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What is gamification?

Gamification is the application of game design principles in non-game environments. The goal is not to create a game but rather utilize the properties of games that drive desired user behaviors.

The benefits of enterprise gamification

No longer can IT organizations assume just because they built an application that employees will use it. Over the past decade, the line between an employee’s professional and personal information systems has blurred dramatically. These last few years in particular, and the previously unprecedented number of employees working from home, have only served to accelerate that proposition.

SEE: The COVID-19 gender gap: Why women are leaving their jobs and how to get them back to work (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

In our personal lives, we have come to have high expectations for the applications we download and use daily. The Apple Store and Google Play have given users so many choices, the bar for user experience and engagement is quite high.

As these expectations bleed over into an employee’s digital expectations for their professional life, gamification can be a powerful tool for increasing adoption and driving outcomes through a path to mastery. By capitalizing on a human-centered innate enjoyment of play, gamification is a proven way to make technology and the work environment more inviting.

Steps for implementing gamification

If you’re ready to give gamification a try in your organization, these four steps will get you started.

Start with the end in mind

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the current business scenario. What is the friction point? What is the desired target outcome? If today it takes employees too long to complete onboarding and enroll in the benefits program, set new targets around that specific behavior: For example, your gamification mission may be to cut onboarding time in half.

Get to know your users

The success of any gamification effort hinges on a clear understanding of the user. Is your user a customer support representative? Or maybe accounting and billing? It’s important to identify everything you can about these users. Common human-centered research techniques like interviews, surveys and user personas will help. Gaming specific research techniques like the Bartle Test may aid in gauging a particular team’s motivators.

Apply game mechanics

Once you have an understanding of your mission, your users and their motivations, you’ll want to create your core game loop. This means your game rules, and the specific gamification elements you’ll apply.

Start simple: Game mechanics relate directly to human psychology. As such, gamification elements fall into two categories — intrinsic and extrinsic. The former refers to those things which users do for their inherent enjoyment or satisfaction, while the latter refers to tasks performed to reap specific rewards. The most successful examples of gamification include elements of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Below are some specific examples of each.

Intrinsic motivators:

  • Autonomy
  • Learning
  • Mastery
  • Curiosity
  • Belonging

Extrinsic motivators:

  • Points
  • Badges
  • Milestones
  • Rankings
  • Competitions

Inspect and adapt

It’s important that stakeholders understand gamification is not a project. It needs to be an ongoing program in order to succeed. That means start small, capture meaningful metrics, monitor and continuously refine.

Buying vs building gamification platforms

Consider external gamification platforms

If your organization is looking for help to get started with gamification, there are a number of vendors offering tools and platforms that can jumpstart your efforts. While all of these platforms focus on some form of gamification, some target much more specific segments than others.

While products like Bunchball Nitro attempt to offer broad gamification solutions that apply across the entire enterprise, others tend to be more narrow but specialized. Engagedly attempts to gamify specify HR functions and 360 feedback. Similarly, Spinify is squarely focused on gamified sales experiences. Trivie makes an attempt to differentiate itself by leaning into AI.

If you are going the buy vs build route, it’s paramount you do your homework. As you are comparing in-market solutions, it’s important to consider a number of factors.

TechnologyChoose a platform that is technology agnostic, such that it can be brought to bear anywhere the enterprise is looking to integrate game mechanics.
AnalyticsWhen done correctly, gamification is highly data-driven. Platforms should be able to provide extensive data points so implementers know what is and is not working.
SecureMake sure whatever tools you use for your gamification strategy support enterprise-grade data encryption.
CompliantThere are legal and ethical issues that impact gamification in the enterprise. The platform you choose should be compliant with worker privacy and protection laws in your country or region.
CustomizableAt the end of the day, you are going to want to be able to implement different gamification strategies for different parts of your business. Look for flexible solutions that will allow you to easily tailor your program to your specific needs.

Final thoughts

In a very competitive job market, the digital employee experience rates high on the list of considerations that weigh on the modern CIO. Gamification allows savvy CIOs to tap into the power of game mechanics as a means to effectively engage employees and drive behaviors.

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