notes that gamification is, in layman’s lingo, the application of game-like characteristics to everyday activities to make them more interesting, like accumulating points for every task or activity completed.

gamificationGamification leverages people’s innate love for reward and competition, and when done right, can boost employee performance by 40%, says a Business Insider article quoting Gabe Zichermann, CEO at Dopamine Inc., a consulting agency on gamified campaigns for consumers and employees.

Gamification in the beginning

Gamification isn’t a new concept. It’s been around for decades. Although the term is said to have been coined in 2003, it’s only recently that it’s gaining traction. First used by marketing professionals to incentivize loyal customers, gamification has evolved into a tool to help encourage workplace productivity, knowledge management, skills development, collaboration, and more.

Chuck Coonradt, founder and CEO of the consulting firm Game of Work, also hailed as the grandfather of gamification, one day got to observe four 20-something workers who were working at a pace that was “arthritic.” But when the bell rang for lunch break, they dropped everything, as if electrified, and ran to a nearby court for a game of basketball. The energy and persistence they manifested while playing was in stark contrast to their sluggish, arthritic working pace.

That day proved to be a turning point, as Chuck had an epiphany of sorts. Why do some people spend tons of money on sports or hobbies and consider the job that pays them a chore?  The answer: motivation through recreation.

Gamification in the workplace

For gamification in the workplace to really work, below are three essential considerations:

#1. Compete

Charles Schwab once told Dale Carnegie, “The way to get things done is to stimulate competition.” While this is something that has been proven to work, workplace competition, when not carefully carried out, can result in a toxic working environment where people are always overworked, a perfect breeding ground for negative sentiments that ultimately affect employee retention. It may even alienate those who consistently find themselves at the bottom rung of the competition ladder.

In a Fast Company article, David Hassell, CEO of 15Five, a SaaS-based employee feedback system, said, “There has to be a broader context where nobody loses, really.” In short, the competition’s objectives must be aligned with employees’ individual goals, and managers must act as coaches to their staff, taking extra care not to make them feel like they’re “losing.”

#2. Score

In sporting activities, like basketball, for example, figuring out which team is winning is a no-brainer. You simply look at the scoreboard. If you’re watching at home, the scores are normally shown at the bottom of your screen. No secrets, no guessing games. The score is out there for everyone to see. Even individual player stats are tallied, so credit is given where credit is due.

Believe it or not, we are all credit hogs – inside our own heads, at least. And more often than not, if a scoring system isn’t as transparent and clearly defined as in most sporting events, we tend to overestimate our own contributions and underestimate those by others, eventually eroding all possibilities of a team working together in sync.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” is a good concept to live by. But keep in mind, transparency is the strand that solidifies relationships within teams.

#3. Celebrate

After competing and keeping score, next stop is celebration. A night’s out with teammates doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure. But celebration doesn’t always have to involve booze and loud music, or five-figure bonuses, for that matter. While those can definitely keep the fun going, sometimes, the mere act of individually recognizing team members for all of their contributions, no matter how great or small, can keep people motivated to stay at their jobs and perform their level best.

Employee appreciation can go a long way. A shout-out to everyone about the great job accomplished by certain individuals is a start.

Image credit: podpad |