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3 gamification strategies in elearning to boost employee engagement

8 de November de 2022
13 min

Gamification in the workplace can be a double-edged sword.

On the less favorable side of that weapon, a gamification campaign for employees of a Disneyland Resort Hotel resulted in workers not taking bathroom breaks and disparagingly calling it “the electronic whip.”
Such results contradict the experience of Samsung, which reduced training costs by 40% and increased sales of its premium devices by 64% when they employed gamification in their training strategy.
Samsung’s success and Disney’s drastic failure raises an important question: What is the right approach to gamification in elearning in organizations?

What exactly is gamification in the workplace?

Workplace gamification is the science of accessing the intrinsic motivators of the employee experience that drive behavior change, engagement and sustained productivity in a corporate environment.
As explained in the next section, corporate gamification is not about simply incorporating video game mechanics into the workplace. It is about identifying challenges within the company that can best be solved through recognition and reward systems to drive behavioral changes in employees.

Gamification to improve employee engagement: why most fail

When using gamification in the workplace, transformative and sustained change happens when the underlying strategy focuses on solving pressing problems and critical aspects of the employee experience. Corporate gamification should:
Develop employee skills: In addition to mandatory compliance training, gamification can help employees hone their skills or learn the skills they need to address challenges within the company and progress professionally.

Instill important habits: If employees possess the knowledge to solve a problem or improve an aspect of the business, but do not apply it, providing more information will not solve anything, as the problem is behavioral.

In this case, gamification can reinforce behaviors and habits that benefit the company by rewarding top performers and (in some cases) providing real-time feedback to praise effective performance management.
Promote a culture of collaboration: Are subject matter experts and employees in general recognized for helping team members and sharing their knowledge?

Gamifying the process of knowledge sharing by recognized experts with tools such as ratings, ranking lists and corporate spaces dedicated to improving collaboration reduces learning curves and facilitates the identification of top performers.

Addressing the fundamental drivers of employee performance (we call it talent experience) means you are recognizing, rewarding and paying attention to the long-term motivators of employee engagement while solving business problems.

Blinded by the misconception that workplace gamification is about making things “fun,” many forget the fundamentals of talent experience and fail to properly tailor initiatives based on their particular workplace.

This was the mistake made by pharmaceutical software company Omnicare. In order to reduce support wait times, they gamified customer service procedures by deploying a leaderboard for employees and offering cash incentives for employees who responded quickly.
The well-intentioned strategy backfired; staff saw the initiative as a “Big Brother” trying to keep tabs on them, and support wait times – as well as employee turnover – increased.

Gamification in the workplace fails because organizations:

Employ short-term initiatives that offer temporary motivators in engagement (would employees really value a $5 gift card or would they prefer a certificate that demonstrates their expertise)?

They apply a generic method that is inappropriate for their workplace (e.g., Omnicare used a Retail-style gamification instead of adapting it to their situation with specialized knowledge workers).

They do not make employees feel valued, and in extreme cases, suspicions of micromanagement arise.

Focus on the medium (gamification) rather than diagnosing the root cause of the problem.

3 gamification strategies that work

Now that you know when to use (or avoid) gamification, let’s explore strategies and examples of workplace gamification that will help you improve employee engagement.

Gamification to train employees

On-the-job training is generally focused on overcoming challenges, whether it’s mastering a new skill, being an expert in a new product line, understanding the laws of your market, or something else entirely.
Context is key when implementing gamification for employee training. It must make sense within the course, activity or topic. Ideally, gamification elements should enhance the narrative and the journey through your course.
For example, when Amazon launched its Alexa Academy to enhance the experience around its core products (Echo, Alexa and Kindle), it employed completion-based badges to reward learners and give them expert status.
Students who became experts in Fire TV for customers would unlock new areas on the site and enter a competition.

2. Gamification to improve job-specific performance

Another way to use gamification to improve engagement is to train in job-specific competencies that benefit the company and improve employee performance.

For example, let’s say your goal is to improve customer service and streamline the onboarding of a diverse and dynamic workforce. Your gamification efforts should focus on cultivating stronger service skills and rewarding behaviors and results that exhibit great customer service.

This is exactly what Glovo did by adapting to the accelerated digitization generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the large amount of work involved in training in twelve languages, in 20 hubs, in different markets, they were looking for a way to encourage rapid adoption of the training.

Glovo’ s training team together with Actua Solutions implemented in its LMS Totara Learn (called Evolve), a gamification solution focused on offering points called “Glovits” to the agents. Depending on their performance and the results of their Knowledge Tests, these agents receive a different number of Glovits that they can exchange for rewards in an online store customized for each country.

This gamification method, together with a wide range of e-learning courses, has obtained a satisfaction rate of 4.5/5. In addition, it has generated a great deal of interest in achieving higher scores motivating rapid adoption of the training and better customer service.


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Gamification to promote a culture of collaboration.

When Mitchells & Butlers, the brand of more than 1,700 pubs, cultivated a collaborative environment, it immediately enhanced engagement. As a result, compliance rates reached 89 % and food quality scores increased by 5 % overall.
Gamification can help forge a collaborative culture with a training experience platform by recognizing and rewarding employees for sharing knowledge, coaching and helping each other.
From new employees to experienced senior managers, an LXP connects people with similar needs – whether by role, location, seniority or skill set.

Not only will this help your staff share knowledge, collaborate on projects from a central digital workspace and communicate with colleagues, but it also opens up the opportunity for developing employees to be mentored by senior experts.
Experts can refine training assets from various channels to create customized development plans and answer questions from trainees – who can comment on and rate content created by others.
This offers employees a dedicated place to develop their skills, discuss their ideas with colleagues and solve problems together in an interesting and interconnected way.

Do you really need gamification? Ask these 5 questions to find out

To avoid embarking on a workplace gamification campaign that is misguided, or even worse, wasting resources on gamification when it is the last thing your staff needs, develop a solid use case and a structured process for implementing it.
The key here is to have a solid hypothesis for the behavior change you want to inspire (e.g., employees should fill out customer relationship management data) and the outcome it generates (e.g., improve lead evaluations to reduce acquisition costs).
This allows you to determine which gamification tactics and mechanics to implement (e.g., a leaderboard that rewards employees for entering accurate data into the customer relationship management system).
As with all methods of employee engagement, the impact gamification will have depends on its implementation. Saying “I want to gamify xyz” and shoehorn it in wherever you can is the wrong approach – and often turns “games” into unnecessary distractions.

1. What is the challenge or opportunity?

Each type of workplace challenge requires different solutions.
Corporate gamification revolves around overcoming challenges or improving processes. You should know what these challenges and opportunities are, because gamification is not the answer to every bottleneck or challenge your staff faces.
For example, if production rates are reduced because users are unable to solve technical problems on an assembly line, the solution will be a simple checklist or training course; there is no need to “foster friendly competition” with complicated league tables.
However, if the cause of impeded production is that employees are not entering the correct dimensions into a system, it makes sense to introduce a scoring system for data entry (and will also allow you to measure the correlation between data entry and production rates).

2. How would you define a successful campaign?

Once you have identified what you want to improve and are certain that gamification is the right choice, visualize what success will look like with your team.
Continuing with the previous example of introducing a scoring system that rates the quality of data entered by employees, success could be as follows:
● Improved production rates
● Fewer errors on the assembly line.
● Less total downtime

3. How will you implement the campaign?

Gamification can add an additional level of manual intervention by managers or administrators. Therefore, you must identify whether your systems and workflows allow automatic tracking, or whether you will need to create new processes.

Who is the target audience?

Depending on their job functions and collective attitude, each department will be motivated (or demotivated) by different challenges. Therefore, it is vital to know your audience and tailor your gamification campaign around it.
This makes the difference between employees feeling demotivated by being micromanaged or feeling extremely empowered by a sense of autonomy.

5. Ask yourself, Is this a good idea?

Perhaps the most important question on your list should be: Is this a good idea?
Gamification will only be one part of your overall employee engagement strategy, so the key is to make sure it is able to make a difference.

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Original text: Totara