How to level up engagement with digital workplace gamification

With internet-raised millennials and Gen Z on their way to dominating the workforce, gamification in the workplace is a natural progression that’s slated to be the bedrock of employee engagement in the not-so-distant future.

Gamification in the digital workplace

Work hard, play hard: workplace gamification 101

Angry Birds. Bubble Witch. Candy Crush. Playing games eats time like a Pac-Man gobbling dots, yet we find them irresistible. Using simple psychological triggers, these apps motivate us to keep playing way beyond our usual attention span. Now, the same urge that has you flinging birds with a slingshot or popping animated bubbles can be used to engage employees at work. Say hello to digital workplace gamification

The game of work

British computer programmer Nick Pelling officially coined the term Gamification in 2002, but the concept itself is far from new.

Gaming elements have been applied to various non-gaming activities to drive engagement for longer than we can trace. Customer loyalty programs and grade school reading marathons predate the computer age, while chess has been used for over a thousand years to teach kings, generals, and even CEOs the finer points of strategy - whether for the battlefield or the boardroom. 

On-the-job playtime started in the 1970s, when Charles Coonradt figured out that if managers could find ways to turn work into play, engagement and performance would sky-rocket. In his book, The Game of Work, Coonradt showed that when the same techniques that drew people to sports and games were applied in the workplace, employees pursued work goals with comparable enthusiasm. 

Coonradts's hallmarks of effective workplace gamification were:

  • well-defined goals 
  • performance measured in a trackable fashion
  • rapid feedback

Gamification Software

Workplace gamification shares key components with its arcade cousins. The same urge that has you flinging birds with a slingshot or popping animated bubbles can be used to engage employees at work. Say hello to digital workplace gamification.

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Hype or reality?

Modern-day workplace gamification shares a key component with its arcade cousins. It’s that urge to win and go back for more until you board the mothership, catch the bad guy, or unlock an achievement. By appealing to our competitive nature, we now can encourage workplace behaviors with easy to implement incentives that are low-cost and high return.

"Gamification is the carrot on the stick that keeps the rabbit chasing. The technology is merely the means to put that psychology to work in the business sphere."


To put it simply, gamification works. It makes us commit to things we would ordinarily find mundane. It’s an efficient and effective tool for guiding human behavior and maintaining engagement over time. 

Employees feel in control when the roadmap to reach their goals is laid out before them and will work harder to achieve those goals in the knowledge that their efforts will be recognized. 

Gamification meets the digital workplace

With the increasing sophistication of digital workplace platforms, workplace gamification is experiencing a revival. 

Gamification can be embedded into almost any activity to boost engagement and manufacture motivation. Workers can climb levels with each step of their training, earn badges for finishing projects, and be recognized for their achievements on a public leaderboard. Visible progress and immediate feedback drive performance.

4 simple ways to gamify your digital workplace

#1. Leaderboards

Gamification taps into our competitive spirit and drive to succeed. Nobody sets out to be a runner-up and leaderboards capitalize on this notion. Leaderboards drive performance by inspiring friendly competition, allowing employees to earn rewards recognizing their efforts.

Leaderboards inspire friendly competition

#2. Badges

Badges can be used to identify individuals with niche expertise or as rewards for specific achievements. 

Award badges to recgnize efforts and incentivize top-class performance

#3. Completeness gauges

Gauges track task progress and encourage completion. Profile badges can be awarded to active and engaged users or for those that fill-out their profiles. These features familiarize employees with your platform, driving adoption by incentivizing continued use.

Completeness gauges drive adoption

#4. Peer to peer recognition

Peer to peer recognition systems allow colleagues to recognize each other's successes and thank them for their help on a project or task. This type of gamification helps to underpin a culture of appreciation by providing employees with an intuitive means to share praise. 

Award kudos to reward employees

Award-winning digital workplace gamification in practice 

Ellie Mae's winning gamification strategy

Following a three-year period of rapid growth, Ellie Mae sought to maintain a close-knit culture and identified gamification as their secret weapon. A custom “Cheers for Peers” widget was created and spotlighted on the intranet homepage. In the first two months, over 400 Cheers for Peers were submitted and Ellie Mae went on to be selected as a winner by the Ragan Intranet Awards for their innovative use of gamification. 

"Cheers for Peers is a solution that has allowed employees to thank teammates near and far, and to connect them to each other via the Intranet. People use it for everything — they love the ability to say thank you."

Sara Holtz - Director of Internal Communications at Ellie Mae
Cheers for Peers Directory

The Specialist Works levels up diversity and inclusion efforts

The Specialist Works, another Ragan Intranet Award winner, took a novel approach to badges by assigning an animal persona that represents each employee's personality type. These identities celebrate users' differences and promote optimized teamwork by helping staff better understand their colleagues. This feature was combined with more traditional badges that recognize training, development, and individual achievements, adding to what users can learn about colleagues through their intranet profile. 

"I’ve been sad to see the Persona animal types fall into the background over the years. The intranet has really helped to bring them back into our attention. Knowing what animal we all are really helps us get to know each other better, and bring us closer together as a team!"

The Specialist Works Employee
TSW profile badges

Micron optimizes onboarding with interactive games  

Micron's communications team decided that an interactive game hosted on their intranet would be the perfect way to honor the enterprise's 40th anniversary. The game was devised to drive engagement with the platform while also celebrating the company’s successes. Nearly 12,000 users participated with a 60% retention rate, which led to a 50% increase in platform engagement. As a result of these efforts, Micron earned top honors at the Ragan Intranet Awards.

"Not only did engagement levels spike for the duration of the game, particularly with traditionally hard-to-reach employees, we now see more people visiting areas of the site that were previously virtually un-used. It's been a revelation!"

Bill Klein - Internal Communications Program Manager

Want to earn top scores for employee engagement at your enterprise? 

Discover how a modern digital workplace can power employee engagement at your enterprise. Reach out to our digital workplace experts today.

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