Implementing Gamification In The Workplace


Gamification is a system which businesses use to drive employee productivity and engagement. In the book, Loyalty 3.0: How To Revolutionise Employee And Customer Engagement With Big Data And Gamification, author Rajat Paharia refers to 10 key mechanics of Gamification:

  1. Fast feedback
  2. Transparency
  3. Goals
  4. Badges
  5. Levelling up
  6. Onboarding
  7. Competition
  8. Collaboration
  9. Community Points

‘Game designers have known how to do this for a long time, ‘Paharia explains. ‘All the way back from Pong in 1972 up to modern day Call of Duty, they have had every piece of data about how users work and behave in their systems, and they’ve been able to use that data to get players to perform better.’

‘Gamification is a word that just throws a lot of people off. The thing you have to make clear to people is that it has nothing to do with games. Gamification is about driving business objectives and motivating people through data. It’s not new but it has suddenly become more powerful because we have all this data available to us.’

During a keynote at TNW (The Next Web) 2012, Gamification CEO Gabe Zichermann also highlighted that gamification is not about turning everything into a game or converting your business into a gaming company, instead he said it’s about ‘taking the best lessons from games and applying them to your specific situation’.

What type of rewards are employees looking for?

According to Zichermann, ‘Marketers always think we want free stuff, we’re told that’s what drives people. That’s how we reward customers and employees, we give them cash or free products, but it’s wrong.’ Instead, Zichermann believes people should be rewarded with status and offered up two scenarios at TNW to support his theory; In scenario A, he would give you a free cup of coffee and in scenario B, the next time you want a coffee, you could walk into any Starbucks, walk past the queue and have your coffee immediately handed to you while all the other customers stood in line – but in this scenario, you would have to pay for the coffee. He said nearly every time people would choose option B.

In another example, this time cited in a CIO article, Zichermann discusses American retail giant Target’s approach to gamification in the workplace. Target stores implemented a game cashiers play when checking people out. It shows the cashier in red and green based on whether the item that was just scanned was done so in the optimum time. They then see their immediate score on screen and know how ‘in-time’ they are with ideal time. According to Zichermann, this strategy clearly illustrates how gamification isn’t about turning everything into a game. He said: ‘The bias that people have to win something is how achievement-orientated people tend to view the world. People who are achievement-orientated want some sort of pay-off or prize, but people who aren’t as achievement – or winning orientated – are rewarded through a feeling that they control their own destiny.

‘Before, as a cashier, you didn’t know how you were doing. You just checked people out and if you did something wrong, your boss would come and yell at you. The idea here is to bring the feedback as close to the action as possible and make the feedback as constructive and positive as possible.’

How to introduce gamification in the workplace:

Employee productivity is what keeps the wheels of a business turning, and gamification can be a powerful tool to boost workplace productivity and employee engagement, if implemented right.

1. Clearly communicate the goal and processes of the gamification programme

Before introducing a gamification programme in the workplace, an employer needs to clearly communicate the following to employees:

  • The goals of the programme.
  • The rewards for ‘winning’, for example, the sales team reaching their targets or an employee achieving a specific goal set for them by their manager.
  • The criteria to know when an employee has ‘won a game’ and the reward they may be entitled to.
  • The benefits for the business and the individual of achieving the goals.

2. Offer desirable rewards

It’s important to note that not everyone is after the same incentive – some employees might like financial rewards, whereas others would prefer rewards that lead to career development, for example, upskilling courses. Employers need to consider each individual employee’s needs and offer rewards based on them. Employees will be more engaged and motivated to work towards targets if there are good rewards on offer.

3. Recognise everyone’s contribution

A good gamification programme will recognise employees across all levels and departments, not just those in upper tier or managerial roles. Employers need to use gamification to improve workplace performance and engagement at all stages and levels of the company and should think about the different types of rewards to offer for accomplishing different targets, for example, completing a training course, a workplace challenge, or achieving KPI benchmarks.

4. Track the success of gamification in the workplace

It’s important to track the successes and failures of a programme in order to improve. Employers should design a simple dashboard or league table to track how the gamification programme performs against the goals and targets set. Track factors like the number of employees who participate in the programme, how many reached their targets or completed goals, and how much employee productivity and engagement improved during the programme.

As a business dedicated to inspiring, motivating and engaging employees, we conducted research to determine just how effective gamification can be in 2019, and to help you decide whether you should implement a gamification strategy in your workplace. Read the report here >