Harnessing a games mindset can boost employee engagement

The role of gamification and its potential to improve engagement is not new. In 2013, in his book Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification, Rajat Prahia explained how gamification can play a key role in tapping into the core motivations of people, thereby helping companies create the type of engagement and excitement about work we all seek.

At the time Prahia was writing and publishing his book, I was working at Electronic Arts and was gripped by how successful games were in driving human behaviour. I became fascinated by the positive human impact gamification could have in the world of work, which led me to set up PLAY in 2014.

PLAY is a digital innovation studio built on the belief that game techniques can be used for more than trading money for virtual candy, but to create habits that help people achieve their goals. Our mission is to realise human potential and meaning at work, through playful experiences that inspire.

Whilst I have seen gamification expand in the workplace over the past decade, I believe it still has a long way to go. This may be down to popular perception as well as a lack of understanding of its potential and how best to apply it; when we talk about games many people still think of computer games for children or teens holed up in their bedrooms glued to their console. The first step in helping companies maximise the benefits of gamification is to help debunk this myth.

Here are 4 reasons why I believe we will see a lot more gamification in the future of work.

1 - Gamification: more than the sum of badges and alerts

According to Gabe Zichermann, author of The Gamification Revolution, ‘Gamification is the process of using game thinking and game dynamics to engage audiences and solve problems’. The elements of gamification are often referred to as game mechanics and can encompass competition, challenges, collaboration, levels, badges, XP, and instant feedback. Used in various combinations, depending on the desired goal, these are designed to help broaden choices and ultimately influence our behaviour. As consumers, we see gamification every day, from rating systems used on sites such as Booking.com and Uber, through to loyalty points schemes and Audible badges.

For gamification to be successful in the workplace it needs to be treated like any other strategic business initiative, requiring careful planning, implementation focus and post-launch optimisation. Utilised correctly, gamification can unlock the potential for greater employee engagement, offering what no other media or tech can – a games mindset approach; where the player comes first, the focus is on the experience, wins are celebrated, and engagement becomes self-perpetuating.

Grand Theft Auto, a video-game launched over 20 years ago has generated over $6 billion in revenue, more than Star Wars, Gone with the Wind and every Marvel movie combined.

2 - Games are big business

Games make a lot of money. In fact, they are outstripping all other media. Let’s take Grand Theft Auto. An action-adventure video game series first launched over 20 years ago, it has generated over $6 billion in revenue since its initial release and is, without doubt, the most financially successful media title of all time. It has surpassed the $4 billion achieved by best-selling films such as Star Wars and Gone with the Wind (inclusive of adjustments for inflation). And, for that matter, every single Marvel movie ever made combined.

Game designers are able to do this because of data and insight; they have every piece of data about how their players work; they know when they play, for how long and how they behave in their games. In short, they have insight into their users’ behaviour and motivations and feed this back into product development continually improving and enhancing their games for ever-increasing engagement and success.

3 - Games make meaningful connections

Games enable interactions, real-time feedback, and the opportunity to immerse the end-user (we like to call them Players) like no other media can. We are seeing an increase in popularity of multiplayer and community-based games; real-time, connected, global and cross-platform. Gaming as a connection medium, where players work together around a common purpose, is creating a new form of digital society. The impact of gamification on employee engagement is irrefutable. In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor explains how research has proven that ‘when we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work’.

When there are games platforms competing with Netflix, it is no longer a niche industry.

4 - Games are not going anywhere soon

We need to look no further than Twitch, a powerful video gaming streaming platform, to appreciate the sheer scale of the games industry. Twitch describes itself as a social networking platform, a ‘home for gamers’ and has 15 million daily active users. Purchased by Amazon for nearly $1 billion in 2014, it’s currently the 12th most visited web site in the US, the 30th in the world (source), with games that have been viewed up to 356 million hours in total (source). When there are games platforms competing with Netflix, it is no longer a niche industry.


As Prahia says in Loyalty 3.0: 'With gamification, business owners now have a steering wheel and an accelerator, and can react instantly to whatever comes their way.'

At PLAY, we have seen the success our clients such as PwC and Unilever have achieved through gamification. We’ve also put our money where our mouth is and have designed a gamified work social platform, called Totem. Totem offers companies a fun way for them to build stronger work cultures through enhanced employee relationships. Our clients achieve incredible platform adoption and very high daily usage rates because their employees enjoy using the platform to connect with each other irrespective of rank or department. Through Totem we are helping our clients maximise the benefits of gamification to supercharge their teams by building positive workplace connections, and ultimately making work itself more meaningful.

How are you using, or how would you like to use gamification, to create playful experiences that inspire in your workplace? I’d love your thoughts.

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