13 August, 2020

Gamification: How to Match your Organizational Goals to an Employee’s Personal Goals

As human beings, we enjoy the excitement and sheer gratification that comes from playing games- be it board games with family or virtual contests with colleagues. The idea of participating in a competition where it’s possible for us to win stimulates us more than simply going through a mundane office workday. This knowledge can be leveraged by HR leaders to implement elements of gamification in their total rewards program and engagement strategy. Gamification of both the recognitions process and the sales incentives process ensures higher adoptability of the platforms by employees and greater employee motivation levels.

Gamification in behavioral economics has been used across industries to encourage favorable behaviors. These range from airline loyalty programs to fitness applications. Brands across the world already use gamification to increase user engagement. On a broad level, gamification is a method of creating milestones or levels of achievement, as a result of breaking down major goals into smaller achievable outcomes.

In our use case, employees are rewarded upon the completion of each milestone, which motivates them to work towards the ultimate goal without directly controlling their actions. This motivation is based on two theories in behavioral economics, namely:

  1. Goal Setting Theory
  2. Goal Gradient Theory

Goal Setting Theory

This theory extrapolates the impact of well-defined, challenging yet achievable goals in improving performance. This is the secret success formula of games like Pokemon Go where people have spent thousands of hours playing online. Such games are usually characterized by clear rules, instant feedback, frequent rewards and exciting end-goals. These very attributes are crucial to the design of a successful gamified incentive platform for employees. Translating this theory into application in the workplace means that recognition categories in an organization are clearly defined and targets for sales teams are well established. Moreover, employees should feel empowered to choose their ideal redemption options.

Goal Gradient Theory

The Goal Gradient theory, simply put, says that the closer people are to their goals, the harder they work to achieve them. This is clear in the ‘last-lap’ run for racers and the last minute rush we experience right before our work deadlines! Therefore, having many small, short-term goals tend to inspire action more than one major long-term goal. This is a core principle applied in R&R programs, which means that the sooner and more frequently people are rewarded for their actions, the better. For employees, this could mean the public appreciation of top recognition receivers in a weekly broadcast or via a leaderboard feature on a robust employee recognition software. For sales teams, the platform design should offer regular notifications on their performance, distance from the goal set and their relative performance to their peers.

employee rewards and recognition

There are many ways organizations can implement these gamification techniques for optimizing their employee engagement program. A points-based reward system based on the organization’s core values and performance metrics can be beneficial in this regard. However, it is important to remember that rewards need not be monetary or involve large sums of money. The key is to give a frequent positive psychological boost, either through badges, levels or titles, thus acknowledging the work and effort put in by employees, every step of the way. The ultimate aim is to infuse a spirit of healthy competition and get excited about attaining the organization’s larger goals and mission.