Gamification: Are You Upwardly Mobile?


Regardless of where you stand in the stream, technology pervades the world around you, as well as the business you do.

Many of you are probably aware that you can see reviews of businesses on Google Maps, and that these are the result of users adding content and describing their experiences. You may also be aware that users can also update and/or edit information about a location or even add it if it doesn’t exist.

As consumers and critics, we are catered to with technologies to a previously unconsidered extent, but a recent trip with my family made me realize just how much those technologies apply to the ever-changing and competitive talent market as well.

Data, Service and Status

While travelling in Thailand, our family found these reviews extremely useful in deciding where to eat, visit, and stay; when faced with an unanticipated travel emergency, reviews even highly influenced our hospital choice. ‘Local Guides’ are users that contribute on a regular basis, and Google Maps incentivizes these users with badges, leader board notifications, and the ability to see exactly how many people have viewed their pictures and read their reviews.

It is this game-like experience that motivates people to post more photos and reviews, and to level-up as Local Guides—“My name is Howie, and I am a level 5 local guide…and I’m only 247 points away from level 6.”

Gamification Driving Results

The term gamification was created by Nick Pelling in 2002, but wasn’t used widely until 2010. I think most of us now recognize the term, and understand it to be when the principles of game design (leveling up, leader boards, badges) are applied outside of the gaming environment to drive certain behavioural outcomes.

For example, Duolingo, one of the more prolific language-learning apps, uses gamification to break the daunting task of learning a language into small, bite size pieces. Incentives are provided to keep the Duolingo user interested and engaged within the app, ultimately resulting in improved language skills.

Getting HR Into The Game

More and more organizations are realizing the potential of using gamification for a variety of purposes, from on-boarding to staff training and development, and are re-writing corporate training programs with these principles in mind.

With these needs comes the demand for HR practitioners who have an expertise in this area. As such, we are starting to see this term used in job descriptions more and more, with companies looking for learning and development experts to design and develop digital learning solutions for the modern learner using augmented/virtual reality and the principles of gamification. When positions like these move from the hidden job market to Indeed and LinkedIn, it’s a sign that gamification is here to stay.

Play With Purpose Linked to Profit

Gamifying elements of the 9-to-5 slog contributes to a more engaged workforce, as well as building essential skills. Being upwardly mobile in today’s workforce means continuing to expose ourselves to in-demand skills—one of the more important ones being our digital fluency.

Understanding how a mobile phone works, beyond basic phone functions, is one aspect of this fluency. By embracing the concept of gamification, your organization is not only improving employee engagement but also keeping their skills sharp.

3 Reasons to Get Gamified at Work

Here are three ways to use gamification to improve various aspects of your workplace:

  1. Teambuilding: Gamification provides team building opportunities in a few ways. Perhaps the easiest and least expensive to implement is encouraging employees to talk about and share their experiences on non-work related apps that relate to corporate goals and values. For example, providing employees a structured way to share weekend workouts and Grouse Grind segment times using Strava, a social fitness network, promotes a healthy lifestyle and creates workplace conversations about positive health choices. For organizations with a focus on tourism and travel, promoting apps like Google Maps and encouraging employees to share their profiles and travel experiences can build a deeper understanding of who our co-workers are and what motivates them.
  2. Learning and Development: More and more case studies exist showcasing how global companies like Deloitte, Google, and Microsoft have gamified certain aspects of their learning and development plans. For example, to better train their sales force to deal with complex customer questions, SAP built and introduced an application called “Road Warrior”. Using badges, progress bars, and leader boards, sales representatives became better prepared and more able to deal with customer queries by becoming masters of SAP product knowledge. This resulted in improved sales team knowledge and confidence, and ultimately increased sales. For those organizations without an internal app development team, an easy plug and play solution is Atrivity, which enables employees to learn and develop work-related knowledge faster and more efficiently through mobile phone game play. Since inception, companies have used Atrivity to increase knowledge retention by posing over 100 million questions to thousands of employees worldwide.
  3. Talent Management: Could you imaging playing a game and having to wait a year to find out how you did, or what your score was? 7Geese is a Vancouver startup that has applied the principles of gamification to performance reviews and other elements of talent management. Instead of waiting for an annual performance review, employees are given immediate feedback from co-workers and supervisors on their performance. Research suggests that employees who feel appreciated and are recognized for their contributions, not just big wins, are more likely to stay engaged as employees, which positively contributes to retention.

Game On (or Over)

There are many ways to apply the principles of gamification in the workplace without gamifying your entire corporate talent management strategy. Importantly, more and more employees expect elements of gamification in the workplace, as they are surrounded by them outside of work. By not embracing these principles and practices, you set your organization apart from the competition…in the wrong way.



Howie Outerbridge is vice president with LoganHR, a full-service career transition, compensation and talent management firm and member of VF Career Management.

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