How Fun & Gamification In The Workplace Fosters Employee Development

In our Team Building Saves the World podcast episode Keeping Employee Engagement Fun, we spoke with guest Stephen Baer, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of The Game Agency, and an expert in game-based training strategies and solutions. Baer shares the importance of having fun in the workplace, a management strategy known as “gamification”.  

Gamification incorporates techniques typically used in games to motivate behavior (ie. point scoring and competition). By encouraging employees to have fun, businesses can increase learning retention, employee engagement, and performance at higher levels. Recent reports reveal that productivity can increase up to 50% when companies incorporate gamification in the workplace. Gamification can also increase employee engagement by 60% which, according to surveys conducted by Gallup, can decrease employee turnover up to 67%.  

Passive Learning Versus Active Learning for Adults 

Baer explains that fostering employee development and motivating employees comes down to passive learning versus active learning. Passive learning relies on delivery and absorption of information, while active learning prompts the learner to engage, apply the knowledge and reflect. Baer describes, “if you’re going to sit there and watch a video, or you’re going to read some content, a lot of it’s going to pass right past you, right? But if you are playing a game, you’re going to engage with the information and you’re going to retain the information.” This promotes focus and repetition, two critical elements to learning, without the employee feeling a tedious strain of going through tasks repeatedly.  

In fact, reports show that 49% of employees get bored with training that is not gamified, and 83% of employees are more motivated at work with gamified training. When something is fun, a task or training transforms from something the employee “has” to do, into something they “want” to do, motivating them to want to learn and do more. Other studies show that an employee’s ability to learn new skills increases by 40% when their work is fun. 

Fostering Employee Development Through Gamification 

Gamification at work can also help managers develop their team’s strengths and soft skills. During a game, formalities fade and people relax, allowing managers an unfiltered view of employees’ natural abilities to process information, strategize, and interact with peers. Baer explains that “it’s not just about what they know. It’s how they behave. So once you’re able to take the combination of those two things, you can really optimize your workforce.” For example, in an escape room game, you may see an employee’s strategic thinking shine, or in a team competition, an entry-level worker may demonstrate extraordinary leadership skills. 

7 Ways To Incorporate Fun & Gamification in the Workplace 

1. Offer Incentives 

Assign points or badges for completing certain trainings, with a reward once each employee accumulates a specified number of points. You should also consider using rewards or incentives to encourage employees to complete tasks on time and more efficiently.   

2. Team Building Activities 

Go out for lunch as a team or strengthen relationships and improve communication with a team building activity. A 5-minute icebreaker at the beginning of a team meeting is no longer enough to get your team to bond and collaborate. Regularly scheduled team building events are a fun and effective way to bring your team together, without them even realizing it is happening! 

3. Recognition 

Take time to acknowledge your team member’s successes and achievements to the overall team or your entire organization. Determine what is best for your team based on team structure, opportunities, and what the recognition is for.  

4. Friendly Competition 

Determine an objective that everyone on the team can work towards and create a leaderboard – whether it is top sales for the month, most 5-star reviews, or the quarter’s most successful ad campaign. Get creative! 

5. Celebrate Together 

Social interaction and connections are two important pieces of the engagement puzzle. Offer time for socializing with seasonal or holiday celebrations. A team celebration does not need to be an extravagant undertaking. It can be as simple as decorating gingerbread houses together or showing off your trivia skills, and can easily be enjoyed from anywhere, whether your team is working in person or virtually.  

6. Give Feedback 

Feedback is an easy, immediate way to reward employees for a job well done. Additionally, constructive feedback will help an employee understand what they did well and learn how they can improve in the future.  

7. Take Breaks Throughout The Day 

Encourage people to take breaks away from their desks. If you are working in the office, set up a space they will want to spend short amounts of time in. Get some comfy chairs that they can sit in and chat with each other, or even get a few games that they can play when they need to blow off steam for a few minutes.  

If you are not working in the office, set up a weekly team lunch on Zoom, or encourage them to step away from their computer during the day for a walk, yoga, or something else they enjoy. 

For more information about gamification in the workplace, employee engagement, and other team building tips, check out the Team Building Saves the World podcast 

Elisha Bussiere

Team Contributor


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