Get In The Game: Unleash Winning Performance


By Steven Green

Gamification has everyone talking. This year it will also have 20% of Global 2000 organizations playing, and by 2014 this number is expected to rise to 70%.1 Surprisingly, this is good for business.

In a perfect world employees would be committed to their organization’s goals and perform to the best of their abilities every day. The reality is that although most start out motivated, too often the spring in their step ceases. According to Gallup, a staggering 71% of employees are not engaged.2 This means that the majority of the workforce is simply putting in the hours, caring little about their employer’s overall performance. Not only does an organization’s culture suffer from this lack of engagement, so does their bottom line.

Engagement is the organizational grail. With engagement, everything else – including motivation and progress – falls into place. It’s what so many companies strive for, and most struggle with. Game designers have it figured out. Already 5.93 million years of total time has been spent playing World of Warcraft.3 Users of Angry Birds have spent 200 million minutes each day – 16 years every hour – playing.4 In 2011 there were 60 million Farmville players worldwide.5 These are sit up and take notice levels of engagement, and the enterprise is paying attention.

Mix Work With Play And Everyone Wins
Dell, a 2012 Fortune 500 company, is using gamification. So is IBM. Not only does the use of gaming principles help their employees stay connected, it has also lowered the cost of IBM’s internal projects. One example: the translation of product manuals, for which millions of dollars were spent. By involving their 400,000 global employees and awarding points to those who contributed to the translation efforts, IBM has seen significant savings.6 Siemens uses Plantville, a computer game that simulates the running of a manufacturing facility. This fosters greater problem solving and efficiency among their workforce, while improving product knowledge.

“Employees are sometimes siloed in their business units and don’t see the breadth and depth of our portfolio,” explains Tom Varney, head of marketing communications at Siemens Industry.7

For these companies, and others, gamification is more than a recent buzzword. It’s an opportunity for improved employee engagement, talent development, and business performance.

Celebrate The Small Wins, Get Big Results
Research has continuously shown that the best way to motivate employees is to recognize their achievements. Despite this it remains an underutilized tool. Successful computer games align personal passion and commitment to task completion. Well-designed games recognize progress, encouraging players to continue to engage and be inspired to meet the next challenge. This is key for the enterprise.

From badges and points, to leaderboards and levels, there are many ways to introduce game elements to the workplace. But gamification is much more than play. For measurable results it must provide:

Social recognition. Psychologist Abraham Maslow recognized this as a fundamental human need over 70 years ago, as seen in his paper, A Theory of Human Motivation. He concluded that esteem / appreciation / praise / respect are the necessary motivational factors in striving for growth.8 Game designers get this. Organizations must embrace it.

Performance feedback. An employee views his or her work as meaningful if there is a sense that progress is being made. They need to know where they stand, what they are doing right, and where they can make improvement. Yearly reviews are not enough. Real-time feedback is key. Gamification can deliver this by acknowledging the small everyday wins.

Two-way dialogue. Conversation fuels participation. When you give people the opportunity to declare opinions and compare with others, you connect them more deeply to your organization.

Personal legacy. Gamification recognizes achievements and encourages collaboration, creating a visible scorecard that builds an employee’s profile and reputation.

Applying game design in the workplace can transform the enterprise. But elements such as badges and levels are simply the outer shell. It’s social recognition, performance feedback, two-way dialogue, and personal legacy that, when integrated correctly, encourage engagement and open the door to measurable wins.

Download the full Get in the Game whitepaper.

Steven Green is the founder of TemboSocial (formerly PollStream), a leading provider of interactive engagement and community building solutions. Steven built TemboSocial with the intention of helping global companies to engage their customers and employees in measurable and meaningful two-way dialogue. Steven has a BA from McGill University in Montreal and a Social Work degree from York University in Toronto. Visit for more big ideas.

1 Gartner: (2011, November). Gartner Predicts Over 70 Percent of Global 2000 Organisations Will Have At Least One Gamified Application By 2014 [Electronic version, press release]. Retrieved January 17, 2012, from

 2 Blacksmith, N; Harter, J: (2011, October). Majority Of American Workers Not Engaged In Their Jobs [Electronic version]. Gallup Wellbeing, Retrieved January 17, 2012, from

 3 McGonigal, J: (2011, January). Be A Gamer, Save The World [Electronic version]. Wall Street Journal, Retrieved January 17, 2012, from

 4 Cheshire, T: (2011, March). In Depth: How Rovio Made Angry Birds A Winner (And What’s Next) [Electronic version]. Wired, Retrieved January 17, 2012, from

 5 Alderman, N: (2011, May). Get Down On The Farmville [Electronic version]. The Guardian, Retrieved January 15, 2012, from

6 Fidelman, M: (2011, July). Why IBM Represents The Future Of Social Business [Electronic version]. Business Insider, Retrieved May 14, 2012, from

 7 King, R: (2011, April). The Games Companies Play [Electronic version]. Bloomberg Businessweek, Retrieved May 14, 2012, from

 8 Maslow, A: (1943). A Theory Of Human Motivation [Electronic version]. Classics in the History of Psychology, Retrieved January 20, 2012, from

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