How Can Gamification Transform Your Employee Recognition Program?

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According to a report published by Gallup last year, only about 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work. This number is quite alarming — more than half of the population is not engaged with their work, and thus not reaching their full potential.

In some case this translates into fewer sales than expected, a lack of motivation, or hours of productivity gone to waste. Whatever the case may be, incentive programs have seen some great success in the last few years and have helped improve employee motivation and initiative, as well as increase the financial returns. In the workplace, this is often know as “gamification“.

What Is Gamification?

While opinions are divided as to whether gamififying the workplace is a good idea and actually drives results, there is no denying that when there are incentives, employees tend to perform better. According to Badgeville, a leader in this space, gamification can be defined as “the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.” Basically, it means applying gaming elements to non-gaming applications.

The idea behind gamification mechanisms is to leverage people’s natural behaviours such as competition, achievement, engagement, influence, and collaboration to drive results for the business or organization.

Gamification often takes the form of games, or incentives, that help motivate employees and creates a company culture that is goal-driven and that rewards performance and fosters creativity and collaboration.

Some companies may decide to introduce a program that rewards employees who achieve certain goals. Businesses that provide training sessions may choose to make learning more fun by applying a few game concepts and engage their employees in the process — after all, it’s no secret that motivation levels drop considerably in meetings, why not make this process fun and engaging instead? Marketers and sales representatives have been using many game concepts (thus the name “gamification“) such as badges, awards, and reward points to increase engagement with their products, content or events. The workplace is no different, and employees usually respond well to the challenge.

Examples of Gamification In The Workplace

This massive list of gamification case studies further proves the effectiveness off a defined and well-designed incentive program that employs gaming theory and techniques at its core.

Companies like Spotify, Deloitte, Twitter, and Google have all used enterprise gamification successfully. In fact, this article from CIO also mentions some successes, but also a few drawbacks that companies like Target, Omnicare, and Ford faced when they tried to gamify parts of their business.

How To Gamify Your Employee Recognition Program

Employee recognition programs are known for improving motivation and initiative, but how does gamification fit in? The goal of gamification is not only to motivate and increase productivity, but also help make mundane tasks more enjoyable by entertaining or motivate people with a few incentives. It’s no wonder we now see badges and leaderboard in a lot of companies.

These slides by Globoforce clearly show that a good percentage of employees are not in favor of using gamification techniques in employee recognition programs, and with reason. Who would appreciate being recognized for their work if they know someone received a badge in exchange? Probably not a lot of people. But what those slides fail to address is how those badges or points “could” be attributed.

For instance, a well-designed recognition program can still be part gamification, and part recognition. Designing such a program starts with learning what drives employees and the goals that each team within your company has established. With that information in mind, gamifying only parts of the program is completely doable, without hurting anyone’s feelings.

For example, awarding your best sales representatives with badges, or using a point system might motivate other employees to perform better. Sales teams have been doing this long before anyone came up with the word “gamification“. As a business owner, gamification can also help you retain top talent, which, in turn, increases your bottom line.

Gamifying an employee recognition program can yield incredible results, but it is crucial to understand the goals you’re trying to achieve with such a program. Is it to increase productivity? Celebrate each other’s achievements? Improve communication? Obviously, any recognition program that includes gamification aspects also needs to have a feedback component to help keep a close eye on the different teams and how they each interact with their new “gamified” environment.