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3 ways to boost employee engagement with gamification

By Filza Naveed

7 min read

3 ways to boost employee engagement with gamification

Gamification in the workplace remains a hot topic among leaders in the business world as well as within internal communications.

Employee engagement levels are at an all-time low, with 70 percent of the US workforce currently labelling themselves as actively disengaged from work.

To reverse these trends, many internal communications professionals and business leaders are looking to introduce gamification in the workplace to boost morale and employee engagement. It’s also an excellent way to spark engagement among remote and dispersed workers.

But what exactly is gamification? And can gamification in the workplace be deployed effectively to spark employee engagement?

So, what is gamification?

Gamification is essentially the process of using game-based elements such as scoring, rewards or competition in workplace settings to get people to become actively engaged with their work.

For example, if you’re an internal communications manager in charge of introducing gamification in the workplace, you could incorporate some fun employee engagement ideas to boost morale.

Imagine starting Trivia Tuesdays for an hour every week to quiz employees on the company’s brand values and mission statement. The most engaged employees could win prizes!

If this sounds like the kind of fun your employees need desperately, you should read on to seriously consider introducing gamification in the workplace.

Why gamification in the workplace works

According to this Medium article, 90% of employees are more productive when they use gamification and 72% of people believe that gamification inspires them to work harder. This article further reports that using game-based motivation can raise engagement levels by 48%!

The stats say it all. If done right, gamification can boost employee productivity and engagement. So why exactly does introducing gamification in the workplace boost employee engagement?

Well, it all boils down to basic human psychology. Remember that time you won the trophy at your school’s national sporting event? Do you remember how energized you felt? Naturally, injecting some fun into any kind of task is automatically going to be stimulating. And this can be easily applied to your employees in the workplace to bolster employee engagement.

Engaged employees lead to more productive employees who will help you attain business results. Sounds like simple math, doesn't it?

Well, it isn’t all that simple. That’s because in order to execute gamification in the workplace successfully, you need to tap into a super power that many leaders and internal communications professionals forget they need.

Do you know which superpower I’m talking about? It’s the power to listen. Listen to what your employees have to say. What drives each individual? What motivates each person to wake up in the morning? Are your employees competitive and motivated by prizes and rewards? Or do they prefer quiet praise and a salary raise?

On the whole, do your employees enjoy recognition and status or small tokens of appreciation, such as gift cards?

According to gamification expert, Gabe Zichermann,"People may be motivated by getting a gift card, but what really drives them is recognition [as well as] status.”

Once you have an understanding of what drives your employees, you can then create the right incentives and rewards systems that are likely to excite them and motivate them to increase their job performance and productivity.

As an internal communications professional, listen to the watercooler talk and send out surveys to employees to understand their motivations. Then, if it’s a fit, design a game-based system that will work for them. Failure to understand your employees can lead to failed gamification projects.

Why do some gamification projects fail and how can you change this?

The inability of internal communications practitioners to connect gamification in the workplace to their company’s business objectives is a major reason why gamification in the workplace often fails. Moreover, many managers don’t bother listening to their employees’ unique needs and motivations and end up executing gamification projects that aren’t in line with their employees’ values and needs.

Perhaps the best example of a company that failed to use gamification in the right way is Omnicare, an organization specializing in providing support for pharmacy management software. The company was facing long wait times at its helpdesk. In order to increase employee productivity, Omnicare decided to introduce gamification in the workplace. They introduced a leaderboard so that representatives would be able to see each other’s scores and be motivated to work faster. Employees with the fastest times on the floor were to be given cash incentives as well.

The results were disastrous. Wait times were at an all time high, employee turnover rose tremendously, and customer satisfaction dropped to an all-time low.

The reason for the failure of this gamification process was that Omnicare failed to understand what truly motivated and drove these help desk workers. The help desk representatives started feeling like they were being micromanaged.

It was only after Omnicare moved away from the cash-incentives and re-designed the game to focus on short-term rewards that were achievement and recognition driven that they were able to increase employee engagement.

In order to ensure your gamification efforts truly create engaged employees, internal communications professionals and business leaders should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Clearly identify what goals and objectives you hope to achieve by introducing gamification in the workplace. Are you looking to bolster employee engagement? Hit certain business targets?
  • Learn to listen and understand your employees’ unique needs. What drives them? What motivates them?
  • Design the gamification program around your employees’ unique skills and motivations.
  • When introducing gamification in the workplace, be sure to clearly communicate the purpose of this activity to your employees.
  • Test the gamification process. Analyze what works and what doesn’t and adjust your gamification plan accordingly.

Be sure to truly measure and gauge employees’ reactions within all internal communications regarding the gamification process. Are they opening the emails you’ve sent regarding the implementation of gamification in the workplace? Are they responding? By measuring your employee communications using email tracking tools, you’ll be able to gauge whether your employees are even on board with the idea in the first place.

3 unique ways you can deploy gamification in the workplace

Now that you understand how gamification in the workplace works and why it doesn’t, you probably need some inspiration to spark innovative ideas on how to introduce this process in your workplace.

Here are three ways to deploy gamification in the workplace:

1. Gamification to train employees

Having the right training and employee onboarding process is critical to an organization’s success. You can make the onboarding process even more successful by introducing game-based elements to it.

Gamification is an excellent way to train new employees joining the company or teach existing employees new skills needed to succeed in the workplace. But it can often be hard to motivate employees to undergo the training in the first place.

Well, try introducing gamification to make it more enticing. A great example of a company that was able to deploy gamification successfully is Deloitte.

By incorporating gamification principles within their Deloitte Leadership Academy (DLA), the company was able to motivate employees to sign up and complete training courses.

Deloitte embedded gamification elements such as leaderboards, missions, and badges into their online training curriculum to entice employees. Since the implementation of gamification within the online courses, there has been a 37% increase of users returning to the site each week. Sounds like it became an addictive video game, doesn’t it?

2. Gamification as a way to enhance job performance

Apart from training, gamification can also be used to enhance an employee’s job performance. Perhaps the best example of game-based learning to boost performance enhancement can be found from Salesforce.

Salesforce introduced the “Big Game Hunter” program to increase usage of its complex CRM system amongst its sales representatives and boost employee engagement.

Sales personnel started off as chicken hunters and gradually worked their way towards more rewarding statuses as they became more familiar with new CRM features. For one customer, compliance increased by over 40%!

Sounds like they turned their CRM into a fun video game. Now that’s the sort of company I’d love to work for!

3. Using gamification to amplify communication with employees

We sometimes forget that employees need regular feedback and communication from their managers to perform their jobs well. This can often be a major factor causing disengagement within companies.

Target was able to overcome this problem and boost employee engagement by introducing game-based elements into the way their cashiers approached their jobs.

Target cashiers rarely get feedback from their line managers. The company decided to change this by implementing gamification elements, enabling cashiers to play a game when checking out items for customers.

With the gamified system, Target cashiers attained real time feedback with red and green lights that blinked to show items were scanned optimally. Before this gamification concept was introduced, the cashiers had no way of knowing how effective they were. Now, they received feedback on all items scanned.

The above examples clearly show that if implemented successfully, gamification can enhance job performance, boost employee engagement, and improve internal communication. Now that you have concrete examples from three different companies that have utilized gamification in the workplace, how are you planning to use game-based elements to increase employee engagement?


The key to successful execution of gamification in the workplace is to understand what you hope to achieve out of it in the first place. Be sure to also listen to your employees’ unique needs and motivations so that you can come up with the right kinds of reward systems to implement into your gamification process. And test the gamification project after its implementation to gauge what worked and what didn’t. By keeping these basic tips in mind while designing your gamification project for the workplace, you’re sure to achieve your desired goals.

About the Author

Filza Naveed is a Content Marketing Specialist for ContactMonkey, an organization focusing on innovative solutions for internal communicators, such as email tracking and providing responsive HTML email templates. Filza is passionate about providing value to internal comms professionals by enabling them to create engaging employee experiences. During her free time, she’s exploring various community events in Toronto and practicing yoga. You can connect with her on Twitter.


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