25th April 2019

Pete Jenkins: the benefits of gamification in the workplace

Employees are humans and, as humans, we are all unique. We have our own quirks, unique behaviours and working styles. No wonder so many leaders and HR professionals are often left scratching their heads on how they can make everyone happy. Pleasing everyone isn’t easy.

The good news is that there is one thing that bridges those behavioural and generational gaps from X to the M to the Zee – we all love to play.  At the route of every human, in our core is that child who is fascinated with shapes, colours and the beauty of just being playful and silly for silly sake. This is why playing games is now something more and more businesses are utilising as a tool for improving employee engagement, boosting employee morale and generally, creating a happier workforce.

We spoke to award winning and globally recognised leader in gamification consultancy and CEO of GAMIFICATION+ Pete Jenkins, who is incidentally also Chair of Gamification Europe & Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Brighton – dontcha know! Impressive stuff.

What is gamification exactly?

The generally accepted definition is that “Gamification is the use of design techniques from games in a business context or some other non-game contexts.” (Werbach, 2013). That doesn’t explain why you would use gamification though.

I see gamification as a way to apply game mechanics to increase someone’s engagement with a process, so that you get more of the behaviour you desire from that someone. One definition that describes what we do for companies more accurately is that gamification is “the use of game design metaphors to create more game-like experiences”.

newspaper article

Good gamification, that is design that is understood by the people applying it rather than the traditional Points, Badges & Leaderboards, is also about understanding why certain game mechanics are so engaging and fun. That includes knowing how to choose which game techniques we should be using in any given situation.

It is based upon existing theories from motivational psychology, behavioural economics, user experience design, game design and more. Importantly, gamification gives us a practical framework that enables us to easily apply these psychological theories to a business or process.

How does gamification boost employee morale?

You can boost employee morale in big ways by making sure your team has the right players. By applying gamified principals to the recruitment process you can measure your potential employees’ reaction to circumstances they might expect on the job. By using games, rather than things like psychometric tests you get a real feel for how the recruit might fit into the team. Better team morale if everyone works well together.

What other benefits are there to gamification at work?

Games give employees a safe space to fail. Upping engagement by making the employees more likely to try things that in another environment would result in a ‘failure.’

Gamified onboarding process can give employees deeper feeling of belonging into the company including shared values. Games work well at connecting people, easing anxiety between people in different roles.

How widely has gamification been adopted in the workplace in the UK?

Gamification was on Gartner’s emerging technologies curve until 2014. It’s not been seen since then. We can assume we are emerging into the plateau of productivity. This is reflected by Marigo Raftopoulos’s slides from our recent conference in Amsterdam, where he highlights a dip in uptake and claims the industry has ‘dropped the ball’. At this point it’s quite hard to measure the adoption, but Marigo’s work is excellent.

gamification in the workplace

Why has there been a dip in uptake on gamification in the workplace?

The main issue is the lack of input from leadership, who struggle to prove any tangible link between gamification and meeting core HR objectives like improving employee engagement or reducing employee turnover. We hope that as more and more employers prove it works and can offer case study examples of it working, the more awareness there will be on the benefits of gamification in the workplace. What is important to highlight, is that gamification does need to be done well to achieve any benefits. Bad gamification design could have the opposite impact, so choosing the right partners to work with to create truly immersive and effective gaming experiences is really important.

How can employers get started with implementing gamification in the workplace?

At GAMIFICATION+ we help businesses in a variety of ways from training and support to help them implement gamification or designing a solution that works for one specific challenge, such as employee training, or a full end-to-end solution.

Do employers need to create their own games to get started?

There’s no need to spend thousands on creating a unique game for your business. If you want to test out the concept or get started quickly, there are plenty of existing games out there you can leverage. For example, you can book escape rooms for team building days or have a mobile VR gaming experience or AR street game, like Operation Mindfall, for specific events or one-off team building exercises.

Are you game for gamification at work?

Well, we can’t argue with any of that. Any reason to game at work is good by us. Question is though, are you brave enough to give it a go? Or persuade the boss? If you’re not quite ready for an all-out custom made solution we can customise our AR street game Operation Mindfall for large groups and even bring it to the office.

Find out more about Operation Mindfall or get in touch to find out how we can make it work for your business. For more team building ideas you can also read our blog ‘5 unusual group activities that won’t make you yawn’.