How to Use Gamification to Motivate Employees

It’s no secret that engaged employees are motivated employees. Moreover, job satisfaction drives productivity and profits. Surveys show that a happy workforce produces higher levels of performance, less absenteeism and better employee retention.

The key question for businesses is how to keep your employees motivated to work for your company. With advancements in technology, and digital competence permeating everyday life, it seems as though technology could also provide the answer.

However, the reality is that motivating staff with technology is not so straightforward. A comprehensive survey performed by PwC shows that more than 12,000 workers feel disconnected at work despite 90% of C-suite executives intending to deliver what they think employees needs with new technology.

The truth of the matter is that employees want technologies that enable them to perform their job easier and with higher levels of competence. But they also want on-the-job training and a career path to keep them engaged and committed to the company.

Gamification ticks both boxes. And if you’re not already familiar with the concept and benefits of gamified platforms for e-learning, this article may deliver a few surprise punches. Gamification not only engages employees but it’s also proven to be adept at motivating teams to achieve higher standards of performance.

What is Gamification?

In the workplace, gamification is a combination of e-learning and gaming. To sum up the concept briefly, players are rewarded for completing tasks successfully – just like ordinary computer games you may be familiar with on games consoles like Play Station and Xbox.

The key difference is that gamification applies features and actions that are custom designed for employees to perform their job better – they are fundamentally intended to be educational. But using technology in this way is proving to be much more successful at keeping employees engaged and motivated as well.

Research shows that gamified elements also improve in-game thinking and memory retention. Some studies show players retain up to three times as much information as other methods of learning.

A 2d illustration of people in a meeting with one person on a screen

The mechanics of an animated e-learning game are also shown to be transferable in the real world. Thus gamified e-learning applications can also enhance the capacity of your employee to solve problems, complete certain tasks and even encourage personal development.

And because computer graphics are so sophisticated these days, you can create training game that virtually mimics real life. Video games in general are becoming increasingly diverse, realistic, and social in nature.

With the incredible scope, virtual reality environments can offer, businesses can create fully-immersive training programs – even in real-world conditions that are difficult to replicate in a physical training centre.

On the other end of the e-learning spectrum, interactive features in a gamified application can be as simple as a quiz or creating a virtual plan of your office and a simulation of your database so that new starters and trainees can learn their job roles in a safe environment.

Because gamified solutions are applicable to practically every industry, economists are predicting big things for the technology. The gamification market is expected to bloat from over $86m dollars in the next seven years – from $10.5bn to a massive $96.8bn. That’s how confident market speculators are.

How Can Gamification be used to Motivate Employees?

One of the key benefits of gamification is that everyone loves a computer game – especially when they are good at it. More than half the UK population play some form of computer game on a regular basis.

Gaming is not for everyone, of course. But regardless of the interest levels amongst your workforce, introducing any form of interactive media has historically proven to foster engagement and a willingness to learn.

The reason why video games are so popular is that they stimulate the same region in the brain that is responsible for motivation – the reward centre that produces the neurotransmitters dopamine and endorphins that make us ‘feel good’.

Still from Health and Safety Training Game of a quiz section

Dopamine is at the heart of the brains reward centre. When an individual anticipates something they desire or want to do, the brain releases dopamine which makes them feel good and motivates them to perform the desired action. 

Endorphins block negative feelings and have been shown to lower stress and anxiety. Gamified products can actually help to boost the self-esteem of individuals that may be suffering from work-related stress.

By building rewards into an e-learning product, gamification motivates your employees to shift from the virtual space into the real world. But it also makes them feel more confident and competent in raising their performance in the real world. 

Let me, put it his way, do you remember when you were a kid and you watched a football match on TV and immediately afterwards wanted to play football (or whatever your favourite sport is)? 

Or maybe you were into superheroes or Disney princesses and wanted to re-enact scenes in the movie and apply the story to your own life. Yes, it was a fantasy but you would be surprised how much media and stories excite and motivate us to move from the digital realm and into the real world. 

Why Do Gamified Solutions Work as Motivational E-Learning Tools?

Video games are incredible motivators by their very nature. Researchers overwhelming conclude that games are the most powerful tool for cultivating an effective learning style that encourages hard work and resilience.

One team of researchers investigated the efficiency of digital game-based learning write gamification:

“…can be utilised as an educational tool which can boost students’ wellbeing and self-esteem, help them improve their soft skills, develop their critical thinking, decision-making and problem-solving skills, as well as maintain a healthy mental and psychological balance.” [source: International Journal of Advances in Scientific Research and Engineering, ISSN: 2454-8006]

Other researchers found that rather than praising players for inherent skills, the continuous praise given to players for gradually improving at a game taught the player that improvement and achievements are found through hard work and perseverance – a valuable understanding that can then translate to real-world tasks.

The motivating factor of gamified applications, therefore, contributes to the desire of human beings to be autonomous. Employees want to have something to do and are more engaged when they have agency rather than being asked (ordered) to do it.

But gamified training programs must be fun and compelling. To ensure you keep staff motivated, they will need to be given the opportunity to engage with the game every day or several times a week.

Gamification is not as effective at motivating staff if it is deployed as a one-time use tool during a training course. Users need to regularly feel as though they are making progress in the game in order to feel a sense of achievement.

So how do you make gamification in the workplace fun and engaging?

A person participates in an online learning session, watching a teacher explain concepts on a whiteboard via a laptop. The teacher is gesturing while speaking, and the student is taking notes with various stationery items spread out on the desk

What Types of Gamification Motivates Employees?

The style and content of the gamified project for your company largely depend on the nature of your industry and the tasks your employees need to perform.

However, e-learning games that are designed to engage employees typically have consistent features. The important point to note is that games must offer real-world value to your staff otherwise the exercise will feel like a gimmick and not really benefit the development of your employees or the performance of your business.

  • Quizzes

You can make an interactive quiz on any subject. Add multiple choice tick boxes to drag and drop challenges, quizzes are an easy way to introduce interactivity in daily routines.

  • Achievements/Rewards

A fundamental feature of any video game is a reward. Whether that’s collecting gold tokens, acquiring body armour or moving on to the next stage rewards increase competitiveness and motivation. At the very least, most players will strive to beat their personal best because that’s a sign of progress – and progress is a great component of dopamine.

  • Progress Tracking

Visual representations that clearly show progress are also a motivator for players. In some cases, you can highlight where they are in the game, where they have come from and how much further they have to go.

  • Create an Avatar

Avatars are a fun feature to include in gamified applications – especially if the avatars are animated replicas of your workforce.

  • Mini-Games

Mini-games are ideal for continuous learning or quick practice runs. They are not time-consuming but give employees their daily dose of gamification and help to get them motivated for their next task.

  • Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality

As VR and AR technology progresses, simulations will become prevalent throughout numerous industries – particularly when VR becomes mainstream and more people own their own goggles.

As an aid to gamification, there’s probably nothing more valuable or as exciting as virtual reality. And with the ability of augmented reality to diversify in-game items, building training applications are cost-effective because it enables trainers to design their own challenges without having to use game developers to create an animated version for every single challenge.

2 hands holding an iPad that shows a path from a start ribbon to a flag at the end

Real Examples of Gamification in the Workplace:

  • Lengo – The Teachers First Toolkit was developed as an assessment tool for Egyptian teachers. Based on swamp theory, it sets out where the user is and provides bespoke action plans to aid the used move in to Positive behaviour.
  • Security training programme – A 5 module e-learning tool that not only educated the users, but evaluated their progress and twisted their knowledge at the end
  • General optical council – For this training we developed an interactive IT framework to enable GOC registrants to track their Continuing Education and Training
  • VR fire safety training – This Fire Safety training is a VR training programme that trains employees in fire safety precautions within immersive environments, this training also tracks the trainees progress and provides follow up questions for any weak areas of expertise
  • Takeda Hub – This e-learning tool showcases a variety of ways to use interactivity in to training, from treasure hunts to drag and drop quizzes, this HTML-5 based module educated employees about ethics and responsibilities

Motivate Your Employees With Sliced Bread Animation

Sliced Bread Animation can help you to seamlessly introduce gamification into the workplace. Having worked on a number of large projects, we understand how incorporating interactive elements into gamified e-learning products motivates your employees.

Gamification also provides you with the opportunity to appeal to younger generations – which could help you to land top talent and improve employee retention.

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