Is Your Boardroom At War With Gamification?

As a human resource manager, you most probably are fully aware of the importance of employee engagement. However, it is an area that many organizations seem to be falling short in, and yours maybe no different. Having read up about this issue, you may seem to have found the perfect answer — gamification. But your old-fashioned, baby boomer CEO thinks that you’re joking. After all, he says, no right-minded boss will willingly encourage their employees to sit around playing games on company time!

‘Gamification’ is a word that is easily dismissed in boardrooms. Why? Many business leaders fear that gamification is equal to ‘games’. They perceive that it is all about ‘fun’ instead of serious work, that employees will waste time and that productivity will suffer. Even when executives begin to understand that ‘gamification’ is not akin to ‘games’, they still may fail to see how it can help the bottom line. For many, ‘gamification’ means hiring resources to design and develop graphics and simulations at high costs.

Business owners also tend to ridicule the notion of gamification, because they believe that it means turning their critical, business altering training programs into something as frivolous as angry birds or candy crush.

How can you make a case for gamification as an important HR tool?

The simple and most effective answer is ‘employee engagement’. Thankfully many organizations, and leaders now recognize the importance of employee engagement for the success of a business. This is partly due to the annual research conducted by Gallup on employee engagement levels, with the results being far from impressive. Our previous blog post [Enable Employee Engagement] discussed the issue of employee engagement and outlined why it is imperative that organizations focus on overcoming the issue. In a nutshell, higher employee engagement levels mean higher levels of talent retention, increased productivity and better financial results for an organization. Who doesn’t want that?

So, how you may ask, does gamification fit in to this? Gamification is a growing trend in employee engagement that uses technology and psychology to help employees reach certain goals and objectives. A recent survey on gamification at work found that 80% of employees enjoy using gamification software at work, with 87% saying it makes them more productive and 84% saying it makes them more engaged. Interestingly the survey also found that older employees (shocked?) were more motivated by game elements than younger employees. If nothing else works, these numbers should be compelling enough to make your CEO sit up and take notice when you talk about utilizing gamification elements in your training, development and engagement programs.

What exactly does gamification mean?

As defined by Gartner, gamification is the use of game-thinking and game mechanics to drive engagement in non-game scenarios such as business, in order to change behaviours in a target audience, to achieve business outcomes.

According to Karl Kapp, professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pa., consultant and author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook, there are two basic types of gamification. The first is structural gamification, where gaming elements are added to the structure of the content, but the content itself remains unaltered. This helps push people through the process through the use of rewards such as badges, points and leaderboards.

Here are some forms of structural gamification that can be used to motivate your employees.

  • Progression based games — every step of the process pulls the learner towards a set goal.
  • Badge based games — people find great value in being recognized and rewarded for their efforts. In this instance, your learners are given badges based on their competencies and achievements. The badges are digitally displayed on their public profiles, which is a motivator to work harder to win more prestigious badges.
  • Competition games — human beings are intrinsically competitive. You can exploit this to create an engaging learning process by having employees compete to finish tasks or to learn modules in the shortest time.

The second type of gamification is content-based gamification. This alters the content to be more game-like, but with the focus being on business objectives. Game elements such as challenges, feedback loops, characters and storytelling are incorporated into the process to create a more interesting and engaging experience for the learner. This type of gamification may require a considerable amount of design elements and game mechanics, and can be especially useful to increase employee engagement and retention for critical trainings such as health and safety, compliance, crisis management etc.

Pointers on how to select the best type of gamification for your organization.

Business objectives for gamification. What behaviours do you want to change and which learning objectives do you want employees to achieve? Structural gamification can be useful for mandatory trainings, to help new recruits, to encourage collaboration, peer to peer engagement and innovation. Content gamification would be best for new skill acquisition and increasing retention.

Cost of development. Structural gamification can be relatively easier on the pocket than content-based gamification. The former is easier to develop and deploy, and the gamification template is re-usable. The latter will take more time and effort to develop and deploy, and once developed can only be used for the specific learning objective. Your organization’s financial commitment to gamification can actually determine which strategy you use.

Start small. Gamification for the sake of it won’t motivate your employees and give you great business results. You have to understand what motivates and inspires your employees before investing big bucks in game mechanics. Start by testing a few gamification elements in targeted parts of your business. This can be done by activating gamification tools in a comprehensive LMS solution like LayUp. You can enrich specific training and development courses with leaderboards, points and badges as well as create discussion boards to encourage employees to interact with and learn from each other. Once you have a better understanding of how these elements impact employee engagement and your business objectives, you can roll it out across the organization and develop more complex content-based gamification programs.

Gamification can be a powerful ally and a highly effective HR tool if implemented in the right way, targeting the right audience. If you are looking for a solution that can ease you into the world of gamification, visit If you like what you see and want to learn more, send us an email to and we will be happy to help.