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How Gamification Can Drive Workplace Performance

May 10, 2018

In the words of Mary Poppins “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP! – the job’s a game!”  

Gamification is a buzzword in business these days and has really caught on as a trend. But turning tasks into a game is as old as, well, spoonfuls of sugar. It’s just that technology is making it easier than ever to make the mundane – a bit more magical.

All industries, including learning and development, have gravitated towards using gamification in one form or another. So, what does gamification actually mean?

Similar to augmented reality (AR), which combines the real with the virtual in remarkable ways, gamification is the process of taking something that already exists and integrating game mechanics into it to motivate participation, engagement, and loyalty. Gamification, in essence, is a mindset that can transform the way we work.

An example of this is the Swedish speed camera lottery. The Swedish National Society for Road Safety rewarded drivers for driving under the speed limit. Speeding drivers were fined and the funds generated from fines were placed into a lottery, the winner of which could be one of the non-speeding drivers. As a result of this gamification technique, the average speed decreased by 22 percent from 32 km/h before the experiment to 25km/h after the experiment.

How Does Gamification Apply to the Workplace?

Organizations are turning to gamification to drive employee engagement, motivate their employees, and influence positive behaviours to meet business objectives.

In 2014, BI WORLDWIDE surveyed 7,264 employees who work for organizations larger than 500. Seven countries/regions were surveyed. Approximately 1,000 responses were gathered from each country/region, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, America, United Kingdom, and Latin America.

We asked them what percentage of your full effort are you currently delivering at work? On average, 39 percent of employees internationally report that they put in their full effort. In Canada, the percentage of employees working to their potential is higher – nearly one-half. Only three percent of Canadian employees report that they invest only half of their effort or less at work.

While employee’s intensity of performance is equally high in Eastern and Western Canada, Eastern Canadians are slightly more committed to their company, on average. More Western Canadians answered neutrally.

While the number of employees who are intensely committed to their organization varies by only ten percentage points across industries, they are larger differences in the number of employees who perform intensely. Over half of engineering and construction workers focus on innovation, the customer and improvement. In healthcare and in government, only one in three employees report that they perform with intensity.

At most, one in three Canadians are intensely performing in or committed to their organization. Baby boomers have the highest levels; only a quarter of Gen Xers are performing intensely. Contrary to popular opinion, Gen Y employee’s commitment is nearly equal to their elder counterparts in Canada.

Turnover is expensive, not only for the cost of training replacements, but for the hidden costs of having employees who really don’t want to be there in the first place. They’re not doing their best work. They’re doing just enough work to get by until they can leave. These actively disengaged, unhappy, and unproductive employees are liable to spread negativity.

We also surveyed approximately 1,000 Canadian employees and asked them how long are you planning on staying at with your current employer? Baby boomers who are nearing retirement answered 4.6 years, Gen X 6.6 years, and Gen Y 5.9 years. Of those surveyed 11 – 13 percent of Gen Y employees plan on leaving within the next 12 months, as they have a more flexible notion of their career trajectory.

Businesses are alarmed by these numbers and are trying new ways to engage and motivate their employees. Gamification offers a new way to engage individuals and drive communication in a fun and meaningful way.

Gamification in Learning

Gamification can be used to foster the culture of learning. It allows employees to set their own learning goals, take the training at their own convenience, and get incentivized for doing so.

For example, call centre agents and employees have a difficult job to do. They are tasked with resolving customer queries as quickly as possible and it’s difficult for agents to know the answers to all questions so they rely on one another for their areas of expertise.

By using gamification or gamified learning, agents can opt-in to get feedback on how they are doing, celebrate their success, and get incentivized for their contributing content to the company’s knowledge base.

Additionally, companies are fostering the community of their customers to answer each other’s questions which reduces the number of calls to the call centre from crowdsourcing answers from the community. Moreover, members who give smart or helpful answers get peer recognition and bragging rights.

Motivating Employees to Go Beyond Their Jobs

We all have unique skills and talents that we willing give to employers just to be a good corporate citizen. However, sometimes these efforts go unnoticed, unrecognized, and therefore unmotivated. Gamification offers us a way to motivate employees to go beyond their job description.

Gamification is geared towards accommodating people’s basic needs and desires such as status, competition, achievement, and even altruism. Depending on who your audience is, if you can find the right engagement triggers, gamification is very likely to prove successful. For example, salespeople are naturally competitive creatures, so providing them with gaming elements to compete whilst performing their expected tasks; they will be more motivated to reach their specific goals.

Applying Game Design Elements in the Workplace

Successful applications of gamification in the workplace are not easy. It requires a deep empathy and respect for the “player”, a clear understanding of the mission, and insight into how to motivate the “player” towards the mission.

BI WORLDWIDE incorporates various gaming elements such as badging, scoring, leaderboards, and level completion, into client programs and events as a way to incentivize, drive positive behaviours, and enhance the participant’s experience, which ultimately will meet the client’s objectives as a result.

Case Study: Gamified Learning within the Pharmaceutical Industry

Working with a global pharmaceutical brand, BI WORLDWIDE incorporated gamification into the client’s event in order to tackle the following identified challenge. Delegates were reluctant to complete pre-event research before attending educational sessions each day which meant interaction levels were low and there was a lack of understanding of the client product. To increase engagement and enhance knowledge, individuals were entered into competitions, competing with other delegates. This incentivized them to complete the learning ahead of the event each day.

In just 10 days of launching this approach, 90 percent of delegates had engaged and completed the required sessions, exceeding expectations. Not only had this encouraged people to complete their expected research, but people came to the sessions eager to earn more points and be recognized on the leaderboard amongst their peers and other regions. These types of gamification elements meant the competition and incentive continued after the event.

Gamification: One Size Fits One

Understanding your employees is key to developing a gamification strategy that works. Not all individuals work in the same way or are motivated by the same outcome. We’re aware that one size doesn’t fit all, and applying gamification to your business objectives is just one of the many outputs to drive engagement and brand loyalty. To incentivize your audience, we believe you must have the right solution in place which offers a balance of rewards, technology, communication, and reporting. If personal goals overlap with clear business objectives, this will achieve true success.

BI WORLDWIDE Canada can offer you a wide range of long-term sales incentive solutions that will help you achieve your targets and business objectives. By using the principles of behavioural economics, we know how to increase engagement and drive behaviour change that will give you the results you're looking for.

If you adopt gamification as a mindset, you have the potential to transform your entire workplace.

So, what will you gamify?

How to get the most out of Gamification in the Workplace

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