Co-workers navigate work and training on a game-based course, representing the gamification of the workplace.
Image: ©TarikVision/

Levelling up on gamification so work is more than a call of duty

6 days ago

Be it child’s play or a seemingly eternal boss fight, the jury is still out on whether gamification is a fad or a complete game-changer for workplaces.

As employers seek new and inventive ways to motivate and engage their workforces, the gamification of working goals and training has emerged as a compelling tool and technique, used by companies such as IBM, Siemens and Microsoft. 

Gamification is the use of gaming mechanics in a non-game setting, to encourage employees to essentially level up in their role. This is achieved in a number of ways and can include e-learning games, leaderboards based on employee progress, virtual badges indicating achievements and points that can be exchanged for real-world items.

Whether you’re familiar with the world of gaming or not, it can be useful to inform yourself about new technologies and methodologies altering the world of work. With that in mind, what are the pros and cons of a gamified working realm?

Real life or just fantasy?

Gamified workplaces offer employees instant gratification, in that they can witness improvements and achievements happen fast. Typically, employees can wait months, potentially even a year, to receive feedback on their work or information about promotion opportunities. The tools and techniques deployed by gamified companies can enable users to track and quantify their own progress, in the form of points, badges and data, giving employees more power to negotiate on salary and title, when reviews roll around. 

The consistent and company-wide availability of individual information also makes it significantly more difficult for employers to miss or ignore hard work. 

Alternatively, there are those who would argue that gamified workplaces offer little real-life value. Once the novelty of seeing your name on top of the leaderboard has worn off, or you have ousted your work bestie or nemesis from their position, you may feel as though there is nothing left to accomplish, resulting in a steady decline in productivity. 

If employers aim to establish a permanently gamified working environment that will consistently renew interest, then they will have to invest in it, offering more than just accolades. Tangible perks or bonuses for those who top the sales leaderboard or make marked improvements throughout the year can be a good place to start. As well as a focus on refreshed content and goals. 

Fun or folly?

Part of the success of gamification in the workplace is simply that it is fun. By providing a brief reprieve from the mundanity of regular processes, employees can engage with their job and the specifics of their own role in a manner that is different, engaging and exciting. 

Poorly incorporated training models can often be dull, failing to encapsulate vital information in a easy-to-follow format. Potentially, by gamifying training and making it fun, employees may feel more motivated, sparking an interest in further upskilling and positively impacting their work. 

A key consideration however, is that an activity is only fun as long as the person doing it finds it so. Models designed on the premise of forced fun or in-office socialisation are unlikely to encourage sustained engagement. 

As someone who has a sibling that once created an Excel spreadsheet for a family holiday, then proceeded to schedule ‘miscellaneous fun’, I know first-hand that there is a point at which an idea can be over-manufactured. 

It is also worth noting that not everyone in a company may respond well to gamified objectives and there could be employees with accessibility requirements whose efforts don’t register highly on a leadership board, despite their commitment and hard work. If a company intends to use the principles of gamification in the workplace, they have an obligation to ensure the metrics are personalised, giving each employee an opportunity to participate and contribute, incorporating any additional accessibility requirements.  

Co-worker combat

Incentivisation works because all parties leave the arrangement having gained something of value. The employee likely will have improved their skills, been energised in a new way and perhaps even earned a monetary prize or additional perk, all while contributing towards their own working day. The employer benefits also, as they have begun building a sustainable framework geared towards employee welfare, increased productivity and potentially increased returns on investment. 

But there is a darker side to incentivisation that employers and indeed employees need to be aware of. Competition is a fun way to show how much you have grown and where your talents lie. But when the stakes are high, for example if it involves your reputation, a raise or a potential promotion, valid fears of falling short can create an atmosphere of unhealthy competitiveness. 

Games stop being fun and rivalries abound when individual focus is on personal end goals and winning at all costs. To avoid pitting employees against one another, it can be useful to create gamified processes that involve team building and collaboration, to be used alongside individual objectives. 

We all operate differently, be it on easy, medium or hard mode, but gamification was designed to add value to how we navigate the world of work. There are definitely both pros and cons to gamification, but if you are confident in your ability to apply it, then the company-wide domino effect could be a real game-changer. 

Find out how emerging tech trends are transforming tomorrow with our new podcast, Future Human: The Series. Listen now on Spotify, on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

Laura Varley
By Laura Varley

Laura Varley is a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic. She has a background in technology PR and journalism and is borderline obsessed with film and television, the theatre, Marvel and Mayo GAA. She is currently trying to learn how to knit.

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