Let’s Play! How Gamification can Improve Employee Engagement

Last Updated: April 6, 2021

Everybody likes to be rewarded. Parents treat cleanup time as a game of scavenger hunt for their kids. Teachers often give gold stars or classroom currency to students for good behavior. Mary Poppins famously sang, “just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

This is gamification–making the ordinary or unpleasant tasks both enjoyable and rewarding.

What does gamification do?

Gamification is everywhere in the business world. Marketing and sales divisions incentivize positive consumer activity by using game-like challenges with milestones and rewards. Starbucks customers can earn Gold Card stars for purchases. Even grocery and drugstore chains incentivize customer loyalty with points and membership perks.

Just as gamification is popular with consumers, it has exceptional utility as a method to direct and incentivize positive employee activity and productivity.
According to a Badgeville report, gamification increases productivity levels for 90% of workers and increases awareness of co-workers’ goals and tasks by 86%. Yet a 2015 Gallup poll showed that only 31.5% of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014.

So why aren’t you using gamification to motivate your employees?

How does gamification work?

An ideal gamification system re-frames typical work activities as engaging, tangible benchmarks to pursue and surpass. Companies like Bunchball and Badgeville create game systems for companies that feature achievements to unlock, badges and rewards, and leaderboards. With a gamification system, a sales employee might get individual rewards or badges for reaching benchmarks for routine cold-calls, successful sales, or resolved questions.

Gamification requires four key components:

  1. Easily recognizable cues for next actions
  2. Instant feedback for desired actions
  3. Markers for performance and ranking
  4. Scalable, accessible paths to further achievement

When these four components are implemented (and adopted by employees), engagement soars! According to Erika Blaney, VP of marketing at Bunchball, “when workers are engaged, business performance is better, customer satisfaction scores rise and ultimately, revenues increase.”

Unsurprisingly, a well-structured feedback system can create a Las Vegas-style atmosphere in a worker’s limbic system, which conditions the brain to pursue even greater accomplishments according to PCWorld. When outstanding employee engagement and tireless customer support efforts are incentivized through a continuous positive feedback loop, productivity, and ROI skyrocket.

Gamification in customer support

When you have an engaged, enthusiastic support team, the entire organization benefits. A dedicated customer support team is especially valuable to an organization when it communicates and collaborates with other departments.

Badgeville has found that their customers increased employee engagement by over 20% on collaboration platforms thanks to the gamification of support processes. By using a reward-feedback system, individual departments worked better with other teams–providing more effective customer service from all departments.

A Badgeville customer also found that gamification generated a 24% increase in attendance in new support staff–a huge boost for companies struggling to source quality talent.

A separate Badgeville survey found that gamifying existing customer service employees’ on-the-job learning and development lead to greater job satisfaction and higher retention rates.

How to start your gamification program:

  1. Set measurable goals
  2. Focus on things people already want to do
  3. Measure changes
  4. Reward incremental progress
  5. Make the game social

Gamification Challenges:

Poor game design is the biggest challenge for implementing gamification strategies in the workplace. Be sure to avoid:

  • Unbalanced mechanics: Does the game reward competition but not collaboration? This will work against your overall business strategy. Does the game provide meaningful rewards and ways to compare achievements?
  • Meaningless points: Make badges, points, and achievements relevant to each employee’s role. Many poorly crafted work-games don’t incentivise further action. Tracking points alone is not fun. And employees won’t play boring games.
  • Measuring the wrong KPIs: Don’t make sales KPIs a measured goal if you want to increase cold calls. Similarly, measuring the number of customer calls answered doesn’t speak to an employee’s efficiency, but the number of resolved customer issues sure does.

Gamification is a proven way to reinforce positive behavior. When done correctly, it can be a vital piece of your workplace culture and customer service experience. Start out with small, single goal games with tangible rewards and move up from there. Use gamification to set your brand apart in the eyes of your customers, your competitors, and your team. Once you’ve implemented gamification, use a full-service help desk tool like HappyFox to reach your goals!

How might gamification help you improve the engagement of your employees and satisfaction of your customers?


  • Robert Erich

    Robert Erich is a content marketer and energetic entrepreneur. He spends most of his time reading, writing, and teaching others about business. When not working, Rob enjoys sailing and traveling with his beautiful wife.