Gamification in the Workplace: How to Boost Productivity and Engagement

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Gamification in the workplace can be a powerful tool for HR leaders, using game design and human psychology to drive desirable business outcomes such as increased productivity and employee engagement. You don't need to play video games to understand the ability of gamification to modify human behaviors.

As game designers have long understood, humans seem to be hardwired to enjoy interacting with basic gaming elements such as point systems, increasingly challenging levels, meeting intermittent challenges, winning and wanting to be on scoreboards and ranked. "Gamification is 75 percent psychology and 25 percent technology," notes "Gamification by Design" co-author Gabe Zichermann in

Gamification Can Drive Personal Achievement

The popular consumer wearable business Fitbit, for example, has effectively gamified fitness by enabling users to collect badges and earn rewards based on their levels of physical activity and the achievement of their health goals. Fitbit even provides digital tools that allow users to compete in challenges with family, friends or co-workers to see who can accumulate the most steps in a given time frame. In short, Fitbit isn't just a wearable device, but a gamified platform that leverages design and psychology to drive desired outcomes around fitness.

Gamification in the Workplace Can Drive Desired Outcomes

While employee engagement and productivity are complicated ideas, and often highly-individualized to boot, they do lend themselves to gamification. A key component of workplace gamification success is identifying desired business outcomes and providing the full range of rewards and recognitions that will motivate people. The best games offer a full menu of motivators suited to individual preferences, including financial rewards, opportunities to learn and gain confidence, recognition by others in the workplace, community-based rewards, competition and other incentives.

If, for example, your organization recognizes improved employee health as a way to boost productivity, reduce absenteeism and decrease health-related costs, you might look into adopting what Fitbit is doing into your own wellness initiative. You might encourage internal departments to square off to see who accumulates the most steps, or even pit members of the leadership team against individual departments. Start by clarifying the desired outcomes and behavioral modifications you seek. Next, structure competition in ways that work best for your particular organization, setting up a reward and recognition system that's aligned with your culture.

Gamification Can Help Skill-Building, Engagement and Productivity

Video games are highly "sticky" by design — they are engagement machines that keep users playing for hours. Players can keep adding skills and knowledge that help them better navigate the game, earning more points and moving up to higher levels. Game design techniques work well for skills development and training too, adding fun and competition into the learning mix.

According to, there's a clear link between gamification and developing workplace skills — gamification strategies can increase employee motivation while enhancing the ability of employees to retain work-related knowledge. Organizations such as Microsoft have gamified performance feedback, offering workers a way to measure and improve their productivity as they assist customers. In fact, Microsoft saw big improvements in its consumer support center when it aligned its customer service metrics with a gamified rewards and recognitions system used by its agents, notes GamEffective.

Workplace gamification has a burgeoning number of applications when it comes to driving productivity and engagement. Games are great vehicles for delivering the sort of cost-effective rewards and recognition that can motivate employees toward the specific business outcomes, whether that's learning, efficiency, better service provision or higher sales. With better technology emerging, along with a deeper understanding of the psychology behind human motivation, the options for workplace gamification will only be increasing with time. What would you like to gamify in your workplace?

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