Gamification: The New Tool for Employee Engagement



Most businesses have dealt with gamification before. Perhaps they used Foursquare to drive customer engagement or created some kind of reward or point system for their employees. Some have even turned to gamification to help them assess potential employees and get a better idea of how the candidate would actually behave while on the job. Now, with the technology and tools available, companies are able to use gamification to drive employee engagement in ways that were never before possible.

Why are businesses so interested in gamification? Giving effective employee rewards and recognition can be tough. Cash rewards are generally appreciated, but over time, we become accustomed to being given the same reward and start to need more in order to maintain the same drive. Just think about the last time you got a real thrill from your paycheck, compared to the first time you got a job. Gamification helps to solve this problem by providing a forum for giving status and recognition that scales over time without having to hand out larger and larger bonus checks.

Another reason, of course, is that games are fun, and certain jobs, which in their nature are boring or unfulfilling, need that extra element of fun in order to retain happy, engaged employees. Target, for example, started scoring its cashiers based on whether they were scanning items in the optimum amount of time. A light would flash red or green for each particular item, indicating if they were meeting the optimum time or not, and a score would be given on the screen to see how close the cashier was to the ideal time. The system allows cashiers to receive immediate feedback on their work, helps to improve the employee’s flow and also gives the cashiers a sense of control, because they know how they are doing at their job and how they can improve.

For companies considering using gamification to boost engagement, it’s important to remember the following things:

1. The Goal, Not the Tool, is Most Important

Before putting the time and budget into a gamification system, it’s important to identify the goal you want to achieve. What engagement issues are your employees facing? In the Target example, employees needed regular feedback and measurement of performance in order to boost productivity, but in other cases, employees don’t need help with time management, but instead, want recognition for other outcomes, such as making a certain number of sales calls. Find a measurable goal you want to achieve, and use gamification to help you meet that goal.

2. Keep Recognition Frequent

For a system like this to be effective, it’s important to provide rewards frequently in order for the program to be fun and engaging. If it’s going to take an employee a month or more to get any feedback from the system, they are much more likely to forget about the program altogether and not feel motivated to reach that reward. Instead, design the program so that it rewards incremental progress.

3. Keep it Social

What is it that makes a game fun? Is it quietly racking up points that nobody sees? Of course not. The fun is in the competition and sharing when you reach a certain goal, so whichever forum you decide to use, be sure that it includes a social element.

4. Be Committed

As with any change within a company, management must be committed to the change and be willing to put in the time to advance it in order for it to succeed. Select one person who will head up the gamification idea so that it will be accepted and actually used by employees.

5. Remember the Technical Side

As gamification systems become more high tech, it’s important for companies to make sure they have the IT framework to support them, so that latency or bugs don’t become a problem. The exact requirements will depend on the nature of the program, but if you want to use something that involves complex components, such as in the Target example above, you may need to use a faster medium. Flash storage would be one option, but figure out which infrastructure would work best with your current system.

When done right, gamification provides businesses with a valuable tool for increasing employee morale and productivity. What business problem would you solve with gamification?

Image credit: CC by Samuel Mann

About the author: Rick Delgado

Rick Delgado is a freelance writer specializing in the latest technology trends and enterprise storage solutions. 

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