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5 Things You Didn’t Know about Gamification in the Workplace

Gamification for business uses game elements to motivate employees to perform their best. To be truly effective, these game elements must serve as a kind of Fitbit for work. They need to offer employees visibility on their goals, offer intuitive guidance on what must be done to achieve them, nudge them into action and allow them to receive recognition for doing the right thing. In this article, we review the 5 core elements that underline this concept and ensure gamification for business doesn't end up being just a game.

By: Gal Rimon, CEO & Founder, Centrical

Gamification for business uses game elements to motivate employees to perform their best. It prompts them to compete with their goals, and/or team members, as well as past accomplishments. It shows how they’re doing and what’s needed to reach their goals.  It drives intrinsic motivation, the sense of mastery and control that comes from knowing we’re doing our job well.

As logical as that sounds, most think gamification for business is little more than a “video game at work” that creates motivation through points and badges, bells and whistles. And they’re right, if gamification is just about playtime.

Gamification for business, to be truly effective, must be a kind of Fitbit for work. It leverages the energy and effort that comes from competition, the friendly, positive type, to change more than employees’ performance. It impacts an organization’s culture to get people thinking, talking, and driving employee performance differently, more effectively.

There are five elements that define gamification for business that works. They are:

  1. Real-time performance management
  2. Objectivity and fairness
  3. Transparent measurement
  4. Fosters desired behaviors
  5. More than a game


  1. Real-time performance management

Setting performance goals and measuring to see they’re achieved is more than a good idea. It’s a business-building practice. The problem is most performance management methods involve assessing things retroactively, looking well in the past, often on an annualized basis. Yearly goals become stale and may not reflect employees’ or the business’ reality. What’s more, this approach makes it all about ranking employee performance, a kind of scoreboard of winners and losers. Not surprisingly, employees find communications about performance in this context confrontational and discouraging. What’s worse, this look at the distant past is hard for employees to relate to and apply usefully to their efforts at that moment. That’s where gamification comes in.

Gamification focuses on the right now. Imagine a basketball coach who jogs up and down the court, following his team as they use their skills to drive to victory. The coach shouts out his feedback in real-time so his players can adjust on the spot. If his point guard takes too many shots, his coach will get him on the right track quickly, well before the game gets out of hand.

Gamification brings this real-time dynamic to your employees’ performance. Feedback is given on-the-spot, by showing performance KPIs, personalized benchmarks, and goals within the gamification application. Employees can rectify flaws in real-time, instead of through retroactive feedback that is weeks or months late.


  1. Objectivity and fairness

Employee management is moving away from largely subjective forms of evaluations toward objective measurements and proactive employee development.

This process shows how progress looks to both managers and their employees. It presents all information with full transparency. Both see what goals are being met and where performance gaps exist. When employees see their evaluation is fair and consistent, discussions about performance become more collaborative, more positive.


Interestingly, research on performance management found managers are often unaware of the subjective nature of the evaluations they conduct. Part of that is a lack of clarity on what’s actually measured. Measuring KPIs in real-time can correct this. It can also affect the corporate culture. When evaluation is consistently objective and fair, employees feel differently about their jobs and roles within the company as well as whether their efforts and performance will be recognized fairly.

Gamification also reflects insights and results to employees, and their managers, that let them make changes in work efforts. For example, if performance in a certain area is lacking, gamification can be used to engage employees in microlearning to fill knowledge gaps, correct their approach, and improve skills. Microlearning is a method of providing bite-sized bits of learning that can be easily absorbed and applied in the flow of employees’ work.


  1. Transparent measurement

Many large and successful companies use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to communicate goals and objectives to employees. It goes beyond seeing if the job was done to look at the results attained. 

OKRs work well for knowledge workers. Employees who have direct dealings with customers are different. They’re on the frontline. They don’t have goals like “launch a new product.” Instead they’re required to perform within certain highly-measurable parameters. As frontline employees, their OKRs reflect quality and quantity of customer interactions. As a result, their OKRs are narrower in scope, more oriented toward a specific task or set of tasks. 

With gamification frontline employees see how they’re doing on matters that matter to them, team leaders, and fellow team members. It shows how they’re doing individually and in comparison to their peers as well as where they’re doing better or worse than colleagues. This adds to the sense of fairness real-time performance management affords while helping to focus employees on what requires their attention. It also permits the setting of goals that are fair and achievable.


  1. Fosters desired behaviors

Competition, especially friendly, well-designed forms, is viewed as a positive motivation method. Unfortunately, many people see it as a vehicle for unfairness, particularly sales managers. They believe in this fallacy and, as a result, manage performance with leaderboards; a kind of management by humiliation.

Even if sales is an objective, showing actual sales wins on a leaderboard isn’t a good idea. All it does is celebrate the top performers and does nothing to motivate the team. It keeps score. Over time, it serves to demotivate and disengage lesser performing sellers. With gamification, better sales can be generated by driving the desired behaviors sought from all members of the team, collectively and individually. And, those behaviors can be measured: more calls, qualifying leads, meeting potential and existing clients, and more. In a twist on the adage: to win the game, it matters how it’s played.


  1. More than a game

The “game” part of gamification makes use of game mechanics – like calling out to employees to bet on themselves, showing them completion bars and more – to drive engagement and behaviors. Gamification creates ways for employees to monitor their progress and act from a place of intrinsic motivation. In this, it isn’t a game, but it can be a game-changer for employee performance and company culture.

When looking to implement gamification for your business, make certain it contains these five elements. Look also for the ability to blend gamification with microlearning and performance management for a holistic, more effective way to have your employees perform their best.

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