Engage Your Employees With Gamification

Written by Sara Moulton 19 May 2019

What if gamification is the key to workplace learning?

We know that gamification engage people. So much so that the average time spent playing video games in 2018 was 5.96 hours per week. Knowing how much time we spend on gamified experiences and screen time, shouldn’t we also gamify experiences at work? 

Organizations today are competing for market share, for talent, and for customers. One solution is to gamify the experience — in “How Games Convert Leads Into Clients,” we focused on grabbing customers’ attention, and now we’ll talk about how to help employees get engaged at work. Gamification can be fun while also accomplishing serious tasks. Let’s tackle what many business leaders assume about gamification.

Gaming must equal a decline in productivity

Unfortunately, games are associated with not working, or how we spend our time outside of work. In her TED Talk, thought leader and co-author of Gamification at Work – Designing Engaging Business Software, Janaki Kumar, explains that this mindset can be attributed to the Second Industrial Revolution (over 100 years ago!) when people clocked in to work and clocked out to play. It seems that cultural attitudes are still catching up, given that we are towards the end of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report, its longtime chairman and CEO, Jim Clifton, calls for moving workplace strategy towards a culture of high development. Clifton wrote, “The single best activity for any team leader to deliver is not employee satisfaction, but rather employee development.”

Businesses should embrace gamifying learning and development, to make it fun but also to be competitive in today’s talent market.

Games are fun, but that doesn’t mean we learn anything

The average attention span is eight seconds. With so much technology at our fingertips and multitasking as the norm, any training needs to be on-demand and bite-sized. It needs to be enticing enough that employees want to engage and learn.

According to Deloitte, gamification is successful for three reasons:

  • It provides instant feedback because gaming creates a world that gives us instant results based on our performance
  • We experience a sense of flow where we are completely absorbed in an activity
  • It allows us to experience advances, which are intrinsically gratifying

The environment that games create is perfect for learning and development or training.

Play ≠ work

Games are designed to bring us joy, to simulate competitive situations, to help us learn and practice, and to be better. Given this definition, isn’t play also a great resource for training at work?

Researcher and expert on play, Brian Sutton-Smith, stated that the opposite of play is not work, but depression. In her Psychology Today article, Dr. Lois Holzman, backs this up. She writes, “Play helps us belong, and belonging helps us move about and around feeling alone, isolated, and victimized. Playing is how we become part of existing communities…. We become part of communities…by imagining ourselves to be competent members of those communities and creatively imitating others—in other words, by playing at being members before we knew how.”

For training or learning and development initiatives to be effective, companies need to engage their employees. Incorporating play and gamification at work can be the natural next step.

Designing gamified learning takes a lot of time and money

To design a successful gamification system, Kumar explains that the project (or program) manager needs to have empathy, a clear understanding of mission, and insight into how to motivate towards the mission. This doesn’t need to be time intensive.

In his TEDx talk, experiential and game-based learning program designer, Joe Houde, explains that there are three aspects of games that motivate and engage us. They are:

  • Objective: These are the points, badges, leaderboards (PBLs), or a goal of the game. It’s innate for us to want to ‘score’ and see the impact we have on the world
  • Meaningful: The choices in games have consequences, and these choices impact us and how we ‘perform’ in the game
  • People: Games can unify us to achieve a goal, and get us to work together to win the game  

For companies to successfully use gamification as a tool, the project manager must think like a game designer. If the goal is to teach staff about a new regulation, then the designer needs to recognize that as the core and ensure that it’s the starting point as they consider the objective, making the experience meaningful, and deciding how others will be involved. Gamification can also help companies boost morale, or get a pulse check after an organizational change. The options are limitless.

Gamification can open up new ways of communicating with employees. Gamification software is completely customizable and makes it affordable and accessible (a game can be created in under 60 minutes) for companies to take game design and creation into their own hands.

Games give us the chance to learn, to test, to role play, and to get better.

Are you ready to get started?