Is There Really a Place for Gamification in the HR Toolkit?

Amy Roberts   27 October, 2020
Employee Engagement Featured

In recent years, the concept of gamification has rapidly grown in popularity. To grasp a better understanding of the art of gamification at work and if it really has a place in the toolkit of HR Managers, we reached out to some of the worlds leading experts on the topic. Here’s what they had to say:

Agabe-zichermannccording to Gabe Zichermann, “gamification is a process of using game thinking and game dynamics to engage audiences and solve problems.” The tactic uses game design elements in a non-game context by applying game mechanics to something that’s ordinarily not considered a game in order to increase user engagement, happiness and loyalty. Brands like Duo Lingo, Strava and Starbucks have all used game mechanics to their advantage.

Jane McGonigal

Based on Jane McGonigal’s 4 motivation elements namely satisfactory work, success, socialising and significance, it’s clear why gamification, when applied to a work context, is very effective in getting employees motivated and engaged. Gamification is a proven and effective strategy for boosting productivity, fostering collaboration an ultimately company profitability and healthy growth. Through prizes, awards and leaderboards - it’s also hugely beneficial as a reward and recognition strategy.

Its main goal is to promote engagement, says Nicolas Babin. “Using game mechanics we can at all times ensure people work on non-gaming tasks while enjoying themselves, feeling motivated and engaged. With human resources in mind, gamification is a very powerful tool as it also ensures employees are loyal to the brand and will stay longer in their employment.

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They will also use word of mouth to promote the company because their personal attachment to the brand will be much stronger thanks to gamification.

Using game mechanics will increase dopamine (the hormone of pleasure) and will increase productivity as well as engagement. Gamification and HR are two peas in a pod.”


Considering gamification in the Covid world is a high priority for many businesses as they notice employee motivation levels plunging due to lack of social interaction in the real world, as opposed to the virtual realm. Toby Beresford, author of Infinite Gamification: motivate your team until the end of time, says, “WFH’ers need more and better designed gamification programs to replace lost workplace social norming. Since the pandemic, gamification is now more vital than ever before.”

Want find out more about how to give feedback remotely in a Covid world? Click here for our top advice.

Toby adds, “For years, staff have used social norming to perform well at work: each employee adapting and norming their behaviour to that of those around them. This usually happened without direct management intervention as we saw each other in cubicles, meetings, and yes, the water cooler.

PBPT_Toby B-1However, with the loss of those critical social signals, many of those now working from home (WFH’ers) are in desperate need of new feedback. Gamification can provide this structural feedback at low cost and at scale but unless designed well, can send employees off in completely the wrong direction.”

Toby says that he wrote his  book ‘Infinite Gamification: motivate your team until the end of time’ specifically “to provide managers with a simple design approach to creating a gamification program for their staff. The approach is designed to ensure that when they share quantitative feedback (a score, a target, a KPI or a goal) with their staff they get the results and behaviours they actually intended.”

It’s important that every individual company and team consider their application of gamification tactics within their given context. While Airmiles might work for Amex, a FitBit highest step count challenge might work for others. Ian Knowlson, a Business and Personal Growth Coach says, “for me it is balancing people who are motivated by what I call ‘towards gain’ and those who are motivated by ‘away from pain’.”


Ian has “been coaching some directors of recruitment businesses in the UK, US and Asia recently who are struggling with motivating remote workers.” They have created some ‘gamification’ competitions to keep their teams focused. "Some have been individual others have been team focused with everyone in each team having minimum KRIs or standards to deliver for the whole team to be eligible for the team prize."

Team prizes are varied including meals out, fun days like Alton Towers in the UK or Junkyard Golf or Escape Rooms or food, wine hampers. In the US we have used US equivalents. This month the US teams are focused on extra vacation days around Thanksgiving.”

For People Managers looking to implement gamification tactics to better engage their employees, start by clearly identifying goals, listen to what employees need, design games around their skills and then communicate the desired outcome clearly. Finally, take an agile approach by continually testing and adjusting your strategy.

107822621_741929226553970_6565847292670797956_n-1To sum up, Eva Evangelou, Customer Success Director at Onalytica says, “There is clear evidence demonstrating that employee engagement is key to successful growth. With the added challenge of discovering new ways of working with dispersed teams in these changing times, there is no doubt that gamification can be an important tool in HR’s toolkit to motivate and engage employees and foster a spirit of collaboration which drives success.” 

Eva recently hosted a webinar on the ways gamification can be applied to specific work contexts. Click here to read more and watch the interview.

“In collaboration with Staff Treats, I look forward to discussing some of the ways gamification can be applied to specific work contexts with you tomorrow, Thursday 29th October at 18:30.” To register, click the sign up button below.

To find out more about how Staff Treats with employee engagement, book a demo today. 


Amy Roberts

Content creator forever living out a suitcase, eating vegetables, and ogling over indoor plants.

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