit a game well.
– We wanted to approach this with joy, and the coming birthday was a suitably fun thing. There were many new employees among us at our unit. For those who were new Espoo employees, the game was a nice bridge for presenting and deepening both the story of Espoo and the unit’s way of acting out the story, Forstén describes.
The game was ultimately implemented quickly as a turnkey project where Seppo supplied a ready-made game that had been designed together with the unit. The game was introduced at the unit’s free-form employee appreciation day, where the program included both lighter and more formal aspects.
Immediate dialog between the upper management and the employees
In the finished Espoo game, the players traveled to the City of Espoo’s 50th birthday party. The tasks along the way included thinking about what kind of a partner the Economic Development and Employment Unit is for other organizations and customers, what the values of the Espoo story mean in the everyday activity of the unit, and what are the strengths of the unit.
The tasks included both questions requiring knowledge of the Espoo story as well as assignments requiring creativity and the production of content.
The materials included glimpses of the unit´s supervisors as well, who had participated in the creation by means of for example videos and audio messages.
The supervisors were also included at the employee appreciation day as part of an interactive feedback session. Ready-made answers can be provided for the questions asked in any Seppo game, which are visible to the players after their completion.
It is also possible to include interactive feedback in the game, where the players’ answers are commented on and reacted to in real-time. This feature was put to use in the Espoo game as well.
The unit supervisors reacted to the player's answers immediately and provided feedback on the responses.
– The answers received during the game provided the management with ideas of what the staff was thinking about. One of the goals of the strategy process was to bring the staff and the management closer. The management was also able to observe things that came up in the feedback. They also picked out exceptionally good answers for closer processing at a later stage, Forstén relates.
Forstén confirms that this type of element was a functional part of the game for creating a sense of community and dialog.
The dating profile became a summary of development needs
The Economic Development and Employment Unit has used the themes and responses generated during the Seppo game even after the celebration day.
On the very next day, the staff had morning coffee over Teams, where the feedback and other salient points raised during the game were reviewed. Pictures taken and submitted during the game were also discussed and the events of the day were recalled.
– PowerPoint materials have been made on the basis of the topics raised in the game for use in the unit. For example, a summary has been made for development purposes of one of the game’s areas that involved making a dating profile for the City of Espoo, meaning describing Espoo as a partner. A summary has also been made for the assignment that surveyed values. All of this has been fed into materials that will be used to get the unit’s story known, says Forstén.
The Seppo game and Olympics were the favorites of the day
The Economic Development and Employment Unit conducted a feedback survey for the participants of the staff celebration day that included both scored and open questions.
The Seppo game and the playful Olympic games arranged during the day turned out to be staff favorites. They were mentioned in open responses and also received the best scores in scaled questions.
– We can absolutely recommend the game for similar strategy work. We have already informed other city units of the game internally. Making the game was very agile and everything went well. We were always able to reach the Seppo people and they answered quickly. Everything went really smoothly, concludes Forstén.