October 30, 2016

Why play the gamification game?

In this edition:

The twofold challenge of gamification

In constant growth since 2008, gamification is a business trend that strategically implements elements of game play (point scoring, learning paths, rewards for performance or merit, etc.) in environments or contexts unrelated to play: the workplace and the consumption of goods and services. Management applies gamification strategies within work teams to optimize employee performance, learning, and engagement. Meanwhile, marketing strategists carry out gamification initiatives to win customer loyalty. According to a Gartner study, over 50% of companies gamified their business processes in 2015. Gamification is expected to continue this upward trend until 2020, particularly with regard to education and digital marketing, with the advent of consumer loyalty platforms. Gamification is, therefore, the flavour of the first two decades of the new millennium!

The interest of companies in employee engagement in the workplace is not, in itself, new. It dates back to the 19th century, when Frederick Taylor, the inventor of the rational organization of steady, repetitive tasks, identified the role that motivation plays in meeting productivity challenges in the industrial age.

In the digital age, 150 years later, not much has changed: employee engagement and motivation are still a priority for businesses. What’s new then? The economic context in which the challenge occurs is no longer the same. In the digital age, we live in an experience economy. In this context, the twofold challenge for companies consists of ensuring their employees and clients a remarkable customer experience. To the extent that employees comprise the internal clientele of companies, it is equally relevant to speak of their experience in the workplace as a customer experience.

The overview of gamification that we propose in this article focuses on the significant impact it has on employee engagement in the workplace, as well as best practices on the matter.

Gamifying employee engagement

Why should companies play the gamification game? To put it simply, to contain costs linked to disengagement. According to a recent Gallup poll, 84% of employees in Canada are not engaged or are actively disengaged with their employer. McLean & Company discovered that this rampant disengagement costs companies $3,400 per $10,000 annual income bracket. Thus, in a small (30 employees) Canadian call centre, where the average annual income is $30,103, costs attributed to disengagement amount to over $257,000.

Employee engagement is determined by three factors on which gamification makes it possible to have strategic control:

  1. Motivation to perform their tasks.
  2. Acknowledgement from management and peers.
  3. Reward for having reached or surpassed a goal.

An effective gamification strategy can help companies to stimulate employee engagement. Knowing that those who showcase a strategy hinging on motivation, acknowledgement, and reward see attrition drop by 31% and employee engagement rise by 60%, the return on investment is clear.

Examples of gamification initiatives

  • Deploy a business strategy connected to reaching a specific goal.
  • Encourage the adoption of certain behavior within the organization.
  • Motivate a team to voluntarily become involved in projects or instigate a change.
  • Increase employee participation in training and development programs.
  • Foster performance.
  • Encourage the questioning of the status quo and the improvement of business processes.

Gamification best practices

Encourage self-fulfillment to engage employees

To develop a winning gamification strategy with a lasting impact on employee engagement, it is important to build on extrinsic and intrinsic motivations and to establish two types of objectives to meet:

  • Quantifiable progressive objectives
  • Qualitative objectives focusing on the adoption of behaviors in line with company’s culture, mission, and values shared by the employees.

Quantifiable objectives more frequently involve extrinsic motivations: performing while executing a task, surpassing one’s performance, with the goal of earning an award, bonus, trip, etc. Qualitative objectives are associated more with intrinsic motivations. In this case, your employees adopt the desired behavior either out of pure pleasure, or because, in their mind, it poses a challenge aligned with their values: offering quality service with each customer interaction, improving a business procedure or process to maximize the customer experience, sharing tips to help a co-worker perform better, etc.

Without debating the extrinsic or intrinsic essence of human motivation, it should be noted that a single objective may motivate employees differently. It is, therefore, important for management to know a team well prior to deploying a gamification strategy and to create a balance between quantitative and qualitative objectives in order to generate the engagement of the largest number of employees.

In the end, sustainable engagement is the desired effect of gamification. In The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer demonstrated that the source of motivation generating the most lasting engagement among employees is the feeling of moving forward. Rather than advancing, it may be more fitting to speak of a feeling of self-fulfillment as the anchor point of engagement: if employees feel fulfilled with work that “makes a difference” and feel accomplished through the use of their talent and strengths, their engagement will sustained.

By relying on extrinsic and intrinsic factors of motivation, both determinants of a feeling of self-fulfillment in the workplace, gamification instills healthy competition within the team. In this way, it avoids turning into a short-lived diversion, from which only high-performing employees gain.

Acknowledge and reward

Acknowledgement and rewards are drivers that reinforce the team’s adherence to and interest in your gamification. When providing your people with positive feedback, do so with authenticity, as a team, and, especially, for the right reasons. Acknowledgement makes it possible to:

  • Encourage good behavior
  • Raise your employees’ self-esteem
  • Become close with your team by breaking down barriers more or less created by hierarchy
  • Communicate expectations constructively.

When comes the time to reward, be creative. Many studies have shown that money is not as appreciated by employees as awards. It is recommended to vary rewards and to offer smaller ones more frequently. Ultimately, rewarding and highlighting the success of the winners by offering a memorable experience (trip, team activity, show, etc.) is more likely to spur workplace engagement than goods or money, which is entirely consistent with the fact that we are currently in the age of the experience economy!

3 steps for successfully launching your gamification strategy


  1. Identify and analyze the business processes that have an impact on the engagement and motivation of your employees.
  2. Create indicators that support the performance of these processes.
  3. Generate, through game dynamics and mechanisms, motivation, competition, and collaboration by ensuring the alignment of incentive programs and the gamification theme with the company’s culture, values, and employee profile.

What are you waiting for? The game has only just begun!

Interested in learning more on gamification? SSA Solutions is organizing a private event in November 2016. For more information, contact the Customer Experience Specialist at gauthierc@ssasolutions.com.

SSA Solutions is a partner of Greatify. Contact us for more details on this gamification tool.



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