Blog Post

    Making The Most Of Workplace Gamification

    From buzzwords to business, gamification need not belong exclusively to the domain of tech gurus and serial entrepreneurs. Read on to get the rules of the game and learn about aspects of gamification that can benefit your company.

    Alongside "agile", "lean", "purpose", "scale-up", "work-life balance", anything Elon Musk ate for breakfast, chia seeds and dogs of Instagram - gamification seems to have been buried underneath the clutter of business jargon, with at least one major publication proclaiming it the "Next Big Thing" yearly since 2012. But what is in it for your employees? Do they need to play team-building games to boost engagement or literally sync up to 3D glasses and never look back?

    Neither. Let's dig into pillars of gamification, dismantle the hype and strip down to the game elements anyone can use to improve their work processes, no Oculus Rift involved. 

    What is gamification?

    According to the Interaction Design Foundation, gamification is the application of game design principles and mechanics to non-game environments, inviting your employees to adjust their behaviors in a positive way through incentives, rewards, recognition and motivation. In people management and HR, gamification aims to improve workforce connectivity, provide training opportunities and engage digital natives. Marriott, Cognizant, Deloitte, Aetna and others have been employing gamification for the past few years, proving it to be the innovation element worth looking into. 


    Gamification proponents agree on the need to dismantle the common gamification newbie misconception: gamification for the sake of it will not yield results. Instead, it may present a time- and resource-consuming obstacle to otherwise efficient processes. On the contrary, the gamification application Rule Number 1 is to apply it to solving existing issues, one at a time.

    From employee retention to new staff benefit schemes, to boosting productivity overall, gamification can solve plenty of organizational issues. This focused approach not only simplifies the process of innovation but makes the end goal more attainable. 


    While it is tempting to directly copy gaming strategies to spice up your next team meeting with some paintballling activities and actual games, a closer look at human motivation factors is more important. The Interaction Design Foundation prioritizes these 7 motivation-driving behaviors:

    • Collecting: Who has never found themselves obsessed with a particular game or a product because you got collectible rewards in the end? Hey, Kinder Surprise Eggs, I'm looking at you!
    • Connecting: From Facebook to sports clubs - being a part of the community at work or elsewhere has never been more important than it is in the age of digital loneliness
    • Achievement: From badges to the Employee Of The Month portraits in the hall - it is hard to say that we have gone that far from having to be rewarded with grades and candy for good behavior. 
    • Feedback: Ever been on the receiving (or more like, never-receiving) end of an email conversation abruptly concluding with your message hanging, lonesome, at the end of the thread with no response? That sinking feeling you had was the need for human contact, a nod, a bit of validation - exactly what the feedback element of gamification grants every employee. 
    • Self-Expression: From decorating their desks to adding that extra 'oomph' to a personal presentation, no one wants to feel like a clone of the next employee in the bigger system of anonymous workers.
    • Reciprocity:  Ever felt compelled to do something nice after receiving a free piece of cake or a bonus you didn't expect? Introducing mechanisms of reciprocity into your office life can start a chain of positive events you didn't see coming. 
    • Blissful Productivity: The perfect equilibrium of a busy mental state, focused and energized, fully immersed in the process of work activity that game players are said to experience when the quests at hand correspond to their skills. Don't throw your employees in at the deep end before making sure your new gamification initiatives fit their levels of expertize. Find out more about the concept of productivity flow in this TED talk.

    Humans first (with systems in mind)

    People everywhere. A sense of expectation hanging in the air. Giving out a spark... ABBA was right about so many things, and especially the focus on your employees required from any HR manager attempting to introduce gamification initiatives. According to Gartner, "The target audience [of gamification] may be customers, employees or the general public, but first and foremost, they are people with needs and desires who will respond to stimuli".

    What can be suitable for a growing startup could seem too management-heavy in a large corporation. When implementing your shiny brand new gamification plan, keep your organization's existing culture in mind: measure the activities you want to introduce against company morale and capabilities.

    Rules of the game

    • Don't: Dismiss gamification as a playful fad or an empty piece of business jargon.
    • Do: Think of gamification in terms of keeping employees involved.
    • Don't: Hope for its effects in terms of the "fun" aspect of games - forced fun and compulsory team-building activities can be both transparent and awkward.
    • Do: Implement a targeted approach and aim to solve a particular issue.
    • Don't: Think of gamification as an endless resource - when its novelty has worn off, be ready to reassess results and start over again.
    • Do: Check out the history of gamification design and central concepts behind it before embarking on this new adventure. If something has already been tried and tested before, why not try and avoid someone else's mistakes? From B.J. Fogg's Behavior Model to D. Gears's "Gamification in Business" - there is plenty of helpful information to go around for every new gamification enthusiast.  
    • Don't! Be afraid of innovations. According to Gartner's Brian Burke, most gamification initiatives fail not due to the lack of creativity but because of poor design implementation. Dream big, leap ahead and make sure your design implementation does your grand vision justice. 

    Looking for a way to create a personal approach to every employee? Make sure you read our Newbie Profile Manual and learn about the demands of different workplace archetypes. 



    Topics: HR
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