Gamification in The Workplace: 7 ways to Boosts Employee Engagement

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Employers of the current business world we're in know that keeping employees engaged  has become more critical than ever.

A disengaged workforce can lead to reduced productivity, increased turnover, and even a toxic company culture. This is where gamification enters the picture.

It's not just a trendy buzzword, it's a strategy that injects a sense of competition and fun into mundane tasks, creating a more dynamic and involved workforce. And guess what? It works.

In this blog, we're diving deep into gamification tactics in the workplace. We'll explore the psychology that makes it so effective, hear from companies that have successfully implemented it, and arm you with practical tips to roll out your own gamification strategies.

Whether you're a manager looking to supercharge your team or an HR professional exploring new engagement avenues, there's something here for you.

Get ready to turn your workplace into a more engaging, and dare we say, enjoyable space.

Psychology Behind Gamification

The psychology behind gamification is grounded in neuroscience, starting with dopamine. Often called the "feel-good hormone," dopamine flows through your brain when you achieve a goal, providing a natural high. Translating this reward system into a professional environment is the crux of gamification.

Game Mechanics: More Than Just Points and Badges

How do you actually trigger these dopamine releases in the workplace? That's where game mechanics come into play. These could be as simple as earning a badge for finishing a project ahead of schedule, or as involved as a point system that offers various rewards. These elements transform mundane tasks into challenges, creating a real sense of accomplishment.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic: The Two Faces of Motivation

Motivation is a complex beast, and not all types are equal. First up, we have intrinsic motivation—this is your internal drive, the joy you get from doing something well. Then there's extrinsic motivation, which is all about tangible rewards—think promotions or bonuses.

A successful gamification strategy cleverly balances these two forms of motivation. Intrinsic motivations can be catered to with challenging tasks that offer personal satisfaction upon completion. For extrinsic motivations, tangible rewards like gift cards or an extra day off can be very effective.

Keeping Engagement Authentic

Striking the right balance is crucial. Too much focus on external rewards may reduce the work to a mere grind, while depending solely on intrinsic rewards could leave some team members feeling underappreciated. The art lies in integrating these motivational aspects seamlessly, making gamification a potent tool for elevating employee engagement.

Useful Read: 6 Metrics to Measure Employee Engagement: The Employers Guide

Benefits of Gamification

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Gamification is a strategy that delivers real benefits when applied thoughtfully. Here's how it can make a difference in your workplace:


  • Employees More Likely to Stay: Job-hopping is common these days, but gamification can give employees a reason to stick around. It creates an interactive and dynamic work environment that can boost morale and employee satisfaction. Happy employees are more likely to stay, simple as that.

  • Makes Learning Fun and Engaging: Let's face it: traditional corporate training programs can be boring. Gamification changes this by injecting a dose of fun into the learning process. Whether it's through point systems, challenges, or interactive lessons, game elements make the educational content more absorbing. Employees are more likely to engage deeply with the material, not just because they have to, but because they want to.

  • Increasing Productivity: Employees are more productive when they're engaged. Gamification can turn routine tasks into challenges, making them more enjoyable. When people look forward to completing their tasks, it's only natural that they'll get more done.

  • Reducing Stress: Gamification can ease workplace stress by making tasks feel less like work and more like, well, games. A point-based system or team competitions can make deadlines seem less daunting and inject a little fun into the workday.

Quick Tip

Wondering which tasks could benefit from a gamification overhaul? Identify low-engagement activities by looking at:

  1. Tasks that employees often procrastinate on
  2. Projects that lack visible progress or feedback
  3. Areas where performance metrics consistently dip

Once you've identified these tasks, you're in a prime position to gamify them. Doing so can make a world of difference in how employees view their responsibilities and how efficiently they work.

Real-World Case Studies

Seeing is believing, right? Let's dive into some real-world examples that showcase how companies from diverse sectors and settings have leveraged gamification to bolster employee engagement and productivity.

Google

Google masterfully employs gamification to both engage users and drive measurable outcomes. From awarding up to 500 badges to frequent Google News readers to transforming their iconic logo into interactive games during special events, Google amplifies user interaction and boosts site traffic. For instance, the playable Pac-Man logo for its 30th anniversary captured significant user attention. These tactics serve as excellent case studies, illustrating how even tech giants like Google find value in strategically adding elements of play into their business model.

Microsoft

Microsoft seamlessly integrates gamification into its training programs and employee engagement strategies. Using Microsoft Teams, employees can earn Dynamics, Azure, and Office 365 certificates through gamified training modules that include practical labs, video content, and exam prep. The company has also developed a "Language Quality" game to fine-tune language localization across its global operations. Employees are challenged to spot poor translations, turning an otherwise tedious task into a competitive endeavour. In an extraordinary move, Microsoft Japan even dedicated an entire workday for employees to engage in this game and compete on the leaderboard, underscoring the importance they place on gamification.

Domino's

Domino's Pizza employs gamification to enhance various aspects of its business, from speeding up delivery times to boosting employee engagement and streamlining training. Their innovative Pizza Maker course uses gamification and simulations to not only train but also assess and reward employees. By adding a competitive element, the course has successfully reduced onboarding time and motivated staff to continually beat their own performance records, thereby increasing competency, speed, and accuracy—key factors in meeting customer demand.

7 Examples of Gamification in the Workplace

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So, you're intrigued by the power of gamification, but what does it actually look like in action? Let's dig into some common ways businesses are turning the daily grind into a more engaging experience.

  1. Points, Badges, and Leaderboards (PBL): The PBL trio is like the bread and butter of gamification. Employees earn points for achieving various goals, from closing sales deals to timely project submissions. These points can then be showcased via badges, creating a sense of pride and recognition. Leaderboards add that competitive zest, motivating employees to climb to the top and keep their game strong. It's a straightforward yet effective approach, especially when combined with tangible rewards.

  2. Challenges and Missions: Think of this as the next level of PBL. Instead of just gaining points, employees are given specific challenges or missions they must complete. Whether it's solving a complex problem in a team or hitting an ambitious sales target, the key is to make it fun and rewarding. The experience becomes an engaging narrative rather than a list of tasks. When a mission is accomplished, the sense of victory is profound.

  3. Employee-of-the-Month, Gamified: Traditional 'Employee-of-the-Month' awards are great, but they can be taken up a notch with gamification. Create a points system that rewards a multitude of activities and behaviours, not just sales performance or project completions. Now, the title has become a coveted trophy, won through diverse achievements and skills, including teamwork, punctuality, and creative problem-solving.

  4. Time-Tracking Games: Some companies have introduced time-tracking games where employees compete to accurately estimate how long tasks will take them. It's a fun way to improve project management skills and productivity.

  5. Virtual Scavenger Hunts: Ideal for remote teams, a virtual scavenger hunt can involve clues related to company history, team members, or industry knowledge. It's a great way to foster team unity and impart important info in a fun, engaging manner.

  6. Health and Wellness Programs: Gamified health challenges can boost employee well-being. Whether it's a step-count competition or a healthy eating challenge, gamifying wellness activities can lead to better health outcomes and lower healthcare costs for the company.

  7. Skill-Building Quizzes: Some companies offer quizzes that employees can take to earn badges or certificates in various professional skills, ranging from software proficiency to leadership skills. The digital badges can sometimes even be displayed on internal profiles or LinkedIn, adding an element of prestige and motivation.

Did You Know?

The gamification market worldwide grew from $14.87 billion in 2022 to $18.63 billion in 2023 according to the Gamification Global Market Report 2023. The gamification market size is expected to grow from $9.1 billion in 2020 to $30.7 billion by 2025, according to Markets and Markets research. This rapid growth aligns with current studies showing that companies using gamification have seen up to a 60% increase in employee engagement. That's a stat worth paying attention to!

Practical Tips for Implementation: A How-To Guide

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So you're sold on gamification. The next step is making it happen. Here are some actionable tips to get your gamification program up and running.

Defining and Measuring Processes

First thing first: Know your goals. Are you looking to boost productivity? Increase retention? Once you've nailed down what you want to achieve, the next step is deciding how to measure it. For instance, if productivity is the goal, maybe it's a points system tied to completed tasks. Just remember, you can't improve what you can't measure.

Providing Quick Feedback

One reason video games are so addictive? The immediate feedback. Players know instantly whether they've won or lost, levelled up, or found a valuable item. In the workplace, feedback often comes in the form of yearly reviews or quarterly assessments—far too infrequent to be engaging. Implement real-time feedback via scorecards, dashboards, or even simple email notifications to keep employees in the loop and motivated.

Getting Employees Invested

The reality check here is that gamification will flop if your employees don't care. You've got to make it meaningful. Get them involved in the design process. Ask them what challenges they'd like, and what rewards would actually be rewarding, and then build those into the system.

FYI: Gamification in Everyday Life

Remember, gamification isn't just for the workplace. Apps like Duolingo make learning a new language more engaging by using points and streaks. Even social media platforms offer badges for certain types of interactions. These systems are designed to keep you coming back for more because they tap into the same elements of motivation and reward that you can leverage in your company.

Navigating the Pitfalls

As promising as gamification may sound, a poorly executed system could backfire. The competitive landscape can turn toxic if not managed well, discouraging those who lag behind. It's also tempting to lure employees with flashy external rewards like gift cards or bonuses, but tread carefully.

The true power of gamification lies in intrinsic rewards—the sense of achievement and personal growth that comes from a job well done. Overemphasizing extrinsic rewards might lead to a lacklustre work culture, where the prize becomes more important than the work itself. So as you venture into gamification, keep your focus on fostering genuine engagement and motivation.

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Unlocking the Potential of Gamification

Gamification is a potent tool to spark employee engagement and drive productivity. From leveraging neuroscience to offering real-world benefits, this strategy holds the promise of transforming the workplace into a more dynamic and rewarding environment. If you're pondering how to take the first step, remember: start small. You don't need an elaborate system from day one. Begin with one or two elements, like leaderboards or quick feedback loops, and refine as you go. As you iterate and listen to your team's feedback, you'll uncover the perfect blend of game elements to keep everyone motivated and engaged.

Enjoyed reading this blog? Find more helpful tips for employers at our Shiftbase blog.

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