HR in the Digital Age: Workplace Gamification

HR in the Digital Age: Workplace Gamification

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The concept of gamification has evolved radically since its outspread in the consumer services industry and it is now the new norm in the workplace.

In layman’s terms, it means integrating the gaming components like scoring, competition, leaderboards, stages, badges and player rules to the business operations in order to engage employees the same way game designers engage players.

Gamified experiences are transforming the way people approach challenges, either at work or in everyday life. For example, Treehouse app allows you to learn coding and app development on mobile devices with an intuitive gaming mechanism – you are able to set goals, unlock new levels, track progress, and earn points that are equivalent to the potential salary that you’ll get at each stage. In the case of human resource management, gamification is applied to various functions with the goals to motivate, engage, incentivize, and retain the best talents. By automating certain processes and adding the fun elements to the mundane tasks, employers are able to reward and validate work in a more data-driven (and transparent) way.

Employee engagement declines as a result of lack of motivation as compared to the initial stages of an employee’s tenure so called the honeymoon period. People are generally more excited and engaged at the beginning of a new career and soon enough, they’ll fall into the ‘sophomore slump’. That’s where business-oriented gamification comes in. Instead of having large-scale corporate training programs to help employees build new skills or investing in tangible rewards (that only a few high performers are entitled to) as incentives, HR can achieve better results through a digital system.

Despite its hype, gamification is still a new concept in the human resources industry in Malaysia. In fact, most HR practitioners are still sceptical about the benefits of gamified activities to business growth. Often times, the challenge is to get the employees’ consent to ‘play games’ as a part of the operational procedure. Without understanding their motivational needs, employers will face pitfalls when introducing gamification at work. Also, it’s crucial to identify the areas that have the potential for such transformation and devise the right strategies to meet the organisation’s objectives.

How does gamification enhance employee experience?

In 2014, Deloitte (New Zealand) launched an interactive recruiting video for its Graduate Recruitment campaign and quickly received a huge buzz on social media. The video introduces potential hire to Deloitte’s company culture, different departments as well as the preferred employee qualities. It conveys the story from the first person’s point of view, taking the viewers (or player) through real-life situations where they have to decide the course of action in order to level up. The choices that they select will indicate if they would make a good fit in Deloitte’s team. By turning a conventional company tour to a virtual experience, the firm has successfully exploited gamification and injected a positive view of Deloitte’s employer brand to the public.

A screenshot from ‘Will You Fit into Deloitte’ – Gamified interactive recruitment experience.

Good candidate experience has a significant impact on the new hire’s engagement as well as retention when he or she joins the company. Hence the importance of hiring for cultural fit, which Deloitte has achieved through gamification.


Gamified applications also branch out to the learning and development field, one of the most important factors of employee engagement. In this domain, we have Badgeville’s app for Salesforce – ‘Big Game Hunter’. The ‘game’ aims to optimise the firm’s leads generation and closing sales processes by tapping into the competitive environment. Basically, ‘Big Game Hunter’” ties in the customer relationship management (CRM) software with gamification mechanics, which then allows the sales teams compete against each other to earn recognition and even prizes.


“Our strategy is to embed our platform for gamification everywhere. Internally, we call this Big Game Hunter. You start as a chicken hunter in sales and work your way up to whale hunter. It is using a virtual carrot, not a stick, to drive user behaviour.”

– Kris Duggan, Badgeville’s chief executive.

Team collaboration is another aspect where companies can employ gamification in order to boost productivity. For example, we have Qualcomm’s innovative internal Q&A process. It models’s platform to reinvent the way its employees collaborate. Through this gamified process, everyone is able to earn points for participating in a certain discussion, which then enables him or her to level up according to the engagement rate. The system recognises and rewards those active users (who are willing to share knowledge) with achievement badges that will be shown in the employee’s profile.

The best thing about these apps is their real-time engagement feature. As employees get to monitor their progress in comparison with other team members, they don’t need to wait for a formal performance review (that’s often biased) to evaluate themselves. Also, the management will have the same resources to indicate every worker’s performance with high accuracy, which enables a broader view of each person’s strengths and weaknesses in a given challenge. Essentially, gamification creates the environment in which employees have the freedom to explore their true potential and address certain issues before they snowball, whether personally or professionally.  

To fully understand what gamification is capable of, business leaders must first understand their teams. As with everything else in life, there’s no one size fits all in gamification. However, we can be certain about its effect – to turn business goals into everyone’s shared goals, which follows the very nature of gaming in general.

Achieving gamification success

Although we are still behind in terms of digitising HR, as far as gamification is concerned, it won’t take long until employees expect that same level of experience in their organisations. Given the wide range of gamified applications, it can be a challenge to adopt this new norm into the workplace at large. Our best bet is gamification will at least transform the performance management system in big corporations.

At the moment, most companies are still lacking shared goals. In other words, their employees don’t have a sense of purpose, which directly affects their engagement at work. Gamified activities are designed to let people achieve their own goals. So the real question is not “how can you incorporate gamification to improve productivity?” but rather “how can you translate the business goals into individual goals and in turn, allow everyone to achieve mutual success?”.


Gamification replaces the carrot-and-stick motivational trick. Let’s look at the way employees are recognised and rewarded, it’s all driven by the institutional advantages rather than individual gains. For instance, top sales receive high bonuses while medium achievers enjoy nothing. Monetary rewards are a foul play and thus backfire when it comes to motivating people, hence the significant impact of gamified tactics especially in boosting performance. At the very least, gamification touches the three main factors that directly affect employee engagement including: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

  • Autonomy. By empowering employees to use their own strategies to win a game, which translates to revenue growth or happy customers, employers are able to satisfy one’s desire to be self-directed when handling a given task while ensuring a united direction for the whole team.
  • Mastery. To successfully complete a game, employees are encouraged to improve themselves in areas where they see fit. People enjoy doing things that allow them to learn and gain experience to become an expert and therefore, bring positive results to the organisations without external forces. The true gamified experience helps employers to achieve just that.
  • Purpose. Going back to the core value of gamification, it is to give everyone a purpose that makes sense to them. Without seeing the end goal(s), even the best performers will only perform 90% of their capability. Likewise, gamification without a clear purpose will just be a meaningless software waiting to be abused.

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