Gamification old school

Going from good to great in the workplace often means employing gamification to motivate your workforce. Pay and perks or plain supervisor authority aren’t enough: you need to stoke people’s internal fire with drive and purpose. Gamification, the use of game mechanics to alter behavior is a great way to do this, since it taps into the deepest drives that make us human: the need to do well, to feel a sense of purpose and to understand the story we’re in.

There are many gamification offerings; some use the old school points and badges. Others use more modern approaches, using narrative based games that tie seamlessly into corporate applications. But in this post I want to take on offline, old –fashioned and timeless games and apply them to workforce motivation. All they require is a pen, paper and some sticky tape, yet they are bound to make performance better.

This idea popped into my mind when I was visiting a call center.  I noticed this raffle (pictured here) used by one of the managers. I was suddenly reminded of the power and beauty of the offline games I used to play with my pals as a child: raffles with tiny crumpled notes, intense games with elaborate point counts and leagues. I remembered the triumphs and immense sense of drive and fun these games had.

So to pay tribute to the power of games that don’t happen on a screen, I decided to list five ways to gamify work, for free:

Pat on the back games

One of the main ways to motivate people is to thank them for a job well done. In this game, played once a week, employees and managers participate together. Each employee pats someone on the back and mentions what for. Once several rounds are played, the pats on the back are counted, and a winner is announced. Take care not to reward your top employees alone. Make sure to reward people for different metrics (pats on the back for different reasons) or measure different metrics each time. This way, employees remain motivated to win a game that is played weekly, with different rules each time.

Pay it forward

Get a larger box and many smaller boxes to nest in it. A matryushka of boxes. Each box contains notes depicting behaviors that represent the values of the company.  The first to play opens the box and gives the note to the person (in the team / floor / etc.) which he thinks best represents that  behavior. The receiver keeps the note and opens the next box, and so on. The winners are those with the most notes. This game promoted recognition of team efforts and helps employees clearly understand how corporate goals should be aligned with on the job daily activities and behavior.

Stick figure games

This involves putting up a certain character (a mascot, a stick figure etc.) – cut into several pieces, like a puzzle. The character can be made of paper, of magnets or cardboard. The goal of the game is to assemble all pieces into a complete character. All pieces are received by the players once they meet a certain goal. However, the two last pieces can only be received if goals are exceeded.
Stick figures can be displayed on the wall of fame or next to the employee’s desk.

Card collecting

This game works best for onboarding new employees. Employees collect cards for each new person they interact with in the organization, just like kids collect baseball cards.  Additional cards are given for participation in workshops, courses, quizzes and reading materials. Cards are required to fill an album, reflecting the learning path the employee underwent when joining the organization.


Set a goal for employees, measured by a certain metric. Every time the goal is met, they get a ticket for a raffle. Once a period, have a raffle and distribute the prizes. The best prizes can be shared with co-workers (such as food and beverages). This spreads the fun and instills a sense of teamwork.  While top-achievers usually collect more raffle tickets, the randomness of the raffle lets the medium achievers win as well, motivating the top 70% and not the top 5-10%. Hey, everyone should get a chance to win!