September 8, 2021

Gamification in the Workplace: Why and How to Use It

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Gamification is now a part of our lives. It’s a core principle of what keeps us coming back to social media, how we motivate our sales teams, or how we learn a new skill. While gamification is no longer a new thing to anyone in the business world, it’s still difficult to manage it effectively without technology. Thankfully, there is a gamification platform for every type of workplace. We just have to wade through the options and get the right tool for our needs.

By harnessing the entertaining aspects of games, gamification technology offers organizations a solution to their engagement problems. In many of its initial applications, gamification has had impressive results, leading global organizations such as IBM, Walmart, and Deloitte to use gamification in their marketing campaigns and workplaces. Some software companies even acquire gamification startups to permanently integrate the technology into their internal software and business models.

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Why gamification works for employee engagement

According to Daniel Pink’s book Drive (and the accompanying TED Talk), it’s important for individuals to feel autonomy over their work, mastery over the concepts they apply every day, and a purpose for getting the job done. Gamification can make employees feel connected with each of these concepts individually or any combination of them.

  • Autonomy: Employees who engage in gamified training modules have power over their own success. They can choose the pace of their learning and their own engagement with it, which ultimately makes them more engaged.
  • Mastery: As employees move through training modules, they learn concepts and skills they need to complete their job. Each badge they receive for a completed module or certificate they earn for finished courses only affirms the sense of mastery.
  • Purpose: Many employees will complete training for intrinsic reasons—they want to learn in order to do their jobs better—other employees may need extrinsic motivations like badges, certificates, or even physical and monetary rewards for their training.

How gamification increases employee engagement

Employee engagement is widely accepted as a driver of a company’s productivity and growth. This is true of the percentage of engaged workforce and depth of engagement for individual employees. According to the 2019 TalentLMS Gamification at Work survey,

  • 88 percent of employees who use gamification say they’re happier at work
  • 89 percent of employees who use gamification say they are more productive at work
  • 78 percent of those surveyed say that if a company uses recruitment gamification it makes the company more desirable
  • 83 percent of employees who use gamified training at work said they feel motivated in their training
    while 61 percent of non-gamified feel unmotivated

But engagement is easy to lose and difficult to inspire. The recent push among American companies for higher engagement rates has made a difference: the 2021 Gallup poll of employee engagement states that American workers boast a 36 percent engagement level, which matches the aggregate 2020 score.
The changing workplace and difficult circumstances that HR departments find themselves in can mean than employee engagement rates are more fragile than ever.

Disengaged employees are less productive and have lower morale because they tend to think negatively about their jobs. And this isn’t a static crisis: disengaged employees tend to bring their colleagues and teammates down with them, affecting the overall employee culture and spreading discontent throughout the company.

Gamifying sales competitions

Contests are a staple tool for motivating people, from encouraging consumers to buy a product or providing incentive for employees to increase their performance. In the latter use case, the opportunity to collaborate as a team that’s provided by a contest helps break up the monotony of everyday work tasks and spark healthy competition. Hence why contests are still used in the business world.

For sales people in particular, the idea of a performance-based contest is appealing because in many ways the foundation of selling is competition. Salespeople compete against their company’s bottom line, and must bring in enough revenue to justify their position, or secure a bonus. They compete against rejection, because it’s significantly more common than closing a deal.

The nature of a sales job sets the standards for the personality required for the role. And more often than not, the personality of a salesman is one that thrives on competition.

But this doesn’t mean that running a sales contest is simple. The proper goals must be targeted, and the correct rewards must be offered. But even getting the basics right might not be enough to adequately inspire your team. Sustained engagement is much harder to come by these days.

That’s why gamification is a logical partner for sales competitions: inserting game elements to encourage selling behavior motivates people to take productive actions. Coupling game elements with a contest makes for an appealing engagement tool, and you can find these tools in software like SAP Sales Cloud. While a sales contest will ideally drive higher revenue numbers, gamifying the sales contest model can spur other positives as well, such as team building and self-directed development.

Call center and help desk motivation through gamification

As automation, predictive maintenance, AI, and other technological advances begin to remove humans from many manual jobs they once performed, industries need to pivot to a service-centered model to remain relevant and useful to consumers. Technicians have to learn to include customer service into their workflows and call centers, and help desk teams no longer reset passwords but rather focus on edge case issues that require service skills and technical knowledge.

Consequently, automating your customer service isn’t a great option, but the increasing level of disengagement in service representatives needs to be addressed to keep their productivity from slipping further. To make matters worse, it’s difficult to keep skilled service agents. Call centers in particular can experience turnover rates as high as 27 percent among entry level employees, with experienced workers only marginally more committed to their positions.

To address this problem, many call center and help desk organizations deploy gamification platforms to solve their employee engagement problem. These tools pit individuals or teams of service agents against one another in friendly competition to achieve high performance against customer experience and service KPIs and goals. Depending on the solution you choose and your company culture, rewards for high achievement can run from leaderboard recognition to prizes and bonuses.

Gamified onboarding

New employee training ensures new hires integrate well with the rest of the team, but it also affects the new employee’s overall productivity. Retraining new hires, teaching new skills, and preparing the employee for a culture fit can all delay a hire’s integration with the company and even the length of their tenure with the company.

Reducing turnover is particularly crucial in maintaining and extending the employee lifetime value (ELTV). A salesperson who receives optimized onboarding, career management, and development and stays just one year longer than a counterpart in the same position could earn the company as much as $1.3 million more. Studies also indicate that the cost of losing a single employee increases exponentially with the employee’s pay: turnover of a lower wage employee who makes under $50,000 a year will cost you about 20 percent of their wages, while a highly compensated CEO could cost as much as 213 percent of her salary to replace.

Onboarding nearly always requires recent hires to learn additional skills, or at the very least new organizational protocols that they’ll apply to their role. While gamification can improve the outcomes for many organizational problems, it’s especially effective at encouraging learning. Companies who hope to train employees and retain their investment in them should consider gamified learning in a software like Centrical as a way to get employees engaged in onboarding learning and extending their skills to grow into more complex roles.

Gamified learning management

Gamified learning uses the same leaderboards, badges, and competition tools to encourage employees to take lessons tailored to the company’s training needs or contracted through third-party learning systems.
These tools motivate employees to

  • gain certifications needed for regulatory compliance
  • become better at working with people
  • learn how to use software tools
  • train to use complicated and dangerous machinery

With the addition of augmented or virtual reality tools, companies can reduce the risk of training new employees and engage them in meaningful learning that improves company outcomes.
It’s not just your kid’s second grade teacher that knows the value of making learning fun. Gamified learning management systems like Treehouse combine knowledge growth with game elements to improve training outcomes.

Gamified health and wellness

Employee health can have a sizable impact on performance. Unhealthy employees take more sick days, which reduces their productivity and can cost your company money. Obese workers cost American companies 36 percent more on healthcare and 77 percent more on medication than their slimmer counterparts. This is a significant issue considering that 25 percent of American workers are not active at all, and 49 percent of Americans receive health insurance through their employer.

Implementing a company wellness program can make your employees more productive and healthier. For employees who aren’t currently active, forming healthy habits can be a challenge. Gamification offers an excellent supplement to a traditional wellness program, and can increase participation and long-term engagement.

Employee gamified wellness programs take many forms, from weight loss competitions and step count leaderboards to diet and exercise challenges that change from week to week. Many of these programs require self-reporting, but others gather exercise, heart rate, and calorie burn data from wearable devices like the Fitbit or via an app on the employee’s mobile phone.

Implementing gamification in your workplace

Getting gamification right in the workplace starts with the right technology. We can help you find the right gamification software for all of your employee engagement strategies, and it only takes five minutes. Give us a call at 855.718.1369, or go to the gamification software Product Selection Tool. Enter your requirements, and we’ll send you a list of the best gamification tools for your company’s needs.