Book Image

Gamification for Employee Engagement

By : Akila Narayanan
Book Image

Gamification for Employee Engagement

By: Akila Narayanan

Overview of this book

Table of Contents (12 chapters)
Gamification for Employee Engagement
About the Author
About the Reviewers

Driving engagement the SMART way

Before moving on to attaining the highest degree of engagement, we have to get the nitty-gritties right in driving engagement at a fundamental level. There are five factors that prescribe an employee's expectations at the workplace. Those termed as the SMART factors include Satisfaction, Motivation, Advancement, Recognition, and Trust.


A satisfied employee need not be an engaged employee, but an engaged employee is almost always a satisfied employee. At the outset, job satisfaction indicates the degree to which an employee is content with their job, whereas engagement bespeaks the degree to which an employee goes beyond the call of duty. 75 – 80% of employees can be satisfied if they are assured of the following factors:

  • Job security

  • Financial stability

  • Compensation

  • Benefits

  • Flexibility at the workplace

While satisfaction can't directly contribute to engagement, it can certainly disturb the engagement level if not taken care of.


A satisfied employee need not be a motivated employee and a motivated employee need not be an engaged employee, whereas an engaged employee is almost always a satisfied-cum-motivated employee. Motivation refers to the psychological drive that reinforces one's action towards accomplishing a task or goal. It clearly indicates why an employee behaves in a certain fashion.

When comprehending motivation, it is essential to understand the two major types of motivation, namely extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation refers to the motivation that is attained by an external push or outcomes.

For example, if you accomplish task X, then we offer you Y as outcome. Y could constitute money, rewards, and status, or it could even be a penalty. Here, the motivation to perform or the anxiety to perform is driven by external forces and the sustenance is guaranteed as long as the outcome is clearly articulated and awarded on time.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to the motivation that is attained by an internal push, only as much as the task interests oneself. Here, the motivation to perform comes from within, as the employee derives some sense of pleasure in undertaking the task and thereby longer sustenance is guaranteed.

An employee would implicitly tell themselves that if they accomplish task X, then they would derive Y as outcome. Y could constitute happiness, a sense of accomplishment, skill upgrade, or it could even be fear of losing self-respect. You might agree that many of us have certain expectations from ourselves and feel miserable not when we lose, but when we fail to invest efforts or perform to the best of our abilities.

On the contrary to extrinsic motivation where Y is more tangible, here, Y is more intangible, and we value it mostly for ourselves.

A story scenario

There is a kid in my avenue that cries non-stop and creates a huge scene on Monday mornings to not go to school. Even as grown-up adults, we hate Monday mornings, don't we?

The parents then make it a habit to buy the kid a chocolate if he/she attends school regularly on Mondays. The kid infers that if he/she resists going to school, the parents will buy a chocolate. The kid starts crying on Tuesday mornings too and the parents are forced to buy chocolates on Tuesdays too. The kid continues the trend for all the weekdays and the parents struggle in dealing with the kid's stubbornness and are clueless what to do next.

What would be your suggestion to the kid's parents? Do you think they had the right strategy in the first place to deal with the problem? Given their current strategy, do you think they should entertain the kid's request in the longer run? Mind you, this might finally land the kid at a dentist's clinic for treating a tooth cavity.


Many times, employers think that extrinsic motivation works best, but tend to overlook the fact that it purely depends on how the employees perceive it, and their strategies could completely backfire, leaving the sustenance at bay. We need a strategy that works beyond carrots and sticks at the workplace to attain the desired levels of engagement.


Advancement refers to the growth in one's career in terms of designation or position, usually in relation to their good performance. This can also involve advancement in terms of gaining knowledge, skills, and maturity to move to the next level or undertake challenging assignments. Millennials usually expect quality time from their supervisors to mentor and guide them towards career progression in alignment with their aspirations. Advancement again can be intrinsic in the manner in which an employee feels that they have come a long way being part of the continuous journey of learning.


Recognition is commonly associated with rewards given as a token of appreciation for accomplishing excellence. It symbolizes acknowledgement of one's good work. From tangibles to virtual awards, recognition can reassure an employee of their value to the organization. Employers fail to realize that recognition need not always translate to something materialistic. What is of utmost importance with respect to recognition is timeliness and genuineness. A timely Thank you e-mail, pat on the back (literally), even a smile or a nod from a senior executive can be associated with recognition as it just represents that we are being valued and respected in the place where we belong. Many times, employees value recognition from their teams and peers as much as they value recognition when it flows top-down. An ambience needs to be created at the workplace, where each of us within a group values and recognizes each other's contribution. The ultimate means of recognition comes from respect and repute that an employee earns at the workplace.


First of all, an employee needs to develop a sense of trust in the organization's purpose of existence and directions from the executive leadership team. Much of the disengagement surfaces when leaders fail to communicate a clear vision. Secondly, how often do we hear the phrase, Employees don't leave an organization but leave their supervisor? However much an organization invests to build policies of faith and trust, there is a larger onus on the middle managers and supervisors to ensure that it is established on the ground with their subordinates in the truest sense. The highest point of trust is accomplished when an employee is able to expose their vulnerabilities to the supervisor, seek help, and gain wisdom. When things don't work the way they are planned, supervisors should lend the adequate support rather than blaming it squarely on the subordinates. If the seed of transparency is deep-rooted on the soil of trust, loyalty can be harvested. A simple rule to remember is, trust is mutual.

These SMART factors are more like prerequisites to drive engagement. The organization should strive to build a culture and environment where employees are satisfied with their basic needs, motivated to perform to the best of their abilities, feel assured of progressions, receive acknowledgement of their value, and feel part of a trusted group in order to drive deeper levels of engagement.

Now that we have the prerequisites lined up, it is time to dive deeper into levels of engagement.

A story scenario

Steve is the Regional Head who oversees the team of sales and marketing executives. While there is no dearth of talent in the individuals, Steve observes the following issues while carrying out a performance review for his region:

  • The sales executives miss out on responding to customer e-mails promptly, which results in customer complaints.

  • The sales executives often take vacation without prior intimation.

  • The marketing executives don't pass on clear information about the prospects.

  • The marketing executives don't keep the brochure updated in the sales repository.

  • The marketing executives and sales executives don't collaborate well with each other.

  • The sales and marketing teams are always at loggerheads, blaming each other in the case of missed targets.

  • The region might miss accomplishing the targets as a team if the trend continues.

Steve convenes a meeting with his team and informs that there is a new announcement from his global head that the team that performs exceedingly well at regional levels will qualify for a big honor from the CEO of the firm. He points out the misalignment between the sales and marketing teams, and expresses concern. But he also assures that if both the parties start collaborating from then on, they could make it to the top of the charts.

Steve's team expresses certain concerns as to why they are unable to collaborate effectively and also assure him that they will make the necessary reforms at their end.

Steve comes up with a few initiatives to address the concerns and implements them promptly:

  • He tracks and publishes the top salesman of the month, who got good feedback from the customers.

  • He formalizes leave or vacation tracking in the system and shares the report with the team, honoring the consistently punctual employees with badges.

  • He facilitates a channel for the sales and marketing executives to easily collaborate with each other and share knowledge and recognizes the valuable contributors.

  • He provides access to both sales and marketing teams to a single integrated CRM system to maintain prospect and customer contacts and awards points for providing additional insights about the contacts that can translate to sales conversions.

Steve observes a significant change in the employees' behavior and his team does emerge as the top region of the year, meeting the revenue targets.


Whenever a group of individuals are entrusted with a task with clearly defined objectives and expectations, challenged to march towards a mission or a quest, establish prompt feedback loops, enable a platform for sharing knowledge, and collaborating and valued for their contributions, it brings the best out of them in the capacity of individuals and as a team. In a nutshell, the routine chores when gamified can seed deeper levels of engagement.