Can gamification improve employee engagement?

Written by 
Ted Hewett


September 2021

It’s no secret that employee engagement can have a drastic impact on performance, productivity and staff retention. The challenge, however, is finding an employee engagement solution that is scalable, easy to implement and makes a strong return on investment. For many organisations, the solution can be found in gamification.

Gamification can be described as the process of introducing common game mechanics such as point scoring, missions, badges, and progress rewards, into a non-gaming environment. Let’s take a look and see if this idea holds up, how gamification works, and how it can be applied in an organisation.

How can digital gamification improve employee engagement?

In many ways, humans are hardwired to love games. We love the feeling of competence and success that comes from mastering a situation or strategy. We also cannot get enough of the feeling of altruism that comes with working together towards a goal. Of course, it’s usually quite easy to see why people enjoy playing The Sims, Candy Crush, Fortnite and Mario Kart, but how does this translate into the business world?

The solution lies in bringing the most fun and most rewarding elements of gaming into the workplace. And the workplace is an ideal environment because it already reflects some key elements of gaming, from completing tasks (missions) to earning rewards (salary, perks, and bonuses), and levelling up (promotions and new responsibilities). It even has the altruism element in the sense that you are working together as teams, helping to bring something useful and necessary to clients and customers. Ultimately, gamification allows an element of fun and entertainment to be introduced into the work environment, tapping into that sense of enjoyment we have while playing video games.

Digital technology is key to delivering successful gamification in the workplace. Whether it’s an online SaaS product or a mobile application, digital gamification creates an approach to employee engagement that can be scaled across an entire organisation. Take, for instance, how games have been scaled from single player to “massively multiplayer” thanks to the internet. As long as you have the resources, your gamification platform or program can accommodate as many participants as required, and often all you need is a single link to share with everyone in your organisation. This is just one example of how digital gamification can be customised to exact specifications in line with your industry or business goals. This means you don’t have to waste resources on a cookie-cutter training and skills development program. 

Customisation is a huge driver of gamification success, with custom app experiences allowing you to target specific audiences and departments with precision. Being able to do this helps to tailor training to exactly what your customers, employees, and business requires, helping to update training, engage participants for feedback, and increase satisfaction from the experience.

Much like video games, workplace gamification solutions can also offer results in real-time. For example, upon completing a task or an assessment, users can be presented with a score or even a leaderboard that shows who the ‘top player’ is in an organisation. Several studies have shown that this can have a great impact on employee engagement. For instance, 79% of people want immediate feedback in the workplace, and 41% of younger hires prefer digital to face-to-face communications. Gamification can deliver both.

Effective examples of digital gamification for employee engagement

While it’s interesting to see the theory behind gamification, if you’re looking to make a business case for how it can boost employee engagement, you’ll likely want to discover some working examples. Here are some organisations that have taken on the challenge and are seeing promising results.


Industrial manufacturing giants Siemens embraced gamification by launching Plantville, an online gaming platform set in a Siemens plant. Players fill the role of plant manager, getting challenges and missions throughout the day as they try to keep the plant up and running. With goals for efficiency, productivity, and sustainability, the game worked to make training and development fun and rewarding. It helped develop critical skills and problem-solving abilities, entertained and engaged employees, and created instant feedback based on how the players were progressing, with points for good decisions.

UK Government Communications HQ

It’s great to see innovation and an element of fun in government, and the UK GCHQ is a great example. Their site,, puts you in the hot seat as an intelligence agent, tasking you with cracking a code. It’s a clever element of their recruitment process, both inspiring people to test their code-cracking abilities as an analyst or agent, and helping to find people who have what it takes to take on this role in real life. It’s a fun and interactive way to sift through applicants and discover whether or not candidates would be a good fit in the organisation.


This big data company needed to find new coders and decided to seek out not only proven professionals but also amateur developers. They decided to create a coding-based first-person fighter environment where candidates went head to head. This helped them find the right talent to move forward with their interview process, engaging new and existing employees in an entertaining event that not only helped recruitment and onboarding but also allowed current employees to socialise and bond.


To help employees and contractors develop critical social media skills, Cisco gamified their 46 training programs to make them more engaging and more effective. With three levels of certification to aim for and categories for different departments and teams, they created a sense of competition and collaboration. This drove a surge in employee engagement, with over 13,000 courses completed and 650 employees certified in 2015 alone.

Actionable gamification ideas for employee engagement

Reading the theory is only the start - now it’s time to see how gamification can be practically and effectively applied in the workplace. Let’s take a look at how it can be used for enhanced training, efficient onboarding and improved job satisfaction.

Employee onboarding and retention 

Points-based quizzes or trivia can help quantify employee learning and show areas where further training is needed. This can be used in the onboarding process to help new hires get to know their team, bond with co-workers, introduce them to your company culture, and fill in skills gaps so that they fit in faster. By helping new employees settle in faster, you don’t just help them get up to speed more quickly, you also help reduce high rates of turnover. That’s because a positive and engaging onboarding experience results in a 69% higher likelihood of staying at the company.

Enhancing skills development and productivity

The more fun you’re having, the less it feels like work! On the subject of gamification, 80% of people said they’d learn more productively through games than traditional training - and an improved skillset ultimately leads to innovative, productive teams. At Deloitte, using gamified experiences to train staff resulted in courses taking 50% less time to complete, so you’re not only getting better skills, you’re getting them faster too. Gamification can introduce rewards for meeting set KPIs, whether they’re digital rewards like points and badges, or material rewards like vouchers or salary bonuses.

Knowledge sharing 

Gamification can be used to create a culture of mentoring, enhancing collaboration amongst teams and staff members with varying skills and experience. Cross-functional teams are essential for coordination and efficiency, but it’s an area that many organisations struggle with

Gamification creates a standardised system for knowledge-sharing while incentivising teams to work together, helping customer service better understand technical teams, or helping HR teams better understand sales. This is about bringing teams together to form cohesive teams. This could be in the form of hosting question and answer boards, using a workplace culture app, publishing blogs, or fulfilling missions for rewards.

Doing good together

Working together to achieve something altruistic is a great opportunity for both gamification and engagement. An employee engagement app can drive changes in the workplace based on a shared project that everyone is invested in. For example, it can be centred around green initiatives and include a rewards system for recycling and saving energy. It can also be directly linked to charitable giving, motivating teams and individuals to compete against one another to train for a 5km fun run, share charitable events on social media, or collect donations.

Gamification may sound intimidating or difficult to introduce into a formal business environment, but the key is in having the right partner deliver your solution. Totem offers digital solutions for creating a more engaged, more productive, and more enjoyable workplace, and we have the results to prove it

Through our team engagement app, we help you take on the challenges of today’s business environment, putting you in touch with your employees, encouraging engagement, and driving performance through technology. Get started for FREE today!

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