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What Is Gamification, and Why Is It the Future of the Workplace?

Sean Peek
Sean Peek
business.com Contributing Writer
Updated May 13, 2022

Statistics show that gamification can incentivize higher productivity. Here's what you should know.

Traditionally, you can’t get further away from a “game” than when you’re at work. However, many companies are experiencing a lack of employee engagement. If employees aren’t motivated to do their best, businesses pay the price. 

This is where gamification comes in. Gamification works because it taps into powerful motivators to keep employees actively engaged. Gamification fuses technology and productivity through straightforward game mechanics in a non-gaming context.

Here’s what you should know about gamification and how you can use it in the workplace.

What is gamification in the workplace?

Gamification is the process of enhancing systems, such as employee onboarding or leadership, to create a more enticing, game-like experience. For example, in business, you might gamify a specific project by offering a reward to those who are able to achieve a particular goal. Or you might break down a project into small “missions” that mimic a game. 

A gamification tool taps into the psychological behaviors that govern the day-to-day decisions we make, providing a platform for competition, sharing achievements and managing your work’s progress.

How can gamification change employee behavior?

From an employer’s point of view, implementing gamification into different facets of business encourages employees to change their behavior, which can result in increased productivity and employee motivation. However, changing behavior is challenging. For employers, it takes time and dedication to influence and engage workers sustainably. 

According to BJ Fogg, an experimental psychologist at Stanford University, three elements must converge for successful behavior change: motivation, ability and trigger. Notably, all three must happen simultaneously.

Successful gamification tools work because they do the following:

  • Motivate users to do something in order to get something (e.g., a chance to win, receive a reward or gain recognition).
  • Provide the ability for users to carry out a task by facilitating it or breaking each task into bite-size chunks, increasing the user’s perceived capability.
  • Trigger users with a cue to complete an action.

If gamification meets these conditions, it can create motivation, change behavior and keep employees engaged. 

Did you know?Did you know? Gamification is a marketing lesson from the video game industry, where creating goals for and offering rewards to users are essential.

Examples of gamification in the workplace

Here are some straightforward gamification tools to increase employee engagement and motivation.

  • Interactive leaderboards: Friendly competition is a fantastic motivator that can lead to a more positive sales culture. An interactive leaderboard can quantify sales numbers for your entire sales team. Visualizing sales numbers in a fun, points-based form can provide extra initiative as a deadline approaches. There is no need to go overboard on a reward; office bragging rights are often sufficient.
  • Social media recognition: You know your team is top-tier, but do your clients know that? Does the rest of the staff know about the stellar work performed by other team members? Recognizing achievements using your business’s social media platforms makes employees feel appreciated while allowing the community to join the celebration. Recognizing employees also helps improve your social media presence by increasing user interaction on your accounts. Customers appreciate a business that appreciates its staff. 
  • Qualification-based rewards: The use of limited, high-stakes rewards can be a powerful motivator during challenging, time-consuming projects. Your employees will work harder and faster for the chance to win a coveted prize. The increased performance can easily offset the cost of a high-valued reward incentive. Typical prizes include travel packages, gift cards and dining plans. Worried your staff won’t value your prize? Let them vote from a selected list. You might be surprised by the reward they choose.
  • Unexpected random rewards: Break up the monotony of the workday. A great way to engage your team and keep them on their proverbial toes is to randomly recognize achievement when it happens. Did a salesperson just close a big account over the phone? Present them with a gift card and a handshake. Did one of your staff just catch an error in a spreadsheet? Share your appreciation with a company-branded reward item. Your staff will learn to repeat positive behaviors when they can experience immediate gratification. 
  • Game-based learning and employee training: It’s often hard to get your team to pay attention during long training seminars. Gamifying the employee training process with a points-based quiz or trivia experience can lead to higher retention of learning materials and better learning transfer. The games can also be interactive. Instead of discussing a training concept, act it out. Engage the entire team through the process, and see the learning rate increase.
  • Non-work-related competitions: The workday doesn’t always have to be about work. The opportunity to relax and have fun can keep your team from getting burned out. Vary the work experience with friendly, company-wide competitions. Hold a chili cookoff, a costume competition or a friendly softball game. You can also expand these competitions outside of your immediate workplace. Engage with other companies in your office park or a rival business across town. 

TipTip: To boost the morale of your remote teams, try virtual team-building activities like holding a photo contest, introducing kids and pets, and having virtual coffee breaks.

Statistics that prove gamification is the future of the workplace

Gamification’s positive aspects aren’t just anecdotal. Here are some powerful statistics that support gamification’s ability to boost employee engagement, motivation and productivity.

1. Gamification boosts productivity.

A whopping 90% of employees say gamification makes them more productive, according to Zippia. Productive employees produce better work and are at a lower risk of burnout. By implementing gamification into your bottom line, you can motivate your employees to work harder and smarter. Rather than feeling like they’re performing the same mundane tasks each day, employees can enjoy the excitement of gamification. 

2. The gamification market is growing. 

Statista reports that the value of the global gamification market grew from $4.91 billion in 2016 to $11.94 billion in 2021. The gamification market is growing at an astounding rate, and businesses understand that gamification is driving results. Additionally, the job market became more competitive amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and employers must be willing to incentivize and reward their current workforce to ensure loyalty. As remote work grows and the ability to micromanage employees decreases, businesses will continue to rely on gamification to manage teams.

3. Recognition is a powerful motivator. 

With 37% of workers seeing recognition as the most important driver for work performance, recognition clearly is a powerful motivator. According to this study, employees who feel recognized at work are 2.6 times more likely to think promotions are fair, 2.2 times more likely to embrace innovative thinking and twice as likely to go beyond expectations. The best way to instantly recognize employees is through gamification methods.

4. Gamification boosts employee engagement. 

Employees have experienced a 60% increase in engagement with gamification. Employee engagement measures a worker’s enthusiasm in the workplace. The more engaged your employees are, the more inspired they feel, and the more committed they are to their job. By using gamification tools, you can increase your employee engagement on an individual level and for the company as a whole. 

TipTip: Try incorporating progress bars and trivia quizzes into employee training seminars so that workers can gauge their learning progression.

5. Gamification boosts conversion rates. 

Companies that use gamification in attracting, onboarding and selling to customers have seven times more conversions, according to The Octalysis Group. Companies that use gamification tend to experience 700% more sales conversions than those that don’t. Businesses can gamify their recruitment and onboarding efforts as well as their selling process when targeting potential customers. Doing so can increase sales and make customers more excited to do business with you. 

Tim Pickard contributed to the writing and research in this article. 

Image Credit:

SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock

Sean Peek
Sean Peek
business.com Contributing Writer
Sean Peek has written more than 100 B2B-focused articles on various subjects including business technology, marketing and business finance. In addition to researching trends, reviewing products and writing articles that help small business owners, Sean runs a content marketing agency that creates high-quality editorial content for both B2B and B2C businesses.