Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Hungrier Games: How Gamification Builds Drive and Determination in Employees

A Guest Blog by Taylor Burke*

Employee engagement is dismally low. Just 33 percent of U.S. employees report being engaged at work, and that number hasn’t changed much since Gallup began measuring for it in 2000.

Unrest of that level can only lead to one thing — revolt. And that’s exactly what’s occurring. More than a third of people now work for themselves and that number is expected to near 50 percent by 2020. Seventy-six percent of workers are actively looking for or open to new jobs.  

Business leaders, looking to place blame somewhere other than on themselves, might argue that low engagement equals low motivation — an entitled up-and-coming, addicted-to-smartphones, everyone-gets-a-trophy millennial generation. But they’d be wrong.

The rising workforce is actually more full of workaholics than other generations — they take less vacation, feel guilty when they do, and want to show complete dedication to the job.

Today’s employees are ready to be motivated to work, we’re just failing to tap into that hunger. Yet there is one scientifically proven way to turn the employee engagement odds ever in your favor — gamification. Here’s how it works.

Make More of the Mundane
Employees want to make an impact at work and millennial employees, in particular, want that impact to have a ripple effect on broader social issues. But it can be hard to feel like you’re making a difference, let alone changing the world, when you’re entering data into a spreadsheet or scheduling Tweets.

Still, tedious day-to-day work needs to be done and often, it’s left to newer and younger workers. Gamification can help motivate workers through the mundane. Most to do list apps today include some form of gamification. At the most basic level, you might get badges for tasks completed or timers to keep you on your toes. Other apps take gamification of tasks to a whole other level, like Habitca, which turns to-dos into quests, or EpicWin, which gives you a productivity avatar.

Tap Into the Social Mindset
One of the reasons social media has become so ingrained into our lives, with more and more people literally addicted to increasing their followers or topping their highest number of likes, is because of social status theory.

How we believe others perceive us unconsciously influences our behavior every minute of the day. Part of what drives us as human beings to act is a desire to be accepted and appreciated. And who is more appreciated than a winner?

When you add a social element to gamification in the workplace — publically viewable and real-time updated leaderboards, for example — it spurs our desire to be seen at the top. The competition is friendly because “winners” are typically adding to the overall social good by increasing sales, productivity, and so on. Winning holds a place of esteem, and thus speaks to one of our most innate human desires.

Fight the Sophomore Slump with Science
Employees tend to be the most engaged during their first six months to a year of employment. They’re constantly learning new things, managers are checking in with them more often, and great possibilities appear to be ahead. As that freshman excitement phase wears off, it leaves space for disengagement to creep in.

Nearly half of millennials change jobs every one to three years and the main reasons they cite for their departures are lack of opportunities to advance, lack of being challenged, and lack of recognition.

Gamification can help tackle these negative feelings in several ways. It can be used as a way for employees to track their own development, so that they feel constantly closer to their goal of advancement. It can be used to set challenges, even when the skills required are the same old day-to-day. And as discussed above, it can be used to congratulate top performers whether that’s on trainings completed or sales made.

Better yet, the benefits of gamification are scientific. Games triggers four neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure, motivation, learning, empathy, bonding, and other positive feelings. These are the same chemicals our brains release when we exercise, get a hug from a loved one, or receive a gift. Releasing them through gamification can keep employees excited about their work well beyond the “honeymoon” stage.

The Hungrier Games
Today’s employees want to work and they want to work hard. They want to achieve great things, contribute to society, and continuously learn and grow. Gamification taps into that hunger in a way no other leadership tool can.

*Taylor Burke is a contributor for, covering company culture and communications. When she’s not in front of her screen, you can find Taylor reading, cooking, running, or hanging with her dog—but rarely all four at once. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Monica,

    My name is Anuj Agarwal. I'm Founder of Feedspot.

    I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog The Gamification Report has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 50 Gamification Blogs on the web.

    I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 50 Gamification Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

    Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.