Is gamification a winner for employee engagement?

My daughter turns two years old this week and is the proud owner of a brand new reward chart. It’s been up on the wall for about a fortnight and every day we have conversations about what she has done and whether or not we will be adding (or removing) a gold velcro star to it, dependent on what she’s been up to.

reward chartShe can be awarded a star for things like: saying please and thank you, sharing my toys, brushing my teeth or eating my dinner. 

There’s a target to aim for (currently set at 10 gold stars) and there is a reward at the end – you can choose what that is, e.g. a new book, ice cream, trip to the park etc.

I’ve seen this method work well with my four nephews as a way to encourage them to understand the consequences of actions – and to have fun! My husband and I decided it was something we wanted to introduce for Miss M.

She LOVES it. However, I have a feeling she is gaming the system already – a couple of times she’s been really good and turned to me and said: “Star Mummy?” Which leads me to think that perhaps the excellent behaviour has been for that reason…

Everywhere I look I keep spotting articles about gamification and how it can be used for internal communication and the potential it has. How does it work in reality?

Ashley Freeman is Head of Sales and Marketing at employee engagement company INVOLVE. When he’s not pioneering new ways to help the company drive brand awareness and deliver creative, lead generating B2B marketing campaigns, most of his time is spent developing employee engagement ideas and campaigns for some of the world’s leading businesses.

Here he writes for my blog to keep us updated with the trends that he’s seeing. Over to you Ashley…

Is Gamification A Winner For Employee Engagement?

Gamification is a tried and tested tool for improving engagement. But is it the winning formula that it is made out to be?

Think back to the last time you played a board game of an evening. Did it help bring everyone together, and improve how they engaged socially?

Of course it did.

The way people interact in a game setting can tell you a lot about their personality, their motivations and what makes them tick.

The same applies when people are asked to deal with workplace situation in the form of a game.

This is known as gamification.

Gamification in a nutshell 

“Gamification, the use of game elements to promote desired behaviours among customers and employees” – The Business Insider

For-All-Thinsg-ICGamification can be used as a means to recruit candidates for a job with the strongest leadership and problem solving skills. Equally, it can stimulate involvement with the company culture. Gamification has even been proven to improve health and well-being in the workplace.

It appeals to the naturally competitive streak in all of us.

According to HR experts, gamification is changing the very face of employee engagement. It is a popular buzzword in discussions about effective reward and recognition, productivity and employee engagement techniques.

Winning formula or fad?
So is it really the winner for employee engagement that we think it is?

“In ways it is a fad – adding points and badges in tacky ways, looking at ‘gamification’ as an easy way to make boring things seem interesting — that is a fad. However, the idea of designing business processes so that those who engage in them find them more intrinsically rewarding – that is a long term trend.” – Jesse Schell

One of the greatest challenges facing management teams is how to engage their employees with change programmes, live events and company strategies. But is gamification the elusive answer we are all looking for?

Encouraging employees to compete with each other in a game and surpass their own ‘highest scores’ can be extremely motivating. It is a tried and tested employee engagement tool based on our natural human instincts.

It has its limitations though.

The pressure of meeting constantly rising expectations can become demoralising. Employees have often found that the rewards associated with gamification are not worth all the hard work. Participants have also been known to cheat, force social interactions and demonstrate superficial motivation to win the game.

When used correctly and given the proper thought, gamification can be extremely effective.

It will only work though, if both leadership and team members are fully involved. Make sure the game is worth the effort, and that it is well organised and executed. A poorly thought-out game without adequate reward and recognition will backfire very quickly.

Post author: Ashley Freeman.

Everybody loves a badge
KarenGettmanThank you for sharing your thoughts Ashley. I heard Pearson speak at Simply-Communicate’s  Social Media In the Large Enterprise (SMiLE) event earlier this year about how they are using gamification internally. It’s one of the most successful examples I’ve seen.

They are using Bunchball and their enterprise social network Neo (Jive), and their VP and Director of Learning and Collaboration, Karen Gettman (pictured) said:

“We believe in gamification as another way to stimulate interactions. We’re using a Bunchball-based badging system. Employees get badges for filling out their profiles with more extensive information than the basic details provided automatically by the system.

“Our profile completion went way up after we introduced gamification. Other badges are given to people for completing e-learning courses or for blogging regularly (Neo has 20,000 blogs). Gamification is very popular, we will be doing much more of it in the future.”

Two simple rules
Pearson’s platform has very simple guidelines: no politics and no religion. “People were worried at the beginning about employees saying inappropriate things. But when it happened, the network was fast to jump in. Self-policing works”.

Gettman’s team includes two community managers. “We provide bespoke help, do monthly trainings and run a help group on the platform”. At the start of the project, Gettman would collect anecdotal evidence about Neo’s business case and present it to senior management every six months. She no longer needs to do that. “There is no real question about its business value any more”. The team is now using Google Analytics and Business Objects to gets stats and measure activity on the platform.

Read more via Simply-Communicate including how 85% of the company’s 44,000 employees are using Neo (was launched in February 2011).

Are you using gamification? What works or has been a disaster for your company? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC. I’ve included some links below if this topic is new to you so you can read more about it.

Thanks as ever for stopping by


Further reading 

Sharon also wrote about the topic as a chapter in the best-selling book Share This Too. (I wrote the chapter on corporate communication).

Video via Melcrum from last year, featuring Steven Murgatroyd:

Rachel Miller.


  1. […] ludification peut être extrêment efficace, à condition de respecter certaines règles. Selon Ashley Freeman, directeur Marketing chez Involve, cette pratique nécessite l’implication totale à la […]

  2. […] Is gamification a winner for employee engagement? […]

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