Game On: How Gamification Is Changing Business

News Updates

While some parents may view gaming as an affront to their children’s social development, businesses are finding that a combination of social media and gaming—once the milieu of middle-schoolers—could be an integral part of improving employee engagement.
And if getting employees to use internal social networks more is a behavior that’s hard to change, experts said, gaming can act as an incentive.

IDC reports that the global market for social-media platforms will grow from $767 million in 2011 to $4.5 billion by 2016.

That’s because “the use of emergent social-software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers,” provides rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing and integration between platforms, said Harvard Business School Professor Andre McAfee. Yet, experts said, many companies are finding that their employees are not taking advantage of these newly built platforms.

“The challenge with Enterprise 2.0 is that there is no human element to it. Software is dehumanizing by nature,” explained Chandar Pattabhiram, vice president of Worldwide Marketing for Badgeville. “Employees also ask, ‘What’s in it for me? Why should I change what I’ve been doing for x amount of years? It has worked fine.’ If an employer doesn’t have a good answer to those questions, their employees aren’t going to buy in.”

Enterprise Meet Games

Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, defines gamification as “the use of game design and game mechanics to engage a target audience to change behaviors, learn new skills or engage in innovation.”

According to a 2012 white paper by Deloitte, “analysts claim [that gamification] will be in 25 percent of redesigned business processes by 2015 and will grow to a more than a $2.8 billion business by 2016.” The technology researcher predicts that 70 percent of global businesses will have at least one gamified application or system by 2014.

Badgeville has worked with a number of companies to incorporate games to improve employee engagement and measure and influence user behavior.

Samsung is one of its clients. Visitors to the site can earn points and badges depending on their social engagement. Users that “like” Samsung’s Facebook page can earn 200 points; those who submit comments and reviews can earn 300 points; those who register their Samsung products can earn 500 points. The more points they earn, the more likely visitors are to win a badge—or a reward for their activities. Some of the rewards include Samsung products. The bottom of Samsung’s website includes a leaderboard that lists users with the highest number of points.

Badgeville clients have had some success:

  • Once it added gaming to its website, EMC2 increased the amount of feedback it received by 41 percent.
  • Bell Media increased customer retention by 33 percent by incorporating “social loyalty” rewards on its website.
  • Engine Yard increased the response rate for its customer service representatives by 40 percent after posting response-time leaders for employees to see.

Experts say the trend is not restricted by a company’s size or its industry. Employees of all levels, races and genders participate in gaming.

“Gamification is definitely universal in that it works across all different industries, can be applied to many different processes and can be used by employees of all levels,” said Michael Idinopulos, chief customer officer at Socialtext. “The challenge is figuring out how a game best works in a specific context to achieve a specific behavior. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Idinopulos suggests company leaders ask, “What are the behaviors we are trying to elicit?”

The answer to that question help determine the kind of game mechanics to use to achieve the desired behavior. According to Badgeville, there are three mechanics to consider:

  1. Game mechanics: components of a game that give instant feedback (points, rewards systems)    
  2. Replication mechanics: components of a game that show and promote an individual’s expertise (leaderboards).
  3. Social mechanics: components that serve as vehicles to connect employees with their peers, and are updated in real-time (comments, “liking” something).

Beat the Competition

Business and competition go hand-in-hand, experts say, and win-or-lose gaming helps spark the desire to be undefeated. Fail to close a sale? There’s a good chance your competitor did not.

Companies also hold contests in which employees compete against their colleagues.

For example: Issuing the challenge “The first five people that tweet ‘#winthecontest’ to @CompanyX will receive a $20 gift card to their favorite store,” is a popular way to engage employees. Sales departments will post the rankings for a given week to enhance their workers’ competitive natures, drive them to beat their co-workers and, in doing so, generate more sales.

“If my expertise is broadcasted to my peers, that gives me motivation to do my job better, to be more engaged,” said Pattabhiram. “Success of an organization is directly proportional to the amount of engagement it has—on its employees, on its customers. That’s the level that gamification provides.”

Game designer Jane McGonigal will be speaking on why games make us better and how they can help us achieve extraordinary goals at SHRM's 2013 Talent Management Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. She's not alone. Best-selling Author Kevin Carroll will speak Wednesday, April 17, on how playing at work unleashes creativity and innovation.

Pete Wolfinger is a freelance writer for SHRM. To read the original article on, please click here.