Game on! Boost employee productivity with gamification

April 14, 2016

Engaged employees are productive employees, but a recent Gallup poll shows 7 in 10 U.S. workers label themselves as “disengaged” or “actively disengaged” with their work. The result? Gallup estimates the U.S. economy loses nearly $370 billion each year due to employee disengagement.

Gamification — using game mechanics and reward structure to motivate employees — can be a great option for small businesses, because they can drive big results at a very low cost. Unlike traditional monetary reward structures, gamification uses status, access or power as rewards, and plays on our natural inclination toward competition. Here are a few high-profile success stories from a range of industries:


Being a cashier can be monotonous and disconnected from feedback or rewards, easily leading to disengagement. Target has implemented a classic game for its cashiers: As the cashier scans items, a red or green light shows if the scan has been completed in the optimum time. At the end of the customer checkout, the cashier immediately sees their “score” showing how closely they kept to the optimum scan and checkout time. This game is effective because it is very simple (you’re either faster or slower than the ideal), it is closely tied to a single productivity goal (optimizing checkout time), and feedback is received immediately after performance.

Ford Motor Company

A sales and service staff that knows your product inside and out is an incredibly valuable asset. Ford Motor Company in Canada used gamification to amp up engagement in its online learning portals, helping sales and service teams learn the ins and outs of new car models, technologies and financing plans each year. Ford’s strategy turning testing into a game, with points and badges awarded and leaderboards prominently displayed. The program saw a 417% increase in use, as well as improvements in sales and customer satisfaction.


Knowing that half of all CRM implementations fail, Salesforce created a “Big Game Hunter” game to increase its user engagement and encourage more robust use of its CRM platform. Salespeople begin as “Chicken Hunters” and work toward “Big Game Hunter” status as they utilize more and more features of the Salesforce platform. The game worked — based on a Salesforce case study, customers reported that compliance with Salesforce best practices increased by as much as 40%.


Deloitte’s Leadership Academy wanted to increase engagement with their digital training program for senior executives around the globe. Implementing a game system, trainees now receive badges and points for the training modules they complete, with rankings and leaderboards pushing this highly competitive audience to complete courses faster than their peers. Deloitte’s own case study on the game noted that daily visits to the training site increased by 46% in just the first three months.

Props To You

One notable gamification app, Props To You, specifically addresses the issue of “gaming the system.” Instead of awarding badges based on single accomplishments, badges and status is based on trends, averages and personal bests. By rewarding consistent performance — and trends of improving performance — this game helps businesses encourage reliable, upward professional development.


Following the lead of its philanthropic leader, Microsoft created a productivity game called Communicate Hope. The game focused on increasing feedback and bug detection during the critical testing phase of new products, awarding points based on the quantity and quality of feedback submitted. But instead of awarding money or status, employees were able to convert their earned rewards to donations to local and national charities.

As you can see, the possibilities for gamification are diverse, and the potential significant. Most clearly, the best games fit closely with the unique goals of the business, provide near-instant feedback to employees, and spur the competitive nature in all of us. With a little creativity and a focus on particular productivity goals, you can develop your own game to enhance employee engagement and drive improved performance.

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