Increasing Employee Engagement with Games

What motivates employees to do their jobs well? Competition with coworkers, for some. The promise of rewards, for others. Pure enjoyment of problem-solving, for a lucky few.

Increasingly, companies are tapping into these desires directly through games, leaderboards, and prizes. World-class brands including Intel, Merck, Microsoft, Pfizer, and Target are actively using games in their workplaces. And more and more companies are joining them. A recent report suggests that the global gamification market will grow from $1.65 billion in 2015 to $11.1 billion by 2020.

What is gamification? It’s the use of games and game mechanics to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems. By using storylines, challenges, mystery, characters, progression, feedback, freedom to fail, and rewards, employers are engaging their employees on a much deeper level. The effectiveness of games is no accident. Games offer significant benefits, including:

  • Engagement – By introducing an element of fun, games increases how engaged, interested, and motivated participants are. As a result, they are also more attentive and willing to spend more time on learning.
  • Interactivity – Traditional learning methods frequently promote the passive intake of information. By comparison, games makes training interactive. Through game theory, students participate in the experience, engaging in active learning and processing.
  • Increased understanding and retention – The engagement and interactivity aspects of gamification contribute to enhanced intake and retention of information. Studies have shown that game-based training can increase employee retention on course material by 9.5x within 6 weeks of the initial training.
  • Immediate feedback – Games provide instant feedback about the success of the learner, which can motivate them to work harder or to keep up with their current level of learning. Games also provides feedback along the way about how close the learner is to achieving their goals, keeping them motivated, and providing valuable information about their progress.

But the word “gamification” and the widespread, conscious application of the concept only began in earnest about five years ago. Thanks in part to video games, the generation now entering the workforce is especially open to the idea of having their work gamified.

Some people are motivated by competition. Competitive games help us sprint the extra mile and prove, not only to ourselves but also to others, how great we can be. Others are motivated by collaboration. Collaborative games create a strong bond between co-workers. If one person does not know the answer, the team suffers. So, everyone is encouraged to help each other out.

Almost everyone is motivated by rewards. And rewards come in all shapes and sizes… cash bonuses, extra vacation days, a private lunch with the CEO. Take the time to understand what incentivizes your employees and dangle that carrot as a reward for mastering what’s most important to you.

Keep things playful. Focus your message on self and team improvement vs. winning. As soon as competition shifts from wanting to win to wanting to see someone lose it becomes toxic. This toxicity can even seep into a team itself where people battle to take the number one spot and lead their peers. To avoid competition filled with animosity and bitterness the focus point of games should be winning through knowledge, not an arbitrary skill.

Analyze as much data as you can. Set up your game-based training to understand your individual employees’ and teams’ strengths and weaknesses across your business KPIs (analytical skills, communication skills, creative skills, listening skills, logic skills, problem solving skills, etc). The more data you collect the more you can improve your business.

If you would like to learn more about games-based training and solutions you can use to improve the effectiveness of your training contact me at stephen.baer@thegameagency.com.

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