Getting the most from a business eventually boils down to getting the best from its greatest resource – people. 

Gamification has become a powerful tool for workplaces looking to motivate employees, and plays on the psychology that drives human engagement, using mechanics from games to encourage people to change behaviour in non-game environments. 

One of Australia’s leading experts in gamification is PentaQuest Co-founder and Lead Gamification Designer Kerstin Oberprieler, who works with companies to develop new and innovative gamification solutions. 

Gamification is a process that is inherently focused on the user and his or her ideal experience for engagement, performance and fun. Equally, it is about addressing the need of the business and working to achieve objectives.

“Employees today don’t just want a nine-to-five job to pay the bills,” Ms Oberprieler said.

“People want flexibility and a sense of meaning from their work; they expect their workplace to be modern and technologically enabled. A global workforce study showed less than one third of employees are meaningfully engaged with their work, which is a significant number.”

Ms Oberprieler consults with many leading Australian and international organisations to address cultural and performance challenges through designing a gamified approach that draws on psychology, behavioural economics, design thinking and complex systems.

“Gamification comes in many different shapes and sizes and can be applied to a huge variety of challenges, making it suitable for a range of organisations,” Ms Oberprieler said. 

“It is important to know gamification might not be the right solution for every problem or workplace.”

Get your head in the game

Gamification can be a powerful ally when implemented in the right way for the right people. If the system is implemented poorly, people will become disengaged and not want to play.

“Our solutions have included conceptual designs, analogue solutions, mobile applications and even fully integrated platforms. Essentially, it’s a more playful and human-centred approach to the workplace, rather than looking at people as numbers who just spit out profits,” Ms Oberprieler said.

“You might be surprised that even quite traditional and conservative companies are using gamification. We do a lot of work in Canberra with government agencies, which are usually thought to be reasonably conservative.”

Ms Oberprieler is currently working with the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science to develop a gamification platform that will provide daily, weekly and monthly activities for employees in a gamified format. The department opted for a professional-looking cloud-based platform, known as Rev. 

“Rev is a platform that builds high performing employees through gamified professional development activities,” she said.

“The browser-based application lets employees access and log professional development activities 
like completing learning and development courses and giving and receiving performance feedback.

“A proof of concept was piloted in late 2017, which was highly successful. We are now working with the department 
to implement Rev across the organisation.”

All work and no play

One of the common misconceptions associated with gamification stems from its name – people assume it must be game-like and is therefore inappropriate for the workplace. 

“Unfortunately, people think about playing Angry Birds at work or awkward team building activities, when really it is neither of those,” Ms Oberprieler said.

Another misconception associated with gamification is it equals competition, which is incorrect, according to Ms Oberprieler. 

“We work with organisations that want to create a positive team environment by building a culture of trust, collaboration and innovation,” she said. 

“We believe competition doesn’t lend itself well to building that environment.”

Gamification is an innovative and refined approach that helps companies address important areas of employee engagement.

“You are going to see gamification a lot more in the future,” Ms Oberprieler said. “It is already being used in products and companies, but people don’t realise it is gamification. 

“If organisations demonstrate top-down control or don’t adapt to a more flexible work environment, I think employees will continue to become disengaged. 

“Gamification is a positive approach helping workers engage by rewarding them for their work. 
It challenges people to make work environments more enjoyable by adding in a bit of celebration and appreciation when certain business goals are met.”

Penelope Thomas is a Journalist at Seven West and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.