“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between their work and their play; their labor and their leisure; their mind and their body; their education and their recreation. They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence through whatever they are doing, and leave others to determine whether they are working or playing. To themselves, they always appear to be doing both.”


Over the past few years gamification has entered the social technology scene as a game changing opportunity for employers to shift their workplace dynamic.  With the ability to implement these techniques through rewards-based activities, gamification has proven a successful development in promoting healthy competition, team building, and skill development among employees. However, with this change in motivational methodology raises the following concern:


As gamification continues to grow as a method for engaging employees in the workplace,

will workers adapt to expecting external incentives instead of intrinsic motivation?


The Shifting Space


It cannot be ignored that employee engagement and managerial relationships are a concern in the office.  According to a national study nearly 75% of employees are not fully engaged (i.e. productive), and the top factor cited for this was an employee’s relationship with their immediate supervisor (Forbes).  Enter gamification as a solution.   By implementing incentives to change behaviors, managers believe they can improve upon their relationship with their employees, and the employees’ engagement with each other.  Implementing gaming mechanics such as badges and leader boards incite what many believe to be healthy competition, and can help incentivize employees to meet deadlines as well.  Because gamification makes the process fun and engaging, employees are more willing to accomplish tasks, and are more readily learning skill sets in training as well.


Gamification is acting as a behavior modifier in the workplace, shifting both the way work is being perceived, but also changing the expectations of what employees should receive upon task completion.  Whereas generally one would expect an employee to assume that they should be successful at the job they were hired for, and have motivation to succeed, now the rewards are much more incentive based.  While external motivation has clearly always existed through developments such as pay raises, promotions, etc. now that mentality of action yields reward has entered the day-to-day space, minimizing larger accomplishments and externalizing all motivation.  The satisfaction of a job well done is no longer just that, but is accompanied with some badge or point earning.


Shouldn’t employees work hard because they want to excel, (and hopefully because they enjoy the line of work they are in) not because they want to earn a couple extra points?  While gamification is increasing employee engagement, will it change the face of ambition in the workplace?  It seems to create a mentality of short-term goals and rewards instead of looking at the larger picture and a more long-term view of success within a company.


Game Not Quite Over For Gamification


While gamification may be playing with the psychology of the work space, it seems that if companies have a way to balance the internal and external motivation factors gamification can in fact be an asset.  It has proven successful on more than one occasion and across multiple industries.   A Colorado restaurant saw an ROI of 66.2% from their implemented incentive program, and it is anticipated that “by 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations” (Forbes).  Ultimately each company needs to tailor its gamification method based on the nature of the industry as well as its individual workplace environment.  While companies should keep in mind the negative effects that gamification may have on intrinsic motivational factors for employees, at the end of the day if results are improving, from a business objectives standpoint, it seems that gamification will continue to have a space in the workplace.


By Jessica Spar