Gamification of Smart Workplaces

This article first appeared on Linkedin Pulse

Does gamification of the workplace mean installing PlayStations in every meeting room with a display or projector? Does it mean that your agile hot desks will be replaced by arcade machines? No - it just means bringing the best parts of games to the workplace to create a better employee experience. 

An International Team of Researchers describe Gamification as an “informal umbrella term for the use of video game elements in non-gaming systems to improve user experience (UX) and user engagement.” in their 2011 conference paper on the subject. 

When you think of games, and especially video games, it’s easy to think of someone locked in a basement who hasn’t left their house in weeks. Although this may be the case for some people, the reality is that the global esports industry valuation is set to top US$1 Billion in 2019 (source) and Millennials will make up the largest percentage of the global workforce by 2025. (source)

Additionally, in a recent article PwC notes that “By adapting corporate culture to accommodate the Millennial mindset, businesses can attract new talent and gain a competitive edge.”

So what does all this mean for ACA?

Our clients don’t choose to work with ACAEngine to roll out a Smart Workplace Solution just because it helps them to attract and retain millennial talent in the workplace, but it is something that we’re hearing consistently in consultative meetings with our clients. However, one of the biggest reasons for implementing Smart Workplace technology is to improve the employee experience for all employees, and to empower employees to focus on doing what they do best, by allowing the technology within the built environment to work with, not against, employees. 


At its core, gamification increases user engagement and in the workplace this can be used to foster employee co-creation and get buy-in from end users. Gamification takes the ethos of games - things like competition, playfulness and transparent rewards, and applying these positive attributes of gamification in the workplace allows organisations to make the most of the “fun” that other organisations try to manufacture with a token ping pong table in the corner. 

Many of our key clients are acting on the positive research into gamification and investigating aspects of their smart workplace which would benefit from some game elements. We’ve been working with our partners and clients to make sure that they’re not just adding token elements without the proper planning or strategy - we’re working to make sure that its a genuine part of the organisation and user experience within the platform. 

For example- one of our clients wanted to familiarise their end users with ACAEngine’s People Finding features within their organisation’s app. One strategy for this is to just send out an email telling their staff about the feature, but the better strategy is to weave this education into a gamified experience. We worked with them to create an Easter Egg Hunt within their smart workplace solution, that used their wifi-enabled user location tracking. Instead of the user interface just showing a person’s name on the map - random people throughout the day were ‘Easter Bunnies’ and there were prizes awarded for employees who won the Easter Egg Hunt. This was really successful in communicating a key feature of the client's new Smart Workplace App using ACAEngine, and it encouraged end users to get their hands dirty and really engage with this feature, rather than just reading about it in a company memo.

A different example of gamification comes from another one of our international clients who wanted a way to add game-like tokens within their platform to reward good behaviour at scale. Managers and coworkers can reward each other with in-app-tokens which can be redeemed within the precinct, and the token rewards are also posted within the platform to recognise and publicise great work within the company, instead of keeping praise confined to direct conversations or emails.  


However, like any new concepts in organisational behaviour or technology, rolling out gamification in the workplace has the ability to go pear shaped. A big reason for this occurring is if organisations aren’t acting in the best interests of their employees, or within their own strategic goals or frameworks. Once again, this comes back to setting smart goals and making informed decisions that take into account your organisation, its people and its culture. 

Have you ever been to a presentation or seminar that has some really disingenuous or forced audience engagement activity that just doesn’t hit the mark with anyone in the room, and instead of listening to anyone in the room the leader just steamrolls again and ends up tanking the activity and presentation completely? This is what poorly executed gamification is like, except everyone is now surrounded by it all the time in their workplace and not for a 2 hour seminar. 

So how can we get past the limitations and make the most of the opportunities?

After conducting a thorough literature review, Perryer, Celestine, Scott-Ladd and Leighton concluded that “Gamification is not suited to every context and situation, but does have tremendous potential where it can be implemented in a strategically aligned way that engages employee motivation. Thus, taking a more holistic and long-term view to understand the motivations underpinning gameplay offers the potential for productivity and job satisfaction”


So how do you press play?

Overall, the research is telling us that for gamification to work at all, let alone in a workplace, the game elements need to be novel and appealing, but also genuinely related to the task at hand. Without this, things will get very stale very quickly and your employees probably won't enjoy playing along.

That being said, this is a great opportunity to express and amplify your company culture in a genuine way, while enhancing the employee experience.

If you’d like to learn more about how to roll out smart workplace solutions, or gamification within your smart workplace, get in touch with me here on LinkedIn or via the ACA website