Gamification in the workplace: is it a good idea?

Happy employee seated with a book in his hands to illustrate the impact of Gamification in the workplace.

What is Gamification?

Let’s start with a real story to understand why Gamification is discussed so frequently in companies? In 2009, I was a Project Manager at a systems’ consulting firm, working on IT projects and products for a large retail group in Portugal. We worked in a very aggressive environment with constant pressure for deliveries and deadlines. It was when I decided to dedicate myself to understanding what prevented us from becoming a team of excellence without having to sacrifice our nights or weekends. Talking with the team members, I realized that many of our problems were linked to the delivery quality. Low quality generates stress in several ways: loss of trust, rework, tighter deadlines, more costs, and dissatisfaction in the team and in the client. The solution would certainly be to improve the quality of deliveries. But how? So I started to think of ways to engage people with this topic. Along with the other project managers in the area, we created a Miles System to reward people who engaged in the process and in the various challenges we launched. There were many ways to earn miles, from delivering a document that was approved for the very first time to delivering bug-free code for testing. Zero bugs in the production environment, for example, not only gave a lot of miles to the team, but it was also a great moment to celebrate because it avoided a lot of costs, stress, and a tarnished image. Although I was not aware, I was using the concept of gamification with my team, which consists of using game elements outside the context of games, such as in the work environment. The concept itself is not new and has been around since the 1970s, but the term was only spread in 2010 when North American game designer Jane McGonigal gave the talk “Gaming can make a better world at TedX”.

Gamification’s elements

If gamification means using game elements, what are these elements? There are several, but the most common and most used are:

  • Storytelling

Giving context to the game with a theme related to your business niche or target audience.

  • Avatar

Adding a visual representation of a character that is related to the context of the story.

  • Challenge

As in any game, it is important to have a challenge that motivates the contestants. Be careful with the dosage of the difficulty level, which cannot be too easy to make the game boring or too difficult to discourage participation.

  • Rewards

Rewards encourage the player to participate and stay engaged. Badges, for example, are one of the most common forms of rewards and symbolize an important player’s achievement. Challenges and rewards are exciting dynamics that, from our childhood, stimulate the competitiveness that is inherent to all human beings. . And the elements of the games fulfill this role very well.

Gamification examples

It is no wonder that gamification has become increasingly popular. The most common examples of gamification are learning apps like  Duolingo, the most popular app for language learning. But there are many more ways to use this technique. Nike developed the

  Nike Run Club app to encourage and engage users in their running routine. Starbucks, on the other hand, created   My Starbucks Reward, an app to reward customer loyalty. Another great success story was the

 Domino’s Pizza Hero app, created in 2011 by Domino’s Pizza to bet on pizza purchases. Victoria’s Secret, a famous women’s lingerie manufacturer, also jumped on the gamification bandwagon and created

 PINK Nation. The app allows users to unlock badges, win prizes, play games, and participate in competitions. Besides these examples, there are many others in the most diverse companies in the most diverse fields of activity, such as Google, Microsoft, Zappos, L’or√©al, Walmart, Marriot, and many others. A simple Google search is enough to find successful cases of gamification.

Gamification in the workplace

Circling back to our question here, is it a good idea to use gamification in the workplace? Research shows that gamification can greatly increase motivation and engagement at work. The 2019 Gamification at Work Survey brings up some interesting data:

  • 88% of those who use gamification in software at work claim that it makes them happier.
  • 89% stated that when a specific task at work is gamified, they feel competitive and eager to complete it.
  • 89% believe they are more productive and get better results if work is more gamified.
  • 78% say that gamification in the recruitment process makes a company more desirable.

If we think that companies spend a few thousand dollars every year on recruiting, onboarding, and training, why not use gamification to make them more effective? In addition, even repetitive and boring tasks can be gamified, thus making work more exciting and productive.

How to use gamification in the workplace

Successful case examples

Training

SAP, one of the world’s largest software companies, created a game called Road Warrior for its sales representatives. This game simulates a real-life scenario for the customer. This game not only became fun training but also boosted the results.

Onboarding

The consulting firm Deloitte uses gamification in its onboarding process. Newcomers join the game and assemble teams to learn together about company processes such as privacy, compliance, ethics, and others.

Work Tasks

Microsoft has its products available in different languages, which makes it very difficult for translations to make sense in all languages with only one team to ensure the accuracy of the translation. Thus, Microsoft used a game for all its employees around the world to find problems in translations.

Recruiting

Google, a company that needs no introduction, developed a game to recruit new talent: Google Code Jam. The contestant participates in several rounds of coding. The best participants receive an offer to work at one of the best companies in the world.

Conclusion

In terms of gamification, there is an infinite possibility of uses, and for the workplace, it is no different: recruiting, onboarding processes, skills training, reducing travel expenses, creating and implementing ideas, team building, and much more. The use of gamification is certainly not new, but it has been increasingly used in companies interactions with their customers and employees. In an increasingly competitive market, gamification can be an excellent alternative to keep employees motivated, engaged, and consequently more productive. In this way, I end this article with a question: Have you had any gamification insights for your workplace? Let us know in the comments! Did you like this article? Share it with your friends and coworkers, and start bringing results using gamification!

Picture of Joice Hahn

Joice Hahn

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