According to a Gallup poll, more than two-thirds of employees are disengaged with their jobs. The research goes on to outline that engagement was stable over the past decade, but something happened recently to sideline this trend — the percentage of engaged employees went down from the usual 30 percent to only 10 percent.

So, what’s the issue?

While we can blame an employee’s workload, or their homelife, or even their professional backgrounds, the fact is, disengagement starts at an organizational level. We must do everything we can to keep our employees on track. The alternative is watching our operations falter and our businesses slip.

One way many organizations keep employees engaged is gamification. Let’s explore this strategy.

What is gamification?

Gamification is the use of game mechanics to encourage engagement and instantly recognize the efforts of employees. Gamification allows small rewards and recognition for good work, such as employee referrals that bring in qualified candidates and result in interviews.

Gamification is on the rise in many organizations. According to recent reports, 70 percent of large companies (Global 2000 organizations) will implement some sort of game mechanics into their workplaces by 2014. In addition, spending on gamification projects will grow to as much as $2.8 billion by 2016.

Why do we need it?

Essentially, gamification uses the thinking, learnings, and mechanics from games to increase engagement in non-game systems. So, your employees are essentially playing a “game” while also completing assigned tasks, making their work fun and entertaining.

Why do we need this though? Why can’t work just be entertaining in itself? It very well could be. However, outside factors, workloads, and the repetitiveness of some tasks can weigh on employees. In addition, 85 percent of employees will be left unrewarded or unacknowledged for their efforts. So, when there’s little input from management, some teams and employees may pull away from their roles. For instance, if a manager doesn’t give feedback or acknowledgement to their employees on an important project, workers may become disengaged since there’s a lack of direction.

What are some ways to boost engagement levels?

There are a few ways to boost engagement levels through gamification. If you have an employee referral program, a shared leaderboard showing the top referrers in order can help socialize and gamify the process. Employees and members of your network are able to see which of their friends and co-workers are active in the program, motivating them to do the same.

Another method is to create an atmosphere of collaboration, instead of competition, through gamification. Let’s go with the previous employee referral management program example. The challenge with typical programs is employees have very little insight into how other people are doing. So, make a competition between departments or office locations. Give a collective reward to the department or office that contributes the most qualified candidates. This gives people the feeling they are accomplishing something important and helping the company.

With both examples, we see a trend. Employees have a reason, other than their job titles, to actually do good work. Tasks are essentially turned into a game so they don’t “feel” like they have to do something just to do it. There is an incentive to do so.

Gamification is a great way to boost engagement levels with your employees. Once you understand the underlying concepts of the strategy, you’ll be able to apply them to your operations and reap the benefits.

What do you think? What are some other ways to use gamification to solve employee engagement?