Getting Workplace Gamification Right

Posted in Incentive and Recognition, Employee Engagement, Sales Incentives

by Iain Thomson on Apr 18, 2017 12:00:00 AM

A bit of healthy competition can have a great impact

When it comes to motivating employees, there’s no one-size fits all solution. Everyone needs different things to feel motivated and engaged in the workplace, so a variety of recognition and rewards is key.

One method for motivating employees is to introduce something a bit more interactive with a little bit of workplace gamification for certain tasks.

So, what is gamification? In a broad sense, it looks at integrating game mechanisms into everyday tasks by introducing rewards and competition to encourage participation and engagement.

Workplace gamification is popular among businesses, and the UK population loves a good game, with 31.6 million people in the UK playing games of some kind, and Deloitte reporting that 47% of people use their smartphones to play games – which is more than online banking and streaming video or music.

An extra challenge

Challenging yourself for an external reward is often referred to in psychology as an ‘extrinsic incentive‘. Basically where someone expects to get something, such as a physical reward, in return for taking part in an activity.

There is a correlation between motivation and reward, with 82% of employees who felt motivated in the workplace receiving some form of recognition or reward for completing a job successfully.

Introducing games and challenges to the workforce can be good for businesses in the right context, but it’s important to consider the management side of introducing gamification, and the culture it may create.

The benefits of using gamification

So where does gamification fit into this? Well, giving people goals and targets to hit in the workplace is nothing new – but incentivising the process of a task to incorporate more game-like elements can make the work more appealing. You could even say it’ll inject some extra fun into the office!

Gamification is a fantastic way to have real-time data on employee performance too.  If for example there is a new product in the business and an employee is using a game to test their knowledge on it, it can be a great way to find out which areas still need support.

While businesses looking to motivate their employees is not a new concept, the advancement of technology makes gamification and game elements easier to implement into the workforce. An example of this is Deloitte’s Leadership Academy, who use quizzes, in-depth courses and more to identify future leaders in their company.

Gabe Zichermann, author of Gamification Revolution, argues that gamification is very important to businesses for employee engagement: “We live in a world of increasing distraction and complexity, where organisations need to cut through the noise and users need systems that can help them achieve their full potential. Well done gamification has the power to accomplish that and more.”

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Companies already using gamification

Gamification is growing in the workplace, with 53% of survey respondents saying the use of gamification will be widespread by 2020.

Uber uses gamification with its drivers, allowing them to earn badges from passengers instead of tips, for certain achievements such as providing a great level of service. Uber Compliments, which are badges such as ‘Excellent Service’, ‘Entertaining Driver’ or even ‘Awesome DJ’, can be submitted from passengers at the end of the journey, which will be displayed on the feedback section for the driver, increasing their appeal to future users.

Nundu Janakiram, Group Product Manager for Driver Engagement at Uber, said the company introduced the system to give better feedback to its drivers. He said: “If we can better understand what makes a five-star experience, we can better create the environment for those five-star experiences.”

Gamification is used in a variety of scenarios within businesses, too – not just in driving sales or improving customer service. L’Oréal launched an online recruitment game called Reveal, where users were tasked with dealing with corporate challenges across multiple departments of the business, such as finance.

Once a user had completed Reveal, they were given feedback on their performance and the best ‘players’ were invited for interviews.

If a business knows what it wants to achieve from gamification, it is a useful tool in their arsenal. It’s down to the needs of the business, and understanding employee’s needs, to determine successful implementation of a gamification programme. As always with employee engagement, two-way communication is key.

Using gamification in the right context

Gamification works when you reward your employees with worthwhile prizes that they actually want. The only way you will understand what your employees want is by talking and listening to them, and this is where the HR department comes in, as they should have their finger on the pulse of employee’s needs and wants.

It’s not just down to HR though. Team managers should know what motivates their staff and what doesn’t. Teams are made up of different personalities and age ranges, so understanding their needs and wants is key to successful gamification.

Gamification isn’t for everyone, so it’s not applicable to every business or employee. Jason Corsello, vice president of corporate strategy and marketing at Cornerstone OnDemand, argues it’s down to what businesses are using gamification for. He said:

“Gaming in the workplace doesn’t mean giving the fastest worker $100 at the end of each day or throwing a wad of cash at the person who completes gamified training with a perfect score. In fact, this can alienate employees and make them feel as though they are playing against one another instead of with each other.”

Of course, gamification is there to encourage the behaviours the employer wants, but it’s also down to the purpose behind the behaviour change. Workplaces must consider what is right for their employees as well as the business,  to ensure change is best for everyone involved.

 Square Pegs and Round Holes


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