Human Capital Management

Trends in the Workplace: Gamification in the Enterprise

Gaming techniques encourage employees to adopt habits that benefit the company while creating a fun atmosphere.

by Susan Poser

January 2015

Iused to think that gaming was something for millennials, 18- to 27-year-olds who grew up gaming on their computers, earning badges, and competing with others to progress to a more challenging level. However, I find that I’m getting caught up in these activities before I realize what’s happening.


My utility company recently sent me an e-mail about different ways I could lower my energy bill and earn prizes by saving energy as part of its “Manage-Act-Save” program. Each time I learn a new tip, I earn points. After a certain number of points, I earn a badge as well as the ability to turn the points into prizes, such as a Starbucks gift card. I can compete with my friends and neighbors to earn new badges and move up the leaderboards. Marriott recently started a rewards program that lets you earn badges for bragging rights such as “brand loyalist,” “brand explorer,” “road warrior,” and “social maven.” So far I have earned the brand loyalist badge. My Fitbit encourages me to meet my daily goal of 10,000 steps and celebrates when I do. So far, I’ve achieved the 500-mile and 15,000-steps badges. The competitive side of me wants to earn more points and win more badges.

So it’s plain to see that even though I’m not a millennial, I’ve been “gamified!”

Gamification, the use of game elements and psychology in a nongame context, is getting people engaged and energized about a product or service. According to Deloitte, 25 percent of redesigned business processes will incorporate gamifaction by 2015. So, if it can work with companies and their customers, why couldn’t it work for employers and employees?

All areas of the business could benefit from incorporating gamification into their processes to increase collaboration, improve productivity, and drive awareness using employees as players in a game.”

Several companies have already deployed gaming techniques for human resources purposes such as training and leadership development. For example, Deloitte’s Leadership Academy embeds missions, badges, and leaderboards to promote the skills most important to the company. As participants complete missions and online learning programs from renowned business schools such as Stanford, they receive badges for each achievement. NTT Data’s Ignite Leadership game is designed to develop critical leadership skills in negotiation, communication, time management, change management, and problem solving. The game not only helps develop skills, but also identifies potential leaders based on their scores.

Others have used gaming for recruiting and hiring. For example, Facebook has an online programming contest called the Facebook Hacker Cup, where competitors must solve algorithmic problems in a set amount of time to earn the title and opportunity to be considered for employment. At Pricewaterhouse Coopers, candidates participate in missions, attend trainings, negotiate with clients, and solve business problems to earn points to get hired.

While training and recruiting have successfully leveraged gaming techniques, all areas of the business could benefit from incorporating gamification into their processes to increase collaboration, improve productivity, and drive awareness using employees as players in a game. Here are some examples of how this could be done.

Increase collaboration: Earn a point every time you share best practices, lessons, or content. Earn additional points when colleagues “like” or rate your document highly, or indicate they used the asset you provided. Badges are received for certain point thresholds. Another approach to driving collaboration would be to give everyone a set number of points to use to “bet” on ideas proposed by others, where the idea that has received the most points get implemented. In the interest of driving collaboration, cultivating ideas, and fostering a mutually beneficial environment where employees want to help others would be the goal of this game.

Improve productivity: Assemble X widgets in an hour, process X error-free journal entries, make X sales calls, and so on. Completing each task earns points, which then accumulate to merit a badge and a move to the next level of the challenge. The idea with this game is to drive higher productivity in a fun and rewarding way.

Increase awareness: Post a blog, earn a point. Share a post from your CEO, earn a point for each like you get. Tweet a post, get a point for each retweet. Whether you drive awareness for a particular project or product inside or outside the company, participants would be awarded for creating more buzz.

Thought Leaderposer-headshot

Susan Poser is a senior director on the Insight & Customer Strategy team at Oracle.

Implementing gamification into a company, however, will likely fall flat without incorporating a way for employees to be recognized publicly for their efforts. The ideal deployment would allow for full transparency. Much as a company will highlight its award from JD Powers on its website, employees could display their badges on an internal Facebook page. Other employees searching for someone with certain skills, or managers looking to promote someone, could easily search the database to find the best performer in different categories. As a side benefit, these badges can also be used for performance ratings rather than using arbitrary measurements or subjective review processes.

Finally, publicizing an employee’s participation levels creates positive peer pressure for them to collaborate, be more productive, or socialize and amplify the company’s message. The end result of these gaming techniques is really to encourage employees to get engaged and adopt new, positive habits that will benefit the company while creating a fun atmosphere.



Photography by Shutterstock