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

Gamification catalyst for employee engagement

Many times, an employee fails to enter into the flow zone because they don't identify with the goals, so they think, What is in it for me? Game mechanics can help bridge that gap in demonstrating that value in an engaging manner.

A well-designed gamification system that lets employees enter into a flow zone by deploying a combination of these mechanics can achieve higher levels of employee engagement.

Game mechanics at enterprises

The following are a few game mechanics and illustrations of scenarios within an enterprise where they may apply:

Game Mechanic




A virtual or physical indication of having accomplished something.

An employee is rewarded as "Best performer of the month." (can be virtual rewards)


A predetermined time or place a user must log in or participate in the game for positive effect.

An employee is expected to complete a knowledge quest on Know your organizational assets or Know your customer, after coming on board.

Behavioral momentum

Tendency of players to keep doing what they have been doing.

An employee continues to play a skill game and gains learning credits even after exceeding the stipulated credits for the annual period.

Blissful productivity

The feeling of being happy by playing a game and working hard, rather than being idle or relaxed.

An employee volunteers to perform a challenging task and aspires to accomplish the goals with utmost commitment.


Reward after completing a series of challenges or core functions.

An employee is rewarded with performance incentives or spot awards for their delivery excellence.

Cascading information theory

Release information in minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during a game narrative.

An employee who is an entry level trainee is required to complete the basic level of technology training and gains a beginner badge and is gradually encouraged to learn the advanced curriculum as subsequent levels to gain mastery.


Reward skills after completing a combination of actions.

An employee is required to complete x hours of attending training sessions and y hours of handling training sessions and complete a certification in order to gain learning credits for the period under consideration.

Community Collaboration

Entire community is rallied to work together in solving a riddle, problem or challenge.

An employee is required to drive their team to win the Best Product Idea award where they work collaboratively with marketing executives and functional and technical analysts.


Players are only given a certain amount of time to do something.

An employee is given compensatory leave for a day that needs to be availed within the next 2 weeks.


Surprise the players by letting them discover or explore something.

An employee submits an innovative idea and receives an invite for Lunch with the leadership team.

Epic Meaning

Players will be highly motivated if they believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, something bigger than themselves.

An employee is given the opportunity to lead a huge product venture that could transform the fortunes of the company as part of their diversification roadmap.

Free Lunch

Players feel they are getting something for free due to someone else's hard work.

An employee at junior level has joined a team that wins the Project of the year award, so they feel lucky and blessed to be part of the team and want to contribute more.

Infinite Gameplay

Game that does not have an explicit end as it constantly refreshes the content or the player works towards a static or positive state.

An employee who has completed longer years of service continues to invest their best as they feel part of a continuous learning journey.


Players are rewarded an increasing value for cumulating points and they have a feeling of moving up the ladder.

An employee is elevated to appropriate roles with clear career growth options in alignment with their competency levels.

Loss Aversion

Influencing player behavior not by reward, but by instituting punishment.

An employee is clearly shown the consequences of violating the code of ethics.


Winner is determined solely by chance to create a high level of anticipation.

An employee participates in a referral program where there is a sweepstake to double the referral bonus.


Players can create, customize, and control their own characters, items, goods, or other things that strengthens loyalty.

An employee is empowered to manage a small venture within their group, unleashing their creativity.


Numerical value given for any single action or combination of actions.

An employee is rewarded points for maximum contribution in Ask the expert forums in the period under consideration.


Success is granularly displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks.

An employee is shown their continuous progression in achieving the goals set for the current year in the performance review system.


The journey of obstacles a player must overcome.

An employee is thrown the challenge of completing a series of certifications to gain the SME status.

Reward Schedules

The timeframe and delivery mechanisms through which rewards (points, prizes, level ups) are delivered.

An employee is clearly shown the reward guidelines and delivery mechanisms in order to push themselves to compete with their peers and excel.


Rank or level of a player.

An employee is elevated to a higher rank if they perform at a higher level.

Urgent Optimism

Indicates extreme self-motivation with a desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.

An employee is highly motivated to tackle a challenging situation in a customer project and upholds their organizational brand and their own repute.


A game element that requires multiple people to play or that can be played better with multiple people.

An employee launches and popularizes a crowdsourcing initiative and gathers tons of ideas from the rest of the team to deliver continuous process improvements.

Gamification and Gen Y

Earlier in the chapter, we referred to certain changing expectations from the Gen Y/millennials at the workplace. You can observe some interesting correlations of these attributes to playing games, which are as follows:

  • Defy hierarchy: While playing a game, every player is treated equally. A player is usually appreciated based on the merit of the play they exhibit on the day or moment of play, rather than making it based on past glory or positions.

    A gamified initiative in a workplace can effortlessly create a culture where employees are treated alike and their ideas are welcomed and implemented purely based on merit.

  • Collaborative culture: Games promote a sense of collaboration between the participant players, more so evident in sports when played as team games comprising of players from diverse cultures representing different regions or countries. They provide avenues for the players to mingle and compete in high spirits. They enable people to understand each other's skills better, socialize, and achieve a common goal.

    At the workplace, people representing diverse cultures and backgrounds get together to accomplish common goals within an enterprise. A gamified initiative would help to bring the teams together and for the employees to understand about each other's skills and perform well as a team to achieve a common objective.

  • Empowerment and trust: One of the important qualities that intrinsically motivates a player while playing a game is the autonomy that he/she enjoys in making creative moves based on his/her own instincts and abilities. The player is given the liberty to experiment, take risks, face failures, make adjustments, get better and better with more practice, and finally get to winning ways as he/she gains mastery. When players are entrusted with certain roles, they excel and bring the best out of themselves.

    At the workplace, when employees are empowered and entrusted to deliver, they are extremely motivated and engaged in owning up to the tasks. A gamified initiative can provide that exhilarated feeling of creative accomplishment. One example would be to decentralize innovation and generate quality ideas from creative employees across the organization through the deployment of game mechanics.

  • Instant feedback: The most engaging aspect of the game lies in receiving instant feedback. The player can infer the consequences of every move made that lets him/her strategize further moves. Irrespective of the outcomes, the player feels a sense of achievement, especially when they boast of their progress and achievements in the peer network and receive acknowledgement from their close circles.

    Any gamified initiative incorporates the feedback element as its core where the progress can be published to the community transparently and recognition can be bestowed on a timely basis.

  • Flexible environment: Games are designed to operate in a flexible and fun environment where the players experience a sense of unforced immersion and relaxation.

    A gamified initiative can effectively induce certain elements of flexibility and fun in performing tasks that are otherwise stressful, monotonous, and mundane in nature.

  • Sense of purpose: All games demonstrate a sense of purpose for the players who participate in the game. The purpose could be to attain individual glory, bring honors to the team they represent, or could be a cause of charity. That purpose would drive the players to perform at their peaks.

    An employee demonstrates their highest levels of engagement when he/she understands and enrolls in a larger cause. A gamified initiative can help employees in discovering that sense of purpose and the impact of their contributions.

Accelerating engagement among employees

Employers within an enterprise can adopt the best practices taking cue from successful initiatives from both non-enterprise and enterprise context. These initiatives demonstrate real value in effectively deploying gamification as a catalyst for engagement.

Driving behavioral changes

By inducing fun, gamification can drive behavioral change towards positive reinforcement.


Fun Theory, an initiative by Volkswagen is changing people's behavior for the better. The initiative goes to prove that the best way to drive behavioral change is to let users take part in activities that are fun to undertake with underlying serious benefits. Users are invited to share fun ideas that would drive good behavior and are rewarded.

Speed Camera Lottery, an idea conceived by Kevin Richardson from USA is implemented at Sweden in collaboration with the National Society for Road Safety where the camera at traffic lights snaps the vehicles that pass by along with their speed levels. The law abiders who follow speed limits enter into a lottery and win rewards that are essentially sponsored by the pool of money collected as penalty from those who violate the speed. Average speed in Stockholm trial decreased from 32 to 25 kilometers an hour.

Similarly an idea submitted by Nevena Stojanovic from Serbia called Play Belt ensures everyone uses their safety belt in vehicles. Its only when the seat belt is fastened, the in-car entertainment system is switched on, encouraging the kids to follow rules, which they otherwise ignore. This ensures a positive reinforcement to help people adopt safe driving practices that can save lives.

Takeaways for employers

When it comes to code of ethics, security and compliance matters, employees always show a slack attitude in adhering to the protocols. Employers can take a leaf out of this and deploy such fun theory at workplace to drive behavioral changes in employees, especially when it comes to compliance training that has serious implications but often overlooked by the workforce. In fact, in every job that we perform, if we can figure out the element of fun, the tedious aspects of a job can be masked in a game.

Inducing intrinsic motivation

Through interesting game mechanics, gamification kindles intrinsic motivation to perform an activity.


Nike, the sports shoe company is a classic example of how intrinsic motivation can be induced into an otherwise tiresome activity like exercising. The company introduced a Nike+ sports kit, where the users attach a sensor in their shoes to track, store and transmit data on their workouts. This includes monitoring activities like duration, speed, distance traveled, calories burned. As the users exercise, they can set personal workout goals in the iPhone app, tune in to favorite music and receive instant feedbacks on their health progress. The data captured is synchronized with the Nike+ server and in turn displayed at the community website. The user can log in to the website to track their workout data, share with friends in the community and enter challenges.

Nike+ has become a unique product category and pushed competition to emulate its success. Nike+'s online community has more than 2 million active members. All members have run 120 million-plus miles, achieved 240,000 daily goals and earned over 220,000 achievements. This in turn increased their membership and helped in boosting company's overall revenue.

Takeaways for employers

In an enterprise, employees are faced with mundane activities that don't inspire them to stay engaged. A typical example could be a clerical job, mobile marketing or customer service job. In such cases, employers can induce game mechanics to intrinsically motivate the employees by providing instant feedback monitoring their key performance indicators, conduct quests and facilitate employee community interactions.

Seeding corporate social responsibility

Gamification aids in promoting awareness and garnering participation towards sustainability programs targeted at social wellness.


Ecoinomy, a software solution company has recently partnered with a utility company to encourage their employees to contribute a portion of their monetary savings to community causes chosen by them. Each employee has an online account and submits ideas on eco-saving opportunities and the amount of money and CO2 emissions saved are tracked.

Over 25 percent of the staff joined with the pilot scheme and the project, helped save the utility £41,000 in costs and 66 tons of CO2. An annualized estimate of the savings for each employee active in the scheme came to £350, which translates to a potential £7 million in savings if every employee took up the challenge in the future. £8,000 was donated to local causes and nearly 5,000 actions undertaken.

Takeaways for employers

Gamification and sustainability are becoming synonymous these days and corporate houses are employing the tactic to engage their employee community to contribute towards causes of social good including philanthropy and green revolution. Nearly 70 percent of the employees in any organization, identify with causes of social good, and employers should look to gamify CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and sustainability programs as this creates a sense of belongingness towards their organization.

Better synergy and collaboration

Gamification drives community collaboration to seek and share knowledge.


Enterprise software giant SAP's Community Network (SCN), is one of the early pioneers that adopted gamification to enable its developers, customers, and partners to collaborate within respective communities and share knowledge.

With over 200,000 contributors overall, there are about 1,170 discussions per day with 17,000 likes, 7,000 comments, and 6,000 ratings per day on average. Particularly after upgrading the gamification features last year, content creation, comments, and feedback is reported to be up by 113%, community feedback by 250%, and points up by 147% with over 50% month-over-month increase of badges.

Takeaways for employers

Many organizations have started to build a community of practitioners within an enterprise, where peers can network with each other to share knowledge and ask for expert help in the community forums. In order to gain better adoption of such initiatives and to strengthen them, gamification can help a long way in developing better synergy, as is evident in the case of SCN.