• The ManageUp Team

Gamification: The Smartest Way to Drive Employee Engagement

Updated: Jun 11, 2018

#Gamification #EmployeeEngagement

Gamification in the workplace has been gaining traction among organizations over the past few years, but not everyone is aware of what it is and how it’s rolled out on a day-to-day basis. What’s more, the term ‘gamification’ can be intimidating or annoying to those who prefer to avoid competition and ‘player’ modes. For many, the concept of gamification may be deemed as a waste of time and prejudiced as playing silly games while being at work.


Conversely, gamification applies the concept of gaming to real life situations in order produce desired results and objectives. The application of gamification is already evident in the following industries:


1. The retail industry:


Target is the second-largest discount store retailer in the United States and one of the most recognizable brands in the county. Target implemented gamification to improve the speed at which cashiers scan items. In the game, a green light flashes when a cashier scans items at speed, while a red light turns on when scanning is slower than average.


A screen shows in real-time whether they are beating the clock for every product that passes the barcode sensors. For each completed transaction, the employee earns points according to his/her scan speed and how that speed compares to peer performance. Target has been widely successful in engaging employees

this way.


Target’s success in implementing an employee engagement strategy using gamification shows how an organization can utilize the best aspects of a game to incentivize productive employee behavior and align that behavior with business objectives. Not only did the gamified work increase employee engagement, it also provided instant feedback into how well employees perform on a daily basis.


2. The manufacturing industry:


Samsung is a Korean electronics giant that has utilized gamification to enhance social loyalty and customer engagement. The company established Samsung Nation to show customer appreciation to their users by rewarding ‘badges’ for product reviews, forum comments, and for every marketing video a user watched. The results ultimately showed an increased volume of customers visiting the site and sustained client engagement.



3. The banking industry:


The World Bank asked for solutions to the world's biggest problems (such as poverty and hunger) through a game simulation called Evoke. Evoke is an online educational platform recognized for the way they use gamification, storytelling and social networking to encourage the young people to contribute to solving global challenges.


First, it aims to develop understanding and awareness of these challenges in young people, and then help them acquire necessary skills and confidence to create innovative ways to address these problems. Individuals and teams that finish the game receive the “World Bank Institute Social Innovator” award and other perks. Because Evoke has been embraced worldwide, it is now played in three different languages and in more than 100 countries.


4. Professional services


Tech monster and innovator Google organized a software-development competition, Code Jam, which it opened to the public as a way to attract new programmers to work for the company. Code Jam puts potential recruits’ skills to the test by challenging them to solve various algorithmic puzzles. Ultimately, Google gained the upper hand by

selecting and hiring only the cream of the

crop in the end.


Gamification is changing the way organizations engage employees as it can improve performance and job satisfaction as well as create loyalty among staffs.


But what makes workplace gamification unique from other process improvement initiatives?


1. It has a great ROI


Eight years ago, M2 Research, a market-research and strategic consulting company, had projected that by 2015, more than $2 billion would be spent on gamification. And they were right. Gamification has been increasingly utilized by companies to achieve certain goals.


All over the world, gamified strategies have helped increase revenue, improve employee retention, encourage staff skills development, and establish best practices and desired behaviors. These platforms have also driven engagement in customers and other communities of interest. Inculcating game mechanics in a system, including putting up competitions, goals and giving rewards and recognition has helped in different aspects of improving an organization and achieve their ROI.


2. Employees are much happier


Studies have shown the following about gamification:

  • 91% of employees become more productive when they used gamification, having experienced an increase in awareness and productivity (source: Badgeville).

  • Improves employee engagement by 48%: employees have an increased desire to be at work and be engaged (30%), more inspiration to become productive (27%) and more focused to accomplish tasks (20%) (source: www.td.org)

  • Increases staff goal awareness by 86%

  • 20% of major companies that utilized gamification outperformed their counterparts’ profit by 250% (Source: www.cio.com)

3. Employees are more willing to learn


Organizations across all sectors have started to embrace gamification as a method for driving engagement: through gamification, employees are incentivized to learn new things and become recognized for their contributions to the team. Imagine the most timid employee becoming the first team member to respond to a gamified task and having that person invite other co-workers! What an accomplishment that would be!


4. It encourages response, input, and engagement


Gamification prompts all team members to respond. Let’s say a new process pathway has been created for employees to follow. The traditional method of posting this new pathway on the boards or sending emails to all recipients does not guarantee that everyone received, read, and understood the memo; gamification, however, rewards all individuals who read the pathway with a high score and points. The best thing about this technique is that feedback and recognition are quickly delivered to those who respond accordingly, which in turn, drives engagement.


5. It makes work more enjoyable


Many of today’s workers are from Generation Y (GenY). GenYers (born after the 1980s) are said to be more open to digitalization and gamification, particularly because it makes work more fun. Yes, you read it right! Employees could have fun and be productive at the same time while working. While some may view gamification with great skepticism and doubt, it has been proven many times that it can have sweeping positive effects on an organization’s culture.


Why gamification is engaging


Gamification triggers the reward centers of the brain, making participants want to win again and again. As mentioned above, employing gamification in the workplace fosters employee engagement, which indirectly impacts connections at work – i.e. the way employees love their jobs, the rapport between employees and managers, and their sense of belongingness to the organization.


Games are developed to require a balance of challenge and skill from its players, to induce both action and focus, to create a sense of control while reaping the rewards of winning the game, and to encourage a sense of accomplishment upon the success of a level. When applied to the workplace, these facets encourage the same out of employee,

who are now also gamers, prompting them to reach the game/organizational objectives.


Although gamification may seem like a new and innovative concept, history shows that employing game tactics and strategy at work is an old-time practice. In the book “Succeeding With What You Have”, the author Charles Schwab, the first president of US Steel Corporation, recounts how the firm he managed to significantly increase its production of steel by employing game strategies at work.


Schwab was concerned with the low number of ‘heats,’ or the number of steel products created per day – one day, he decided to ask his daytime foreman how many heats they produced on that particular day. When the foreman replied that they had created only six heats, Schwab used a piece of chalk to write a big number ‘6’ on the floor.


When the evening shift workers arrived, they were intrigued by the number written on the floor. After it was explained what the number meant, they quickly moved to work. By the end of the evening shift, they were able to erase the writing on the floor and wrote ‘7.’

The next morning, the day shifters were challenged and decided to get into the ‘game.’ They managed to produce ten heats, and they excitedly scraped the number ‘7’ on the floor and replaced it with a written ’10.’


Soon enough, this steel mill that once had one of the poorest production rates become one of the leading production facilities for steel manufacturing. Even early on, gamification has been used to help change worker behaviors by incentivizing productivity, fostering employee engagement, and creating an environment that helps organizations reach their goals.


Modern industry can likewise benefit from the ingenuity of gamification. Its ability to spark the human nature to achieve helps individuals perform and accomplish beyond expectation.


How to use gamification to improve employee engagement

  1. Establish the objectives of your game – Determine what you want to achieve when it comes to engagement. Is it to change workplace culture, establish best practices, improve employee performance, facilitate learning or a mix of these? Whatever your purpose, get excited! You will reap the rewards of gamification if rendered correctly.

  2. Set metrics and develop a method for measuring and comparing how gamification has affected the workplace and organizational objectives

  3. Learn and understand what motivates employees, what’s considered meaningful, what ticks – power, promotion, rewards (monetary or otherwise). Keep them coming as the game progresses.

  4. Next, consider how the game will be incorporated into day to day workflows – will it disrupt work? How can leaders easily implement gamification?

  5. Ask for, and encourage, full commitment to this change – or else risk the employees not taking the game seriously

  6. Set the game rules and other particulars. Be clear on every aspect of the game.

  7. Motivate employees to participate and ask for voluntary participants.

  8. Use a gamified employee engagement software to make the game more objective, transparent and engaging.


Make a smart move! Your organization could sure use a sprinkle of fun!


When all is set, send out invitations and give the game a test run. Don’t worry if, on its launching, you see eyes rolling and hear sighs of hesitation. Those reactions are what you planned to change in the first place.


And before you get disenfranchised, thinking that employees are difficult to mobilize, consider how Deloitte one of the world’s biggest and most prominent accounting organizations with some the most extensive professional services network globally, implemented gamification. The company was able to incentivize CEOs to participate in a new training program that ultimately helped them complete the training in half the time or the original by using gamified strategies.


So go ahead, gamify at work and engage for success!




ManageUp is a comprehensive SaaS platform to manage your work and your team. It incorporates team thread/channel communication, task and project management, knowledge sharing, and employee engagement in one platform allowing for full transparency and accountability.