Is Gamification Just Another Technology Fad?

gamificationGamification has been gaining traction as a motivational tool for several years now. Implementing game mechanics at work holds appeal not just for its motivational potential, but also because its basic concepts can be adapted to a wide variety of settings, from training classrooms to call centers.

Along with the surge in popularity, however, comes a natural skepticism on the part of many HR managers. Is gamification really all its cracked up to be? Maybe you’ve tried it and seen few results. Is it just another fad?

Does Gamification Work?

At its core, gamification is a study in human psychology. What makes people act the way they do and how can we promote more of the behavior we want (behavior that will benefit the business)? Platforms and programs that understand motivational strategy and can apply those ideas to individual use cases tend to see better results than those that try to create a one-program-fits-all approach.

For some, gamification seems like a lot of hype—just a fad that will fade away as quickly as it arrived on the scene. Some even argue that gamification makes people less serious about their work than they would be without it. But John Turner, founder of Design Thinking Consulting Group and creator of a gamification platform called Catalyst, disagrees.

“Gamification isn’t really anything new. It’s just in a new form now, with different platforms,” said Turner. “Games and game mechanics have a universal appeal. We are social creatures. There are social functions within the platform, and this is a way for [people] not only to care about their jobs and their performance a little bit more, but also to interact and engage with their coworkers in a more fun environment than they are usually accustomed to.”

Turner believes that humans have an inherent love of games that is driving the popularity of gamification. Even more than monetary rewards, it’s the ability to make work engaging, social, and fun that produce results.

But that doesn’t mean all gamification efforts are equally effective.

What’s the Secret Sauce?

Why do some gamification platforms enjoy wild success while others seem lackluster and trivial? There are several important factors that separate successful initiatives from those that fail. Here’s how to create your own secret sauce:

Buy a platform, not an app. If the program is too simplified, it becomes just another thing to check off the list rather than a serious motivational tool. A comprehensive platform should provide scalable solutions that can be modified based on the demographics and unique motivators of your workforce. It should also integrate seamlessly with your current HR software.

Understand your employees. Are they primarily millennials who grew up gaming or Baby Boomers who play Candy Crush on the weekends? Are you trying to encourage greater productivity or higher engagement? Just as you need to know your target audience in order to market to them successfully, you also need to know your employees in order to motivate them.

Have a plan. As with any initiative, it’s vital that you create a plan before jumping in with both feet. What do you want to achieve and how will you know if you’ve been successful? Narrow your goals down to specific behaviors. A broad goal such as “increase productivity” must be broken down into specific, identifiable actions in order to be measured.

Track, monitor, and improve. Utilize your technology platform to track behavior, monitor key metrics, and identify areas that can be improved. If your efforts aren’t working, metrics can show you where the breakdown is and how it can be fixed.

Start with a test group. Before you roll out the platform to your total workforce, start with a test group so you can determine what works and what doesn’t. Your test group will also act as ambassadors for the initiative, helping to create excitement among their coworkers.

Don’t expect miracles. Gamification can make workplaces more engaging, increase productivity, and create loyal brand ambassadors, but ultimately it isn’t the games that will achieve those results. It’s your company culture. Broken processes and a stifling work environment can’t be fixed by adding game mechanics. However, a positive culture that already seeks to nurture employees can see even greater results using a scalable gamification platform designed to bring out the best in participants.

It’s about psychology, not just technology. Successful gamification efforts depend on understanding the psychology of your team. You can have the best gamification platform in the world, but if you don’t take the time to understand what motivates people and how to apply those motivational techniques to your specific employees, you won’t see the results you’re hoping for.
Gamification isn’t a wand to wave over your workplace and magically produce happy, engaged employees. It is a tool. Like all tools, its success or failure depends on developing the skills and knowledge to use it well.

If you are looking for HR software that can help you accomplish your business goals, the free comparison tool at will help you rank products based on your criteria.

For additional information on gamification you may want to check out the following articles:
5 Tips to Identify your HRIS Gamification Needs
The Game of Life – It’s Serious Business
What is Gamification?

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