Using Gamification to Engage Employees

Games have always fueled social interaction. So, it’s not surprising in this era of online social connectivity that gamification — applying basic game mechanics to non-game situations — is a growing trend in the business world.

Many organizations are implementing gamification as a digital business strategy to help foster employee engagement, enhance productivity, build a sense of “connectedness” within the workforce, and improve retention. Gamification initiatives like Google’s Code Jam developer challenge, for example, can be used to encourage continuous learning. Or gamification can be used as a way to boost participation in a sponsored charity fundraiser by giving contributors a chance to win an extra vacation day. The opportunities to “gamify” are almost limitless. However, many businesses are coming up short in their efforts to entice workers to take part in these initiatives fully. Here are a few tips that can help motivate your employees to embrace gamification:

How do you play this game?

The first time you played Tetris did you think the goal was to stack blocks vertically as fast as possible? If so, after a few games you probably became really frustrated since the object of the game is to clear lines horizontally. Providing clearly defined rules and objectives will help employees understand the goal of an activity — and can prevent aggravation and abandonment.

Best 2 out of 3?

Do your friends still remember the time you beat them all at paintball? Or bested them in a card game? That’s because you remind them — often. Having bragging rights is a huge incentive to keep playing a game, and since the goal of gamification is to keep employees engaged, injecting some healthy competition can go a long way toward achieving that objective. So whether it’s incorporating a leaderboard feature or making the game multiplayer-compatible, adding a dose of friendly rivalry is sure to increase playtime.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Whether it’s to acknowledge the best score or justify the past two hours of continuous engagement, players want to be rewarded. However, prize fulfillment doesn’t necessarily mean forking out cash. Offering fixed-action rewards — like free lunch — based on meeting project deadlines, for example, is a great way to incorporate the gamification principle to reward players in a business setting.

Didn’t see that coming

Do you remember when it seemed like every person in your office was playing a hot game like Words With Friends … and then suddenly they weren’t? Given enough play, even the most entertaining game can get old. Boredom is a top enemy of engagement, so be prepared to keep things fresh — like adding new game levels. When players have continuous access to new content and experiences, they’ll keep coming back for more.

Where do I start?

The formula for gamification is found in popular games from any century: Create a game that people want to win, encourage them to play with other people, and make them want to play again and again. Layer a subtle agenda under that basic gaming philosophy, such as brand awareness or education, and you should have a successful gamification strategy that motivates engagement. Do you have suggestions for creating gamification success in the workplace? Share your ideas in the comments section below.