Games in the workplace can help employees improve their skill set, beat their own statistics, challenge one another, and be recognized for their achievements.
Keeping employees motivated and engaged can be a full-time job. When workers are engaged their workday flies by, their enthusiasm is infectious, their customers are well cared for, and the company thrives. Anything an organization can do to boost engagement and motivation is worth the effort. The challenge is to find tools that motivate employees in a manner they enjoy and even seek out.
Gamification may be the answer. This new trend in engagement uses games, either digital or old-fashioned company contests, to recognize employees while they work. Gamification lets workers celebrate milestones, earn badges, up their status, or score rewards. You can set them up to help workers improve their skill set, beat their own statistics, or challenge one another. There are endless possibilities for gamification — limited only by your (and your employee’s) imagination.
Does gamification work?
Gamification works because it uses positive feedback to increase employee motivation. You may not be available to give each worker a pat on the back when they accomplish a task or reach a milestone, but gamification can. It’s also available for breaking down complex tasks into smaller, more easily achievable sections that help employees complete projects. You can use it to reward smaller accomplishments, as well. Gamification helps employees get excited about even the most mundane task because there’s a reward for completion.
Studies show gamification boosts engagement in many ways. A survey from Talent LMS found 89% of workers felt gamification made them feel more productive: 88% said it made them happier at work. Almost 9 in 10 workers said when a specific task is gamified, they feel more competitive and more eager to complete it.
89% of workers felt gamification made them feel more productive: 88% said it made them happier at work.
Gamification helps with wellness, too. A survey from eLearning Industry found 71% of workers believed it helps increase their energy levels on the job: 66% say it reduces stress levels. We’re hard-wired to seek out rewards for our efforts — a “good job” from parents encouraged us learn to do almost everything. On the job, your reward is your paycheck, but you still want acknowledgement and appreciation between paydays. Gamification steps in to provide those: at each individual employee’s pace they receive recognition for their achievements, no matter how basic or complex.
For businesses, a survey from Zippia found 27% of workers say gamification inspires them to be more productive, while 20% say it helps them stay focused and avoid distractions at work. Gamification seems to address virtually every employee engagement need — and for business, engagement pays dividends.
Ways to gamify your workplace
Companies can set up gamification programs that are basic or sophisticated. They can structure them in-house or turn to digital solutions. The key is to target areas that will entice and engage workers. Make recognition simple — with easy initiatives and milestones to get employees started on the program. As they advance through the game, things can get a bit more challenging. Begin with steps that are fun and easy to achieve and leave them wanting more.
Gamify new hire orientation: staffers earn points and rewards for completing training sessions, reading orientation materials, submitting paperwork, etc. You can gamify getting to work on time every day: working overtime or helping out with non-scheduled shifts. Employees may appreciate creating a game for their most rote tasks — making completion an achievement rather than another boring duty. Any task that can be completed and verified can be gamified.
Ways to recognize and reward
Set up games that provide immediate gratification and lead to bigger and better rewards. Employees will be pleased to get a quick pat on the back, and that will inspire them to keep “playing” the game and working harder. There are many types of programs, or you can create one of your own. Here are some to consider.
- Celebrate anniversaries
- Help employees learn and repeat new behaviors or procedures
- Reward them for completing existing tasks
Have the employee (or manager) check in when the task is completed to earn a reward. The rewards can be badges, points, or other measurables employees can stockpile to cash in later or redeem immediately. Small tokens like company swag can be initial rewards; larger items can be earned with more points.
Many companies use leaderboards to track sales, but you can extend them beyond revenue competitions. Departments that meet or exceed safety protocols can participate. Imagine going beyond the “xx days without an accident” posters with rewards for employees who take safety seriously. These individual and group efforts can reap group rewards — like a pizza lunch for the one or all when they prioritize safety.
For example, you can track number of:
- Customers served
- Burgers flipped
- Items restocked on shelves.
Anything that’s measurable become a competition either with other staff members or as employees beat their own “personal best” records.
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Don’t want to pit employees against each other, or don’t have a way to do so? No problem. You can create goal-setting trackers for individual workers or groups of employees that perform similar tasks. In these games employees compete with themselves, trying to meet or beat their own records. If a staff member is expected to take 25 service calls per day — track when they meet that goal. If another is writing code all day — track how many lines they’ve written for a reward.
For more complex tasks, break down projects to smaller, bite-sized sections. As the employee completes part of the task they earn a reward. By the time they’ve finished the project, they’ve earned several rewards and/or one large bonus reward at the end.
Be creative and open to ideas
Ask employees if they’d like to gamify work and how they think it could be done. Ask if they’re interested competing with each other or themselves. Start with baseline information and build from there. An employee may be able to process 10 orders per day: can you challenge them to increase to 11?
Look for areas where they’re (or you’re) interested in growing their skill set or correcting performance or behavioral issues and gamify there. As they improve, complete training, master a new skill or execute a task successfully, they earn recognition. Your staff may come up with areas they’d like to gamify you haven’t considered.
Everyone can be a winner
Gamification can be for the game itself or it can reap rewards — but rewards are better. They don’t have to be costly if you’re creative. Look for rewards appropriate to the task. If an employee completes a training course, for example, they earn a badge. Add that badge (and all the badges they earn) to their name (with a logo possibly) on company correspondence — internal and external. It will be a source of pride and accomplishment they share over and over.
Consider rewards like an extra 15 minute break, the option to set the schedule for the coming week, or lunch on the company. These cost little or nothing, but can be a strong motivator for staffers.
If you develop a points program, give employees the option of redeeming points for small prizes or stockpiling them to earn something larger — like gift cards, a day off with pay, or others. Ask staff members what rewards they’d like to earn — large and small — and build a program around giving them a chance to earn them.
Set parameters in advance
Level the playing field as much as possible to make sure everyone has a chance to win.
Start with rules that are clear and widely communicated. Every employee should know how to participate, how to verify achievements, and how/when they can redeem their winnings (or stockpile their points). Include any disqualifying issues — like having a friend clock you in when rewards are earned for making it to work on time.
Make it fair. If you’re doing a retail sales competition, factor in variables. The staff working on Saturday will have more traffic than the Tuesday afternoon-ers. Level the playing field as much as possible to make sure everyone has a chance to win. You can create competitions that measure personal improvement (“this employee increased their average sales for the day by 10%; another by 12%”), so everyone has a fair shot.
Many companies look to third-party apps and providers to set up their games in a digital space. There are gamification apps and software — very low-cost to high end — that track progress and issue rewards. Plan what you want your program to look like, what rewards you want to offer, and how you’ll administer the games before you look for a digital solution. That way you’ll be able to choose the app that’s right for your business and employees.
Let the games begin
Don’t wait until employees are on the payroll to promote gamification in your company. One survey found 78% of applicants said that gamification would make a company or job more desirable. Consider games or puzzles in your application process. Google for a time used a series of riddles to attract curious and skilled job seekers in its recruitment efforts. The message you project to potential talent is you’re a fun company to work for, and you’re happy to reward achievement.
Gamification has been proven to boost employee engagement which translates directly to company success and profit. For little effort and resources, employers can make the workplace more fun, more exciting and give staff members a pat on the back for every achievement.