Gamification as an Engagement Tool in HR

In the present organizational retention context, firms are exploring newer ways and strategic ways of engaging, developing and retaining talent. Gamification is one such move in human resource management that has been showing results in achieving strategic objectives. Gamification is the process of game-thinking and game mechanics that helps users to engage and solve problems (Zichermann & Cunningham, 2011). The process of gamification utilizes an individual’s natural desires for competition, achievement, status, self-expression and closure when they face a real-life situation in the form of a game. Gamification serves that purpose in the form of scores, badges, rankings, levels, diagrammatic representation, etc. They clearly indicate the results of the behaviour being administered towards the achievement of a goal.  The results foster feedback and motivate the employee to add more accolades in the form of badges or levels cleared and achieve the set goals. In other words, gamification generates ways to align behaviour with organizational goals. In HRM, gamification strategies are getting widely used in recruitment, training, employee engagement and specifically more in the area of performance management. Gamification is becoming so very pertinent in managing organizations, that the foundations are laid down from management education days as well (Silva et al., 2020).

Gamification works because it provides a different outlook to the way people look at information. Instead of telling that the employee “meets expectations’ in his performance appraisal, in a gamified environment he is informed that he did not clear the 2nd level of the game. HR representatives attach rewards to each level so that his position is clearly evident in comparison to his other fellow colleagues, just like in a proper conventional game. A very serious and heavy feedback comes in the form of position in the game. These relative positions can be further re-directed to some forums from where it will be accessible to all that will in turn foster healthy competition towards the betterment of the organization.

Thus, gamification is changing the very DNA of the HR functions and its administration. The cases of using gamification are numerous and growing. It is applied in SAP to educate its employees on sustainability; in Unilever it is used for training, in Hays it is used to hire recruiters and in Deloitte for executive training program.

In today’s world where most of the employed population consists of young, energetic people with high risk-taking capabilities coupled with high aspirations of quickly moving up the ladder by achieving the best in a short span of time with meaningful opportunities, exciting projects and mission-oriented work, keeping them motivated and engaged has become a critical challenge for the HR fraternity. The psychogenic behaviour of today’s generation – also called Millennials or Generation Y- has also changed. They get bored very quickly and lose interest from anything that fails to excite them, – excitement being a prerequisite for them to remain stable and static at one place; eventually resulting in very low employee engagement towards organizational processes.

Recent studies on employee engagement levels by Gallup reveal that worldwide only 13% of the employees working for an organization are engaged. Employee engagement directly contributes to an organization’s profitability. Studies by Gallup also reveal that companies with a highly engaged workforce outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. (Mann and Harter, 2016). So the organizations are trying hard to keep up the engagement levels of their workforce and looking for ways to attract, engage, incentivize and retain them.

Gamification-using game-play like elements in a non-game activity or context- is trending nowadays across organizations, with a view that it will cater to help engagement levels among employees by improving user experience and user engagement. This has become a popular technique in a variety of contexts to motivate the new digital generation to engage in some of them, particularly targeted behaviours. Gamification is used in education for making learning fun, in marketing for encouraging prospective customers to interact with the brand and by companies for enhancing workplace efficiency, provide training, easy problem solving of employees and in retaining the top talent for the organization.

In HR, gamification finds its presence in recruitment, administration of employee benefits, activities related to health & wellness of the employees, and employee engagement. Gamification actually alters the framework in such a way that individuals get engaged with a problem, a set of data or situation in a different and usually in the most entertaining way. Gamification also helps get an insight about identifying and targeting talent pool. In general, the attributes like entrepreneurial spirit, quick and prompt decision-making and problem-solving attitude were determined based on answers given during interview questions but gamification offers the opportunity to simulate the working environment and help create better selection techniques in procuring best talent from the pool. For example, Marriott Hotels launched an app that will make candidates virtually perform hotel service tasks that will provide information about the way the candidate will approach the real work that will in turn help eliminate those candidates who will lack the desired patience and aptitude for the job.

Present-day performance management and performance appraisal utilize gamification.  Well, it may be a good question that in the –era of decreasing headcounts in organizations, how are employees going to stay tuned and how can using a video game in the office help improve employee performance and related to actual performance appraisal? To answer this very simply, gamification tries to fit the entire performance appraisal process in such a way that employees’ performances are easily deciphered through gamification. Using badges and accolades for a great team player works as a traditional pat on the back of the employee by his boss. And that actually works.

Looking at the core performance-related aspects of the job, gamification has entered in the form of having measurable goals – and encouraging goal linked specific behaviours. Inviting the boss to your wonderful product webinar you can actually make a pompous show of your goals and plans, products and services. Gamification also rests itself on winning techniques, i.e. rewarding small achievements at the workplace and celebrating successes. Gamification believes in continuous monitoring and understanding performance; improvements require being encouraged and set-backs and failures need to be carefully discouraged. Appreciative achievements through social sharing, parties, and social sites brings performers to the limelight and gamification dwells on this principle. With various kinds of games and fun-filled activities, employees get hooked to the positive and fun part of a performance review and their desires for accolades and badge unlocking steals the deal.

The fact is that gamification based performance evaluation provides employees with a joyful and fun experience, so it engages them more. It engages employees in their own to follow up as in tracking how well they are heading towards the finishing line in a race. So it encourages self-monitoring. A lot of emotions play significant roles in gamification, making gamification a more involved and committed way of employees’ looking at their performance.

Performance management and specifically performance evaluation based on gamification have been seen to yield results. Actually, just not for performance measurement and evaluation, other strategic aspects of HRM needs to engage in gamification more in order to get the best output and effectiveness of their employees. Organizations have to realize that gamification is gradually becoming popular and gaining momentum in HR practices and getting adopted as effective employee engagement and employee management tool. It is also true that research in gamification needs to focus on different gamification designs (Morschheuser et al. (2018). However, it should never be confused with just games without any strategic intent. Game design, rules, policies, objectives, engaging strategic rewards and everything related to gamification in HR has to be developed with the utmost care and design thinking so that it can augment effectiveness and efficiency in HR functions.

  1. Mann, A., & Harter, J. (2016). The worldwide employee engagement crisis. Gallup Business Journal7, 1-5.
  2. Morschheuser, B., Hamari, J., Maedche, A. (2018). Cooperation or Competition – When do people contribute more? A field experiment on the gamification of crowdsourcing. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (2018), DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2018.10.001.
  3. Silva, R., Rodrigues, R., & Leal, C. (2020). Gamification in management education-A literature mapping. Education and Information Technologies, 25(3), 1803-1835
  4. Zichermann, G. & Cunningham, C. (2011). Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps, [e-book], O’Reilly Media, Available at Google Books: [Accessed 22 January 2016]

1. Dr. Tanusree Chakraborty
Associate Professor, Rajalakshmi School of Business, Chennai
Email –