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How to Motivate Employee Performance With Gamification

Quick! When was the last time you tried to motivate your employees?

If you winced and instantly tried to distract yourself with some junk food, that’s okay. Employee motivation (and its weird cousin, employee incentivization), is a critical component of any workplace – and sadly one that is often ignored. We can sort of understand why; if the work is basically getting done, why spend time and energy and money trying to motivate people to work harder? Maybe you throw a bonus at them now and then. That’s enough, right?

No. No, it is not enough. We felt that so strongly, we even made it boldface.

But have no fear, friends. Today, we’re taking back motivation and incentivization. Or at least demystifying them enough for you to realize, “Huh, I should focus on them more.”

Now, our favorite way to motivate or incentivize people is—wait for it—through gamification. This probably comes as no surprise to you. We even wrote a book about gamification. But we still get a lot of questions about what gamification is and how it’s connected to motivation, so we collected some of the most frequent ones below.

Do my employees need more motivation?

Probably. Definitely.

We’d argue that everyone benefits from a treat to work towards, but take a look at your employees. Do they seem bored? Frustrated? Are they hampered by poor communication and lack of progress?

If you said yes to any of those, then you have two problems:

  1. Your employees probably aren’t terribly engaged, and

  2. You’re losing money

Disengaged employees don’t perform up to their full potential. Studies centered around Gen-Z and millennials (the two youngest generations in the workplace) have indicated that if these folks don’t feel motivated, or at least think the company has their best interests at heart, then they aren’t going to deliver their best work.

If you need a monetary value to be convinced, it’s been theorized that disengaged employees can cost up to 34 percent of every $10,000 they earn. Now multiply that out across various salaries and multiple employees.

Oof, right?

Using gamification to incentivize your employees can turn those unsettling numbers around and—more importantly—make your staffers feel like they’re in a good place again.

This is because gamification helps you emphasize the kinds of behaviors and processes you want to see.


We’re getting to that...

How do you gamify the workplace, anyway?

So let’s get one thing out of the way. If you are new to us and new to our blog, please understand that gamification does not mean “Let my employees play Angry Birds all day.”

When you introduce gamification as a way to boost employee performance, you’re encouraging certain behaviors. The following four bullets are some of the most prominent behaviors gamification can trigger:

  • Desire to collaborate Do you want your people siloed from each other? Probably not. Collaboration is the literal meeting of the minds; you want your staff reaching out to one another, bouncing around ideas, creating awesome projects. A cool side benefit of collaboration, by the way, is that it often leads to building empathy – more critical than ever in today’s world.

  • Need for engagement If your employees are bored, odds are their attention is wandering. The more engaged they are, the more they’ll focus on a task at hand.

  • Friendly competition Please notice the stress we put on friendly. If your people are cheerfully trying to one-up each other in performance, the product will usually benefit.

  • Sense of achievement There’s nothing quite as warm and fuzzy as the feeling that you’ve really accomplished something great. In video games, it might be finally triumphing over the boss. At work, it might be putting the finishing touches on that one campaign you’ve worked on for over a year.

If all (or the majority) of your employees display these four behaviors, then you’ve likely got a functioning, thoughtful workplace where people feel empowered to speak up, try new things, and do their best.

When you gamify the workplace, you bring gaming practices to it without necessarily turning it into a game. Think earning points, “leveling up,” or winning prizes. They’re all cool perks of video games that also happen to be things people enjoy doing in real life.

Doesn’t gamification require rewards?

One of the primary reasons gamification works so well is because it offers rewards. There’s something in it for the player.

Now, these rewards come in many shapes and forms; they can range from the sheer sense of satisfaction one gets from completing a task to an actual, tangible prize they obtain.

Our own reward system philosophy is kind of a pyramid structure:

  • Intrinsic The employee wants to do this or that purely because they’ll e