Gamification Programs Require Long-term Strategies to Keep Employees Motivated

by: Nichole Gunn July 21, 2011

With employment opportunities opening up and employers looking for more effective and engaging employee incentive strategies, gameplay has become an up and coming tool to help motivate workers. O’Reilly Radar, a technology blogsite, reported that within the last 18 months the keyword ‘gamification’ shot up to 900,000 from zero. This is in regard to Google searches.

There are though a couple of potential problems that implementing gamified initiatives. The first thing to watch out for is employee intrinsic de-motivation due to the loss of extrinsic rewards. An expert in gamification, Gage Zichermann associates this concept, over-justification, with the way children become less enthused in entering contests if ‘winning’ is far a few between.

What does this mean to the employer? Without the incentive of ongoing employee rewards workers may become discouraged.

Employers should be aware that gamified programs are designed to have a beginning and an end. As with any game, once the worker reaches a particular level, he moves onto the next, earning redeemable points along the way. But, when the game is complete and the worker reaches the top/end level, the momentum is gone. This can easily lead to a let-down, which in turn can decrease employee productivity and enthusiasm.

Zichermann explains that “once users become accustomed to the interactions we design, they expect the rewards to continue and evolve with both their mastery and tastes."

The solution to this potential problem is for employers to initiate gamified programs that have more substance and are available for the long-term. Offering programs with regular rewards and recognition will help improve the employees’ productivity level, thereby improving the company’s revenue.

Bunchball is a gamification consulting company and the founder and chief product officer Rajat Paharia noted, “Game designers have known for years how to engage players, encourage meaningful participation and drive fanatical loyalty.” He added, “If you can get people to engage and participate in your program, you can drive meaningful business results."

The location-based social networking site FourSquare is a prime example of how gamified programs can be effectively implemented. By tweaking its structure, employers can design programs that offer points and badges for reaching specific company objectives and/or productivity levels. Badges attained can be displayed for the long-term, and more badges can be added as acquired. This will also foster a sense of accomplishment and recognition for an employee’s efforts.

Another ‘plus’ to this type of program is it can be used for channel partner incentives. Partners would be afforded the chance to earn badges for sales related efforts; the badges would also provide recognition by being displayed on related vendor program websites.


About Nichole Gunn

Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that delivers advanced, agile B2B customer loyalty and channel sales incentives programs.