Pros and Cons of gamifying employee engagement

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What is gamification? Gamification adds game elements to non-game activities. The idea behind it is to make tasks more fun, so people are more likely to perform them. It leverages people's natural tendencies for competition, achievement, collaboration, and charity.

Gamification in the workplace

Gamification in the workplace is nothing new. It's used primarily in marketing, sales, and HR. In HR, it's considered a valuable technique to make work more interesting and ignite behavioral change. It can drive competition, increase sales and sustain cultural change among employees. The purpose of gamification is to change people's mindsets. Instead of focusing on task completion, gamification directs towards achievement, helping people perform their best. There’s an extensive article on “how gamification is reshaping businesses” on Deloitte Insights if you want to read more on this topic.

 

Introducing gamification to your employee advocacy program

How would gamifying an employee engagement program work? Essentially, it would turn employee advocacy into a game with achievements and challenges to fulfill. It's all about making employees even more excited about promoting your brand's content online.

There are easy ways to add gamification to your employee advocacy program. You can either run challenges or contests or give out badges, perks, and rewards.

With a leaderboard (that is present in most platforms) you can identify top-performing employee advocates. By sharing the leaderboard, you can let members know how they're performing compared to each other. Contests allow you to score specific actions over a specified period.

At first glance, gamifying your employee advocacy program is a great way to encourage your employees to share your messages more widely across social media. But you should know that gamifying your employee advocacy may not be the best strategy in the long run.

 

Employee engagement gamification pros

 1. You don't need a strategy

Games are fun. They can make mundane tasks more exciting by providing positive feedback on our actions and achievements. Games contain the natural reward compulsion loop: employees act, receive a reward, and feel good. Next time, they do it again in the hope that they get the same result. So, it is essentially your game that drives behavior. Your game is your strategy.

2. Gamification is easy to set-up

There are many employee engagement platforms out there that include gamification options. You don't need to reinvent the wheel to start gamifying your employee engagement program.

3. There's a significant short-term impact

There's no doubt that gamification plays a decisive role in increasing the engagement of employees at work. Gamification will immediately impact your results positively.

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Employee engagement gamification cons

1. You risk having more losers than winners

Gamification in the workplace only succeeds when the game is thoughtfully designed, ensuring that the average worker can win. In big companies, this might be particularly challenging. If there are only a few winners in a big crowd, it will demotivate players. Also, some employee advocates have a natural advantage because they have an extensive network and are active on many social networks. They will dominate the leaderboard. If you want to bypass the risk of some people never winning, consider rewarding entire teams or organizing different types of contests (so that more people have a chance to win).

2. You corrupt your insights

The main goal of an employee advocacy program is to learn what the natural overlap is between the story that you want to tell versus the genuine interest of the employee and their audience. If you reward people for sharing content, it reduces your chances to learn about the types of content that work well. You won't know if people are posting on social media because they want to be on the top of the charts or because they actually care about the content. You will not be able to evaluate the effectiveness of your employee advocacy campaigns. More information on data accuracy on our article "What to look for in an Employee Engagement platform".

3. Your content loses authenticity

It's pretty apparent to outsiders when people are genuinely enthusiastic and passionate about what they post and when that's not the case. Having an authentic social media presence is important, as explained in this article on Forbes.

4. Employees might consider it a waste of time

You might obscure the real benefits of employee advocacy if you focus too much on the gaming element. You want people to be motivated by what employee advocacy can do for them, independently of prizes and perks. Emphasize benefits like social selling, becoming a thought leader, or achieving brand love from the inside out.

5. It creates no sustainability for long-term programs

The reward system is the heart and soul of gamification. But the value of rewards diminishes over time. You'll eventually need bigger and bigger rewards to keep staff excited. And a game that depends on points, badges, and leaderboards alone might not be enough to motivate employees for the long haul. Also, healthy competition can increase elevate workers' performance. Still, competition can become toxic and even turn staff members against each other.

 

Is gamification in employee advocacy worth it?

We've been working on employee advocacy within various companies for many years. We've seen how gamification and incentives can drive participation. But we have yet to see a gamification program that stimulates the development of a sustainable internal community. If you want your employee advocacy program to have a continuous impact on your organization, you need to ease it into its culture organically. You need people to join in for the right reasons. Emphasize the gains employee advocacy has to offer employees: a better understanding of the company, thought leadership, and new business leads. Yes, advocacy is rewarding all by itself.

If you're still considering motivating employees to do more, we recommend using non-monetary incentives and rewards, like shared experiences.

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