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Want Your Team to Excel? Play Games With Them (Yes, Games) to Advance Their Performance to the Next Level. Gaming isn't just for hobbyists anymore; gamification in the workplace can boost employee creativity, performance and engagement.

By Duncan Wardle Edited by Kara McIntyre

Key Takeaways

  • One workplace gamification report revealed that when games are introduced into the workplace, 89% of people feel more productive and 88% feel happier — and having more productive and happier workers can help foster better relationships within teams.
  • You might feel like it's odd to bring the world of gaming into your company. However, gamification is clearly a winning solution if you want to keep engagement, performance, innovation and development high.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The standard thought process says that working can't be all fun and games.

Well, maybe it should be.

A surprisingly high number of adults see online games not as "kids' stuff" but as an acceptable pursuit. According to 2022 research by the Entertainment Software Association, approximately two-thirds of Americans game. Of those two-thirds, 65% are 18 or older. In other words, your workers might feel just as comfortable gaming in the boardroom as they do in their family rooms.

Indeed, many employers have seen such stats. That's why they're experimenting with gamification as a way to achieve benefits such as improved employee satisfaction. With engagement rates struggling to climb beyond 32% since the pandemic, per Gallup's latest report, anything is worth a try to keep the attrition turnstile from working overtime.

An engagement bump-up isn't the only potential upside of adding gamification into the corporate workflow mix. Games can improve productivity, too. One compelling study out of India showed that employees who used gamified systems on the job felt more motivated and engaged, leading to higher productivity.

Gamification can also be a useful way to encourage healthy competition and reward workers and teams for doing a great job, meeting personal or team KPIs or gaining mastery over a particular skill set. A digital badge might not seem like a big deal, but it can turn into a coveted individual or group honor under the right circumstances.

While gamification isn't necessarily right for every company, its power to transform a lagging workforce into a more dynamic one is undeniable. When I worked as the head of innovation and creativity at Disney, I saw how powerful gamification was. What other vehicle makes an hour fly by like a Twitch session? Certainly not an ordinary Zoom meeting.

If you like the idea of constructing a future-ready organization with a tech-forward, modern appeal, gamification might be what you need. There's no harm in running some experiments to test it out within your corporate environment. You can start with these strategies.

Related: 5 Ways to Gamify Your Work

1. Gamify your onboarding and ongoing training

An excellent and low-hanging place to start with gamification in your business is during onboarding and other training. The ways you can incorporate gaming into lessons are endless. From challenges to AR-based coursework, you can present nearly any subject in a gamified manner. Research by eLearning Industry suggests that many legacy enterprises are already gamifying their employee learning experiences. And 80% of workers say that learning via games is a more exciting type of education. You don't have to be a large company to join the fray, though. Businesses of all sizes, including startups, can bring gaming into the training mix.

Not sure how to incorporate games into your professional training? Take a look at your current curriculum. Are there places where a dry topic could be lightened up by gamification? Could gamification help employees learn faster or retain more information? Answering these questions will help you determine which gaming aspects could work.

Take the idea of leaderboards or levels, for instance. They're one of the simplest forms of gamification and shouldn't take long to incorporate into your onboarding or training. As employees master various capabilities, they could earn special standings or bragworthy badges. Just be sure to track everything so you know which gaming elements are working and which may need to be tweaked.

Related: Gamified Training: An Infallible Way For Employee Engagement

2. Encourage innovation through gamified challenges

It's hard to underplay the importance of gamification as a way to fuel the imagination. Asking your team members to sit in a regular conference room or Teams meeting and expecting them to come up with innovation gold isn't fair. Stirring up your creative juices can be difficult in a humdrum environment.

Introducing games can get the "gray matter" wheels turning. When everyone's vying to win challenges or prizes, they're stimulated to action. This stimulation — a form of healthy competition — can serve as intrinsic motivation to contribute. The more contributions you get, the higher the likelihood your team will come up with innovative ideas.

One caveat here: Stay attuned to keeping the process from becoming fiercely competitive. Gamification needs to be a rewarding activity, not one that pits people against each other. Your goal should be to come out of a brainstorming meeting with loads of great concepts, not a bunch of disgruntled players.

3. Improve your remote and hybrid employee experience through gamification tactics

Recent data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that almost 28% of private-sector companies had employees working remotely all or some of the time in the fall of 2022. Many organizations have a combination of remote and in-office personnel. Still more make flexible working available to as many of their employees as possible. Yet, it's notoriously tough to keep the employee experience solid when a team is entirely or partially virtual.

This is another place where gamification can be useful. Games for remote workers offer a practical way to ensure everyone can have the same experience. When standardized training has gamified elements, all employees can get the same information while also being able to showcase their acumen. An example of this might be badges on a dashboard that's accessible to all team members.

Findings from a TalentLMS workplace gamification report revealed that when games are introduced into the workplace, 89% of people feel more productive and 88% feel happier. Having more productive and happier workers can help foster better relationships within teams. Social connection is essential to remote work success, as it aids in helping with remote work loneliness. So, games might just be one of the simplest ways to foster stronger coworker bonds.

Related: How to Keep Employees Engaged and Productive in the Age of AI

You might feel like it's odd to bring the world of gaming into your company. However, gamification is clearly a winning solution if you want to keep engagement, performance, innovation and development high. Instead of expecting your employees to leave their gaming habits at the door, invite those habits in. Becoming a "game on" business could be the best decision you've made all year.

Duncan Wardle

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Innovation Keynote Speaker & Creativity Consultant at iD8 & innov8

Duncan Wardle, formerly vice president of innovation and creativity at The Walt Disney Company, launched his creative consulting company iD8 & innov8 to help companies embed a culture of innovation and creativity across their entire organization.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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