The Ultimate Guide to Work Gamification by Arthur Carmazzi

Work gamification (or gamification at work) has evolved with events that change the processes of motivation. This document is designed for businesses to apply gamification at work without video games and incorporate real-life gamification technique in a real-life business user experience. While there are many examples of gamification here and a comprehensive set of tools and strategies for performance management, employee motivation, and even game-based learning, we recommend the Amazon #1 New Release on Work gamification GAME ON – Reinventing Organizational Culture with Gamification 

Before we start it is important to understand the history of how attaining our sense of achievement and employee motivation. The infographic below identifies events that have affected this transformation. The patterns in psychological models and created systems to harness the potential people can offer in their jobs and business are clear if you know where to look. While today, the emotional gratifications are not different than 30 years ago, the expectations, speed, and process of achieving emotional gratification have drastically changed.

Emotional Gratification Timeline

How Gamification in Business Differs From Gamification In Training


“The Systematic facilitation of helping team members combine measurement, motivational psychology, and basic fun in existing or improved Work Processes or Activities with an objective of fostering desired behaviors and results through human focused game design”.
Arthur Carmazzi


“The incorporation of human-focused game design, interconnected RELEVANT activities or structures, assessments, and discovery processes that support specific learning objectives and higher levels of personal awareness by incorporating gamified elements to engage, immerse, and excite participants”
Arthur Carmazzi

A successful Training gamification strategy is connected to a Work Gamification Strategy. And while work gamification can be supported by gamification in training, in this document we focus on Work Gamification since it has applications to both.

“Through gamification, L&D teams are able to expedite the learning process. Learners tend to achieve learning outcomes more effectively via an engaging journey rather than a traditional training approach.”

 “…highlights of our gamification practice and a few examples on each level. Interestingly, while this showcases how our practice has matured, it also shows how organizations can integrate gamification in the workplace to double the impact of corporate training.” (

What is Work Gamification and Why is it important

work gamification definition

The definition of Work gamification is: The systematic creation of positive motivation structures that trigger and maintain excitement and interest in applying personal talents and innovation for the achievement of organizational goals…and for people to enjoy it.

The definition of a “user” in work gamification is a Human who is trying to achieve a specific objective, set of objectives for bringing about change through interactive and fun structures and activities. Note that Mobile app or digital technology are not mentioned in the definition.

Gamification at work is one-way employers are making work for staff more enjoyable. Tapping into our need for instant rewards, gratification and feedback, gamification tools are an effective way to engage employees, improve productivity and reduce staff turnover.

One of the primary functions of work gamification is to keep people engaged at work. Only 31.5% of US employees and 17% of the global workforce, are found to be fully engaged at work – a figure that dips amongst millennials. And with millennials set to become 75% of the global workforce by 2027, gamification could be the solution to keep employees as enthusiastic in the workplace.

What are the advantages of gamification

gamification INCOVID pandemic

The advantages of gamification include:

  • Employee engagement
  • Increases in sales
  • Innovation and creative problem solving
  • Improved team would
  • Faster implementation of work-related tasks
  • Higher levels of efficiency
  • increased Collaboration
  • Less anxiety during the pandemic and beyond
  • improved mental health

“A dramatic increase in engagement is often reported when games are used as part of a day at work. Some companies have raised user engagement by 40%.” (

“85% would spend more time on gamified software” (Source: FinancesOnline) (

“Gamified software can also have a positive impact on employee morale; the same research shows that 88% of employees say that the gamification in the software they use at work makes them happier.” (

“90% of employees are more productive when they use gamification and 72% of people believe that gamification inspires them to work harder. This article further reports that using game-based motivation can raise engagement levels by 48%!” (

“According to the gamification survey, 45% of people have already encountered game-like elements during the recruitment process. Another 78% even says it makes a company more desirable.” (

“Deloitte embedded gamification elements such as leaderboards, missions, and badges into their online training curriculum to entice employees. Since the implementation of gamification within the online courses, there has been a 37% increase of users returning to the site each week. Sounds like it became an addictive video game, doesn’t it?” (

“97% of employees above the age of 45 agree that gamification would help improve work” (

Why Corporate Gamification Efforts Fail:

  • Belief that gamification is equal to apps
  • Reliance on technology instead of psychology
  • “Users” are not actually working when using gamified systems
  • Gamification efforts are not aligned with organizational culture
  • The organizational culture is not ready to implement gamification
  • Lack of creativity and meaning
  • Not accounting for slower employees that are essential and do add value, but may not show competency in a gamified environment

“Potentially 80% of workplace gamification efforts fall flat due to a lack of creativity and meaning. If employees aren’t happy and don’t want to participate, the game could be worse than pointless–it could be counterproductive. Employees who are determined to win may cheat or sabotage their coworkers, while others may tune out and lose motivation.” (

The DCI Culture Evolution Study:

Using the OCEAN Organizational Culture Assessment we found that over 61% of Organizations are in the lowest level of organizational culture evolution. This plays a major role in work gamification success. To succeed is to incorporate Culture Evolution in the measurement and game mechanics of your gamified business initiative. See the complete guide to leading organizational culture change


Why does Gamification Work

Have you ever had the feeling you could do more, be more, and yet, you felt stuck? A sense of being “stuck” affects your relationships in and out of work creating dysfunction in families and companies. Most people who have succeeded through our work gamification workshops have this to be true.

“Stuck” is a symptom of not feeling valued. Or an organizational culture that does not have the emotional and structural elements to create environments that support engagement and innovation, and the development of the leaders to nurture and maintain those environments.

James K. Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s Chief Scientist and co-author of 12: The Elements of Great Managing shared that:

There’s a significant relationship between work, stress, and health. In other words, if people are in an ongoing work situation that is negative or stressful, they have a higher potential for negative health consequences.” 

Another key motivational factor of game design element is “Feeling” valued. The foundation of feeling valued however goes beyond one’s individual manager and extends to the organizational culture. When the culture supports the opportunity for a team member to See, Feel, and Measure the “value” they add to a Bigger Organizational Goal, that culture will be more engaging and more efficient. Unfortunately, there are lots of barriers to overcome to do this.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA)

 Feeling valued is a key indicator of job performance.  Employees who feel valued are more likely to be engaged in their work and feel satisfied and motivated.

The Queen’s School of Business research shows that disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. And the bottom line still stands out with engaged employees who outperform those without engagement by 202% according to a Gallup survey. Engagement is directly related to a personal sense of Value.

How Gamification Works

gamification at work

The measurement of social approval has always been the foundation of a personal sense of value, and in this PFB (Post Facebook) era, it has been digitized and supercharged. Everyone now has Power and a Voice. We are no longer emotionally dependent on our boss telling us we did a good job. If we feel we deserve more, we post ideas, occurrences, and humor online to get approval from our peers to compensate and recover emotional gratification.

Having more control over our emotional gratification creates an environment where we are less patient and have higher expectations of leaders and peers… which directly affects business objectives. Currently, Metrics in performance management are boring and take TOO LONG to provide feedback and rewarding or reprimanding team members or teams.

Feedback and Communication is related to patience and our emotional drive of Achievement. Achievement is not about completing something big, it is simply about completing something! The faster the communication, the more “Achievement” gratification we will potentially collect. This is why we start to freak out when someone doesn’t reply to our messages or emails quickly. When we do not have the information or consent to make progress, our emotional gratification for achievement is delayed. And because it is delayed, we get frustrated, creating conflict, mistrust and more frustration in our teams and downgrading our “User Experience” at work. This is why longer projects that do not see results quickly, have the highest percentage of disengagement and procrastination.

The mechanics of social addiction.

Whether it’s Instagram (the current favorite), Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Twitter, we are consistently checking our favorite platforms for 3 primary reasons.

social gamification
  • We as users, are looking for emotional fulfillment… it could be inspiration, humor, or simply the feeling of being connected to others.
  • We want to control and manage the impression we make on others. Our personal sense of security is connected to how much control we have over our lives. The “Impression” we make on others largely affects instinctual survival instincts that support belonging to a tribe.
  • We want validation of our lives – while this is also an emotional gratification, it’s more complex than the word “Validation” can describe since it encompasses the previous two points.
    1. Many also use social media for businesses… but we still check the interactions of our efforts to either validate or adjust our strategy
    2. With the business focus, the emotional connection is even stronger for the “Win State”, which is defined by the achievement of predefined business objectives.

So what does “Validation” mean?

When we post, we are posting elements of our life, our business, and our personal interests based on our emotional drives. We may post inspirational quotes so we feel like we are helping others find more light in their lives… or we may post them just to get visibility for our business. We may post pictures of our kids to show our pride in their development… or we may post them to keep our archive of their lives. We may post images of our travels to “show off” our lifestyle, or to share moments of discovery… but no matter what we post, most of us have one basic thing in common: we check to see how many likes, shares and comments we have.

These validation factors are a way for us to measure our personal sense of value (based on our current emotions). Regardless of how much self-confidence we have, or how much or how little we care about what people think. Since value is connected to purpose, if we feel valuable, we feel like our lives have more purpose… which creates more “happiness”, at least for a moment!

This need to have a purpose (have value) stems from our ancient roots as tribal beings. Being valuable was required for our survival. If a member of a tribe did not add value to the tribe, they were left behind. So providing value to our “group” is directly related to our survival instinct and is a primal instinct, and being part of a tribe is directly related to safety, finding a mate and finding food.

And it can become an addiction not dissimilar to drug addiction since in essence, we are getting our Brain Drugs from it.

The brain produces these “drugs” to support our survival and help us make the right decisions to continue the human species…

One of these is the brain’s social and reward center which includes, the Ventral Medial Prefrontal Cortex, the Ventral Striatum, and the Ventral Tegmental Area.

And the other is the brain’s Reward Pathway which includes the Striatum, the Nucleus Accumbens and the Amygdala (two areas heavily associated with addiction). The Nucleus Accumbens is where mesolimbic dopamine is released (happy drugs among other things) and starts reward-seeking behavior (like checking and chasing Likes…). The Amygdala links environmental cues to reward and habit formation which basically associates your Social media success to Feel Good rewards and gets you hooked on the instant gratification these rewards provide.

But let’s not forget the “Tribal Drugs” from connecting with people. These give us oxytocin (love and trust drugs) that not only reduce stress but can also support making us feel safe. Of course, this can backfire if you find pictures of your friends enjoying a party you were not invited to, or see an image of your friend’s hot new partner when you just broke up with yours… but posting photos or videos (even food) makes you feel better if you are lonely. After all, you are sharing with others… and hopefully, they will LIKE you.

And those funny videos you watch or pictures of cats doing silly things… yup, more drugs. These are endorphins that are released when you laugh. Endorphins basically are pain reducers (including stress) and give you positive feelings similar to morphine.

Now whether social media is bad or good is not an argument for this book… but how and why is creating positive feelings, addictive behavior, and lessons from its negative effects are essential to creating positive gamification in our lives and work.

Gamification And Engagement - Technology vs Humanity

It is the common misbelief that gamification means apps or online games that require technology to achieve a “Game State”. And that the User Experience is related to an Online Connection. While technology can help, it can also distract us from the primary business objective… Having Fun at Work, synergizing and bringing out the best in the “people” around us, and actually achieve objectives!

Of all Gamification Apps, only one incorporates the Psychological factors that support a sense of Achievement for the Entire team, not only the high performers. That app is called SQUADLI

In most organizations, Teamwork is essential to achieve larger objectives. This teamwork extends beyond a project team to departments and the synergy between departments to achieve common goals. Getting people to communicate through apps, will not likely strengthen personal human relationships, plus the fact that empathy and human connection are required to create healthy teamwork.

Dopamine is released providing the “anticipation” of pleasure, and you don’t need an app for that.

To get your dopamine fix (at least one of the five types that induce this anticipation of pleasure) and feel excited (increasing neuron firing rate) at work there are 9 fundamental elements and metrics that must be in place.

gamify behavior in work gamification
  1. There must be an objective with a defined result
  2. The result must apparently clear
  3. You must believe the result will benefit you
  4. You must believe you can achieve the result
  5. The process to achieve the result should be in line with your primary motivators
  6. You must be involved in the design of the process
  7. The process should not be counter to your elemental genetic “Ambiguity Relief” process.
  8. There must be clearly defined milestones that can be easily identified and measured when you achieve them.
  9. There must have a backup plan or at least the feeling that you have one

When we add these 8 elements to the 3 gamification criteria, we are able to create Human Structures that support engaged thinking, innovation and action toward the defined objectives. The 3 criteria:

gamification achievement
  1. Measurement
  2. Competition
  3. Story or theme

When technology improves humanity in work gamification!

The premise of great leadership is to be able to bring out the best in others and nurture a culture that maintains that best. The human element is the foundation and that must be the center of the culture. Humanity in leadership and performance cannot be replaced by technology… but it can be supported. One of the difficulties in great leadership is the ability to both give instant feedback on performance (most importantly Positive Performance) and maintain an ongoing record of the performance. This is where technology comes in.

But this is where gamification strategy is essential because simply measuring and supporting performance can go VERY WRONG if not structured to enhance the sense of value across the entire team.

When we use technology with apps like Squadli to measure, record, and gamify performance, we connect our emotions and gratitude to the actions of others. Using these types of apps for ranking, awards, emoji, and applying it to instant feedback… can express and convey the Value we feel others bring to the group. This allows teammates to feel they are valuable and on the right track (or not). Without apps like this, the process becomes tedious and is usually short-lived…

Emotion of Feeling Unvalued

The emotional equilibrium required to attain success can be identified through the Gamification Value Perception Index (GVPI). A measurement of the sense of value in relation to comparison and measuring contribution and the emotional states it creates.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, the emotional need to feel valuable is a prominent factor in successful gamification and goes back to our early tribal roots of survival. While the need to add value is instinctive, we never had to be the best or even in the top 20, so we became complacent in the levels of the value we were providing. As long as it was good enough, we were still ok. Perspective is largely related to our self-perception and confidence. Lower levels of confidence are directly related to lower levels of performance, or the attitude of performance.

Why? Because of comparison, we usually compare ourselves to the high performers, and when it seems we cannot compete, we often settle into complacency, unless we find another area we can excel in.

There will always be individuals who simply perform better overall than others but with gamification, we have an opportunity to improve lower performers’ attitudes and performance with modern psychology. While it’s great for already high performing individual’s morals and sense of personal value to be high ranking, it could be destructive for others who have potential but not quite there yet. We, as emotional beings (yes, even if you are very logical and “feel” you make decisions logically), tend to require a balance of achievement AND potential to achieve.

Because we gravitate towards opportunities to practice our strengths, we tend to consistently improve those strengths. This can be harnessed for overall improvement through gamification. For example, if we are on the list of top performers in the area of “communication”, that becomes “our thing” and we don’t want to lose it. Even if we are not on the most important list, we feel like we are already providing value. The gap is smaller to the more important list and so we gain more motivation to get to that higher list.

If however, the gap is too large, we tend to compare to others who achieve some level of recognition and feel less valuable, creating lower motivation and we often disengage or even give up on trying to reach a higher level of achievement or even just keep up.

Gamification Failure in the workplace examples

Potential to Achieve

One noteworthy example of gamification gone awry occurred in 2008, when Disneyland Resort Hotels in Anaheim, Calif., implemented an electronic leaderboard with a traffic light theme that tracked the performance of laundry staff. The red light meant employees were behind in meeting management’s goals, yellow reflected that they were working at a slow pace, and green indicated that workers were hitting their targets. News articles were eventually published about workers who, struggling to keep up, skipped bathroom breaks. They also said pregnant women had trouble meeting the targets. Workers scornfully dubbed the game “the electronic whip.”

This means any gamification at work initiative must include multiple opportunities to succeed as well as the “feeling” that if you persist, you can achieve and succeed more and have more value. One means of achieving this is comparison. The ability to compare personal achievements, even small ones, to the potential of achieving higher levels of success. A comparison of an existing small success is much closer to bigger success than no success at all.

It is important to note that not everyone likes the “idea” of work gamification, but emotional gratifications are still factors in their motivation. So gamification processes still have positive effects on people who feel that work should be serious as long as each person “feels” that they are adding value.

Additionally, not all people are driven by recognition, so gamification elements of supporting the idea that one is valuable, cannot only be related to being publicly recognized for that value. And this is where the Gamification journey comes in.

The index is ideal in the harmony between technology and humanity because it addresses variables essential for motivation in both areas.

Developing Competence & Engagement Through Gamification

Anticipation: ranking can support anticipation of performers who have potential but are not at their achieving it. Using apps that create ranking is useful here. Leader boards for different levels of achievement can also be applied but become more labor-intensive.

Validation: measurement and awards support validation of value. But specificity is essential since the value is directly related to the associations of personal actions and behaviors that were responsible for the results. This is why apps like Squadli that connect the specificity and measurement with instant feedback are useful.

Before entering the psychology of Fun, we must prepare for our journey, an understanding of our “Emotional Drive” will pave the road to awareness and show the origin of how fun emerges.

Emotional Drive is a set of primary motivators that may change as our life changes. We tend to be more motivated to fill some than we are to fill others. There are usually a top 3 or 4 that influence most of our decisions. Yet those in the bottom 2 or 3 are equally important since these are not highly motivating to us and we give those up to fill our primary drives.

There are eight Emotional Drives*, they are:

gamification emotion
  1. The Drive for Diversity and Change: Different experiences, anticipation, and newness…
  2. The Drive for Love and Belonging: Being with people. Caring and being cared about
  3. The Drive for Recognition and Significance: To feel valuable. To be recognized by others and self as important or significant
  4. The Drive for Achievement: To complete things, to make progress on goals, achievement shows itself accomplishment of any size or type
  5. The Drive for Excellence: To do more than is expected or needed in order to make something better; a higher standard
  6. The Drive for Challenge and Growth: To become more than you already are, to improve oneself, to challenge your ability, and learn…
  7. The Drive for Contribution and Responsibility: A sense of responsibility for humanity. Giving selflessly for the betterment of other
  8. The Drive for Security and Control: Feeling safe, secure. Being in control of your life, your future

Out of Eight Emotional Drives, the one that defines if we have “fun” or not, is the drive for Diversity and Change… and the more of our other primary drives that combine with this, the more fun we have (or at least think we will have)

Fun comes from being OUT of the ordinary. When a situation is new, outside of our current day to day routine, we fill our emotional drive for Diversity and Change. This is largely affected by the feelings of anticipation that are created from a new, or at least out of the ordinary experience.

When we anticipate something, we generally have an expectation of what we will get, but we are not sure. This promotes a sense of adventure… and “Fun” is essentially an adventure in enjoying the process and anticipating what “Might” happens, in relation to the expectation. …and even when we feel we do not have an expectation, we are “Expecting” to be surprised.

It is important to appreciate that fun is not elicited from an end result. It comes from The Process!

This is why “Work” can be “Fun” if staged in the proper settings and structured to deliver specific emotional gratifications. These emotional gratifications needed to be unique and personalized through the kind of experience they will have on the way to achieve the objective while having fun.

When I was building my house “Avalon”, I found myself working with the masons, stone carvers, and woodworkers in my spare time. The work was often strenuous, but to me, it was fun…

gamification quote
  1. It was out of the ordinary
  2. It allowed me to be creative
  3. It let me learn new things
  4. I often involved my kids in the process
  5. We were able to see progress as we worked on it
  6. I felt I was doing “Man’s Work” and that I am playing a part in the construction of my own house
  7. It created new challenges I had not experienced before
  8. It was part of a bigger vision that stemmed from childhood

Each of these elements was filling an emotional drive

fear quote
  • Out of the ordinary and creativity filled the drive of Diversity and Change
  • The learning element of the experience filled my drive for Challenge and Growth
  • Involving the kids was the drive for Love and Belonging
  • Physically seeing our progress as we work was the drive for Achievement
  • The sense of being more manly filled my drive for Recognition and Significance
  • The Drive for Excellence: To build a masterpiece like Avalon which was out of comfort zone.

Why Gamification Doesn’t Work: The Fear Tolerance Scale

How much diversity a person is willing to act on is subject to the importance or ranking of their emotional drive of Security and Control. The drive for Security defines the threshold between Fun and Fear. This is called the Fear Tolerance Scale. The more Security one needs, the lower the Fear Tolerance is. When we have the anticipation that something will have a neutral or positive outcome, fun is the result. But when that anticipation changes to a potentially negative outcome, the result is fear.

It is the emotional drive of Security & Control that creates the difference in the types and even the intensity of fun. Security turns the anticipation feeling of the Diversity drive into a potentially negative outcome thus creating fear. When the Fear Tolerance is less than the fulfillment of the Diversity drive combined with other drives, fun changes to fear.

The higher the need for Security, the more risk an action seems to have. And if diversity combined with other emotional drives requires risk, this action is limited to the amount of perceived risk it brings. Risk is defined by emotional and physical risks. The risk of being ridiculed is as potent as the risk of having a broken leg. So what may seem fun to a person with a low drive for Security may seem crazy for a person with high Security.

The fulfillment of the other emotional drives is affected too. Diversity combines with other drivers, the importance of the other drivers compared to Security determines the “types” of fun we like to have and when diversity turns to fear.

Fear Tolerance

In this case, the Security drive is larger than the most other drives except the Belonging and Recognition drives. This indicates that this person’s Fear Tolerance for only these two drives is slightly higher and they will take more risk to fill their drives of Recognition and Belonging through fun activities. Overall, their Fear Tolerance is low.

These activities can include going out with friends, showing you’re doing something that shows others what you have done, dressing to stand out…

Challenge and Achievement are also very high so this person will do things they do not feel too risky to challenge their current ability, learn new things and make sure things get done. Because Belonging is important, this person may do things out of peer pressure… especially if it is connected to recognition.

This person will not be looked at as “FUN LOVING” and will most likely be considered to be more “Serious”

In this case, the Security drive is lower than most emotional drives except Excellence, and the gaps are larger. This means that this person is willing to take lots of risk to get fulfillment through Diversify for most of their drives. They have a very High Fear Tolerance.

The activities this person would have fun being ambitious as shown with the high diversity in Recognition and achievement. They also prefer to work in teams or hang out with family or friends and enjoy learning and challenging activities… but will be more focused and stick to a specific standard when doing something that requires an added sense of excellence.

They will be considered a FUN LOVING person and seem to be able to have fun in most situations.

Fear Tolerance

Repositioning Fear Tolerance

The differences in Fear Tolerance levels are one of the most common trustbusters in teams, relationships, and even governments. This happens when one person has a high Fear Tolerance (FT), and another has a low one. Perceptions of the right amount of risk or even what is a risk and what is not, create scenarios where the actions surrounding the perception kill trust.

A person with a high FT will want and even expect others on a team to take action, innovate, be creative… but the person with the low FT will be more cautious and take more time. They may see the high FT person as reckless or uncaring. While the person with the high FT may feel that the low FT individual is dragging them down or cannot be trusted to make things happen. This difference in perception can create frustration and the frustration breeds low trust.

It is important to appreciate that fun is not elicited from an end result. It comes from The Process!

This is why “Work” can be “Fun” if staged in the proper settings and structured to deliver specific emotional gratifications. These emotional gratifications needed to be unique and personalized through the kind of experience they will have on the way to achieve the objective while having fun.

When I was building my house “Avalon”, I found myself working with the masons, stone carvers, and woodworkers in my spare time. The work was often strenuous, but to me, it was fun…

Succeeding in Work Gamification

The Single Most Important Element To Successful Gamification Implementation! Measurement

Measurement defines the “USER EXPERIENCE”. It is the means by which we decide, feel, validate, and act on anything. It can inspire positive or negative emotions and motivation.

Types of measurement we constantly use are:

  • Comparison
  • Quantity
  • Quality
  • Time
  • Frequency
  • Milestones
  • Objective
  • Value

Gamification of measurement is also regularly used in everyday life, although we may not notice it. We use it in

social perception

o   PhD

o   Superstar

o   Manager


o   Gold standard

o   Accredited

o   98% Pure


o   Improved

o   1st place

  • TIME

o   30-day challenge

o   15-minute delivery


o   23 likes

o   Viewed 88 times


o   28” waist

o   0 defects

While these labels are not necessarily meant for gamification, the gamified emotional value to the labels is very real.

Measurement is happening all around us, when we compare ourselves with others when setting goals, and even assess the quality of our relationships. Measurement is part of our need to validate ourselves and our lives. As an author, How Many people read my book (at least the first chapter) matters to me. The fact that you are reading this is a validation of my ideas and thoughts. Even if you do not agree with or like my concepts, I have a sense of purpose that is identified with at least providing insight for you to ponder.

Others may measure how many people who read their book LIKE and share their ideas.

This now limits the sense of validation and it becomes more difficult to get the positive emotions associated with it. Others may measure their ability to make the New York Times Bestseller list, and while that would be Super Cool, it massively limits the ability to feel you are achieving a purpose.

We also need to consider how long it takes before we can measure. If my measurement rule required me to finish a book before I felt my emotional drive for Achievement fulfilled… I probably would not have finished this book. But because I can manage my sense of validation by measuring simple things, small progress and milestones like reading some of my passages with my kids or being grateful for new inspiration, I am constantly feeling a strong sense of validation as a human being, meaning I truly feel my life has purpose.

Measurement and feedback for successful gamification to improve work and productivity

Examples of Gamification

Gamification in the workplace example 1

Employees need regular feedback and communication from managers to perform their jobs well. This can often be a major factor causing disengagement within companies.

Target was able to overcome this problem and boost employee engagement by introducing game-based elements into the way their cashiers approached their jobs.

Target cashiers rarely get feedback from their line managers. The company decided to change this by implementing gamification elements, enabling cashiers to play a game when checking out items for customers.

With the gamified system, Target cashiers attained real time feedback with red and green lights that blinked to show items were scanned optimally. Before this gamification concept was introduced, the cashiers had no way of knowing how effective they were. Now, they received feedback on all items scanned.

The above examples clearly show that if implemented successfully, gamification can enhance job performance, boost employee engagement, and improve internal communication. Now that you have concrete examples from three different companies that have utilized gamification in the workplace, how are you planning to use game-based elements to increase employee engagement?

Gamification in the workplace example 2

Salesforce introduced the “Big Game Hunter” program to increase usage of its complex CRM system amongst its sales representatives and boost employee engagement.

Sales personnel started off as chicken hunters and gradually worked their way towards more rewarding statuses as they became more familiar with new CRM features. For one customer, compliance increased by over 40%!

Gamification in the workplace Fail example 3

Perhaps the best example of a company that failed to use gamification in the right way is Omnicare, an organization specializing in providing support for pharmacy management software. The company was facing long wait times at its helpdesk. In order to increase employee productivity, Omnicare decided to introduce gamification in the workplace. They introduced a leaderboard so that representatives would be able to see each other’s scores and be motivated to work faster. Employees with the fastest times on the floor were to be given cash incentives as well.

The results were disastrous. Wait times were at an all time high, employee turnover rose tremendously, and customer satisfaction dropped to an all-time low.

The reason for the failure of this gamification process was that Omnicare failed to understand what truly motivated and drove these help desk workers. The help desk representatives started feeling like they were being micromanaged.

It was only after Omnicare moved away from the cash-incentives and re-designed the game to focus on short-term rewards that were achievement and recognition driven that they were able to increase employee engagement.

In order to ensure your gamification efforts truly create engaged employees, internal communications professionals and business leaders should keep the following tips in mind:

Clearly identify what goals and objectives you hope to achieve by introducing gamification in the workplace. Are you looking to bolster employee engagement? Hit certain business targets?

Learn to listen and understand your employees’ unique needs. What drives them? What motivates them?

Design the gamification program around your employees’ unique skills and motivations.

When introducing gamification in the workplace, be sure to clearly communicate the purpose of this activity to your employees.

Test the gamification process. Analyze what works and what doesn’t and adjust your gamification plan accordingly.

Be sure to truly measure and gauge employees’ reactions within all internal communications regarding the gamification process. Are they opening the emails you’ve sent regarding the implementation of gamification in the workplace? Are they responding? By measuring your employee communications using email tracking tools , you’ll be able to gauge whether your employees are even on board with the idea in the first place.

Source of these 3 examples of gamification:

When measurement rules in the workplace change, so do the culture and the engagement… and confidence and competence.

Most organizations measure KPIs. Some may even offer incentives and say they gamified it. While that’s all good, THERE IS NOTHING IN BETWEEN! And it can take a long time to meet your KPIs… and what if you don’t meet them… and how do you know you are on the right track?  This leaves us with gaps and lack of clarity and therefore potential lack of consistent validation and emotional gratification leaving us, disengaged and on the road of underachievement.

What if we worked this backward?

If we measure only results, the behaviors and emotions to help us achieve those results are assumed but may not be nurtured enough to support the achievement. But if we measure everything leading up to the result, the journey is easier, we have more clarity and emotional validation to more confidently actualize the result.

How can measuring Identified Behaviors create more Success Motivation without creating complacency groups?

Each type of measurement can be used in measuring behavior and there will usually be different behaviors that will support specific types of results. Highlighting measurement results of the multiple success related behaviors in a game structure will ultimately build a Success Motivation gamified strategy when theming. The creation of relevant structures to support a Challenging enough behavior modification can create more Anticipation of achieving personal Potential through Comparison… which will ultimately lead to Personal Validation and the need to evolve from there to the next level creating continuous improvement.

BONUS: Finding the emotional drives that motivate those behaviors and including them in the game structure will make the behavior modification MORE exciting and easier to meet any potential challenges faced.

Squadli, the Performance Management Behavior Gamification App/dashboard.

The biggest barrier to effective performance measurement is time. Most performance measurement is done biannually or annually… and it takes lots of time to “review”. Unfortunately, most of the review is usually from the previous 3 to 4 weeks because that is what we remember more clearly.  It is also the time when people perk up and start to be more efficient.

But when we are measuring behaviors, acknowledging a behavior only takes a few seconds. With the Squali app, the entire record of who, what, how and why are logged and graphed in less than 20 seconds. This allows daily observation and recording of the behaviors with the same amount of time it takes to write a WhatsApp message. Here is how it works:


  1. Set a team name (you can have multiple teams)
  2. Invite your team members
  3. Determine the number of team members for your TOP LIST (Ex. If you have 50 members in your team, your top list may be the top 10)
  4. Set the behavior objectives (I personally recommend no more than eight)
  5. Set the awards and their point values (I personally use the ones that come with the app)
  6. Set top-down, 360, or 360 + peer to peer (I personally use the full peer to peer 360 setting)
  7. Set RESURRECTION times. Because we want to involve Most team members and create the chance for EVERYONE  to win, the Resurrection setting is available and can be set to Weekly Basis (recommended) every 2 weeks, monthly of quarterly (not recommended)

Use in 20 seconds or less

    1. Observe a behavior
    2. Choose team member who exhibited the behavior from the team menu
    3. Choose an emoji related to how you feel about the behavior (there are positive and negative emotions with +/- points) or an award (I give more points to the awards and make them more special)
    4. Choose the behavior objective it connects to
    5. Identify the specifics in less than 200 characters
    6. Choose if it should be:
      • private (only you see it)
      • visible (you and the team member can see it)
      • public (the whole team can see it)
    7. Push send

If you have chosen the 360 peer to peer, you will have four filters to observe the results:

  • Your own as a team leader
  • The feedback they give each other
  • The combined feedback
  • The feedback the team sends you

Based on the points each gets; they will be ranked on a list. If you have chosen your Top List to have 10, only the team members within the top 10 point scores are ranked, everyone else’s rank says: “You are not in the top 10”

…but based on what we discussed, it would be likely that the same people usually achieve the top 10 and that would demotivate the rest! And this is why I like this app so much because each behavior objective has its own list… which gives an opportunity for everyone else to also be on at least one or more lists. I may not be on the main list, but if I am on the “Innovation” list, I feel acknowledged and have the anticipation of possibly getting to the top 10… after all, I could be #11 and just need to work a little harder on some of the rest of the behaviors to get there.

While there are many more strategies and features to use the simplicity of the Squadli app and the web dashboard… it is best you discover it further on It is important to note that Squadli is a tool to support work gamification… it is not as the full solution. The key benefits of this tool are:

  • You can define and measure behaviors daily
  • You can have multiple focused teams to make it easy to create “Game Clusters”. These teams can also compete against each other or benchmarks to reinforce team performance and cross team/department cooperative behaviors
  • You can give fast easy feedback
  • You can achieve game-state with ranking
  • You can create more anticipation across team members with multiple lists for each of the Behavior Objectives
  • You can give negative feedback in positive ways to improve performance and give clarity
  • You can use the concept of scarcity to build more value to being on the list to keep sustainability.

Using Squadli with a combined team and individual strategy allows the creation of an easy to understand level ascension game strategy. This strategy provides the anticipation of moving up as an individual as well as part of the team and gaining emotional drives of:

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Love & Belonging
  • Security
  • Diversity
  • Challenge & Growth

… so basically most of the emotional drives! …which means… if it is led properly, and it has a compelling game structure, gamifying performance measurement can make work addictively fun!

Implementing Gamification at Work


While everyone wants to have fun, remember that a personal sense of value is still more important. Some may perceive that having fun is counter to adding value and reject potential rewards and the fun that goes with it.

…and forcing people to “Have Fun” and be a part of a gamified work process will not have the effect we are looking for.

There are 4 factors to establishing the bases for leading a work gamification initiative:

      1. The gamified process must be created by the people who do the work
        • While this may sound like common sense, often we find management deciding that their skill in creating the game is better than the people who do the work… without an in-depth understanding of the work itself and the pains, struggles, and excitement people have through the work, it is difficult to create a systematic and motivating game process relative to goal attainment in that specific work.
        • As a leader, you would need to recruit the individuals who are in the job and guide them to build a gamified work process through the 8 steps of gamification (in the next chapter)
      2. Implementation requires action
        • Even though it may be fun and people who innovate and create the gamified work may be excited about it… they still get busy and may not initiate its implementation, sometimes because they are not fully secure in the belief that the leader is “Really” behind it.
        • As a leader, you must work with the team who innovated the game to make sure it starts and fine-tune it as you go
  1. Be part of the fun
    • This cannot be about “the staff”, management also needs to be a part of the game and held by the same rules and behaviors as others
    1. Be visible
      • Make sure the communications department is set to share and promote the feedback, results, and highlights of the game AND that these are shared referencing increases in productivity, engagement, communication, cooperation, culture evolution… or whatever you are aiming for
      • As a leader, create your own communications on how you feel about the progress everyone is making


The enemy is important in leadership. It is used in wars, espionage, politics, marketing and naturally, the legal profession. The idea is as old as humanity. You have uncooperative tribes (departments) that are primarily concerned with their own thing and may even fight from time to time. Suddenly, a larger enemy appears that threatens them all. Upon discovery of this bigger enemy, the tribes (departments), pool together to fight against the bigger enemy. Through this effort, they form bonds and create supportive relationships that last past the crisis.

So who is the enemy?

The easiest enemy to find is an actual advisory. People who are out to kill the “Ideal Work Environment”… people who believe that work should be hard and NOT FUN!!! Those vicious individuals who get satisfaction from being stressed out and seeing others stressed out too. THEY ARE THE ENEMY!

There are three things we can do with the enemy:

    1. Eliminate them – the most drastic and yet most effective of all strategies because it not only gets rid of a negative influence but also sends a message to others, that coming together as a “Family” to create a great environment will not tolerate “Destroyers of Fun”
    2. Make the Enemy your friend – this is the most practical solution but not the easiest. It requires patience and vigilance to make sure there is more positive influence from multiple sides than the negative influencer can dish out. Otherwise, if the negative influencer is too powerful, they could engulf much of the work you have done, and you lose the game.
      • In an organizational culture change initiative we did for the 3rdlargest globally GRP pipe manufacturer based in Iran, the brother of the owner, Hamid, was totally against this New Psychology stuff! He would fly off to Dubai or Istanbul specifically to avoid being part of the project… and everyone knows he needed it the most. After the initiative, Hamid did not participate or acknowledge any of the changes the people had and were implementing. While the company-wide efforts were still in play by his brother the CEO, he would not join. But during this whole time, 7 subordinates were constantly working on him. Five months after the initiative finally he started to participate. While only a bit, in the beginning, it was a huge triumph for the whole group and the entire organization rallied to support getting him onboard. Within a month, he was not only participating fully and being a positive influence… but actually having fun in the process.
    1. Create a Special “Happy Department” – This is for those who cannot be Eliminated but need to be separated. This solution takes extra resources but may prove to have an additional bonus.
      • An organizational Culture Initiative with the Malaysian Government presented a challenge: they could not fire anyone. Unfortunately, the division we were working with had a larger than usual number of negative influencers. The solution turned out to be quite positive. We created a Happy Department where negative influencers regardless of their rank and pay grade, were kept with the sole purpose of finding and promoting individuals in the company who were adding value to the culture and consistently living the behaviors that were set by their peers through the gamification efforts. They were angry in the beginning and some resigned (problem solved) but there were still some Hardcore Villains that were going to stick it out no matter what.
      • The accidental rainbow… After a while, due to their required focus on all the things that supported a happier culture and positive outcomes… and the recognition of the people who achieved them… many of the angry villains became advocates. This solution ultimately became a preference, but the initiation was painful due to the MASSIVE resistance and anger shown by some of these people. While the results were “eventually” better, it took some resolve of the management to ride it out. Part of our role was making sure the management remained absolved of stripping these people of their significance, so the “blame” went to the consultants (us). Because removing negative influencers was part of the agreement, and negative influences were identified through interviewing the staff, and since there was no pay or benefit reduction, management was indemnified as part of securing the success of the culture initiative that was agreed in advance. So the relationships were maintained.


Structuring the game is the key to success! After multiple attempts and lots of research, here are all 8 game stages that I find can be applied to any organizational objective. But I figure you will want some specific examples to apply too… so in this chapter, I have also included 5 scenarios and Game Mechanics that you can use, modify, or just appreciate.

Application of Game Mechanics

  1. Set the goals– goals should be connected to outcomes that team members can achieve through the mental and/or physical resources they have. This could be intangible like an attitude, cross-departmental communication, or Innovation, or it could be specific results like a specific sales number, or specific customer service rating.
  2. Identify the behaviors required to achieve that goal – identify the specific behaviors that support the achievement of the goals. Find high performers for this explicit goal and identify the specific behaviors, attitudes, and even values that support their success in achieving it.
  3. Identify the emotional drives that will motivate those behaviors– each behavior has a set of motivators that reinforce consistency and action. These are the 8 Emotional Drives discussed earlier, and there are usually 2 or 3 drivers that you can identify with a little thought, that support the behaviors you have chosen. Each emotional drive also correlates to various game structures. See these below
  4. Create a Theme to connect everything– this is the FUN user Interface and will be a team effort and should have some consensus. If you like superheroes but half your team does not… they will not be excited by the theme for the game. So, it is important to find something that “most” people can agree to. I say “most” because sometimes you may find one individual who just hates everything and the amount of time and frustration trying to please this type of person negatively affects the ENTIRE team… so work with the people who like fun!

a. Here are some questions to ask about your Theme:

i. What are the journey goals?
ii. Is there any fantasy mixed?
iii. Why do players go on the journey?
v. What types of obstacles will they face?
v. Is there one continuous journey or are there many small ones?
vi. Who are the characters of the story?
vii. Do you have avatars?
viii. Do you have special powers?
ix. Can you get special powers through achievement?
x. Are there teams, individuals or both?

b. If teams, do you have flags or special identifying banners

i. Where does the story happen?
ii. Where does it begin?
iii. Where does it end?

The theme is the element that supports diversity and makes the effort more fun. People get to be someone else, as an avatar, you can have more power of achievement and possibly live up to the challenge because you have stepped out of the limitations created by reality.

  1. Design the game structure– Structure Elements can be combined based on the game objectives, the requirements of who needs to be involved, the required behaviors, and the Emotional Drives that motivate those behaviors. All of these built around the game theme.Structure Elements that work for the activities that should be measured and rewarded, then connect them to make a fun and motivating flow that will be the foundation of the gamified work process. These game elements could be quests where your team must complete a larger goal with a number of smaller achievements (milestones), and avoid obstacles that hinder your goals… or a goal-focused competition where competing teams require cooperation in acquiring resources to achieve the goal.

Game structures can be modularized based on the desired outcome of the overall objective. Here are some examples:

a. Avoid Obstacles – A defined negative outcome or behavior that is awarded or rewarded if avoided.
b. Cooperation – The requirement to cooperate with other team members or departments or vendors to achieve a specific result or environment.
c. Turns – One after the other, it’s your turn to do the dishes or try your hand at a winning innovation. Each turn must-have criteria and an objective.
d. Transactions – When you need to get something done, you may need to establish a perimeter for transitions – the making of deals between 2 or more parties. Transactions can use various elements such as points, money, time…
e. Recourse acquisition – Acquiring things you need to achieve goals or support your team. A structured and measurable process to define or uncover what resources are needed and then acquire them with a specific purpose.
f. Special Teams – The grouping of people to do non-work-related efforts to support a cause or socially responsible effort from the company.
g. Competition – Competing to achieve, improve or support. Competitions are usually against other team members or departments.
h. Challenge – Can you achieve this target as a team or individual? A challenge is not against another team or individual a goal or against personal bests. It can include amounts saved, speed of achievement, personal improvement in productivity.
i. Quests – Finding the best process… or getting that one special customer… this will require multiple actions usually by multiple people to achieve it.
i. i.e. creating the ultimate team productivity or the ideal work environment
j. Combat – A specific competition on an event that happens at a specific time between 2 or more people.
i. i.e. The finance and the procurement teams have a dispute, so they have combat between the 2 department heads to see who can convince the Operations head on the right procedure.
ii. i.e. at the end of the month, 2 team members are tied for #1, so they must each spend one day to see who can make the most sales in an 8-hour period.
iii. i.e. if an argument breaks out, the 2 parties must have combat with foam swords and then sit down to solve the problem with the winner having the advantage
k. WIN STATE – Win state is the clear definition of what a team or individual has done or achieved to be considered a winner.

  1. Design the Rewards related to “Win State”– Ask the questions: Who wins? How do they win? How many wins? What do they get when they win? What do they feel when they win? What do they need to have to win? The win state can also connect to the emotional drives you are supporting. For example, if the behaviors are supported by the emotional drive of contribution, Win state may include collections to support a local charity or group requiring assistance. If the primary emotional drive is Belonging/Love, having a team or company party may be a better Win State than individual rewards. If Recognition is a key motivator to achieve objectives, then showing the winners’ pictures and achievements will be more effective. Win state is about filling the EMOTIONS related to the successful application of the behaviors required to achieve objectives. Some of these rewards may include:

a. Achievement Recognition – To show an individuals or team’s Achievements publicly
i. i.e. A team banner is displayed if they win a weekly competition
ii. i.e. An individual’s picture is posted on the wall after an achievement
iii. i.e. A star is placed on a chart with people’s pictures
b. Badges – To show the achievement of a level or accumulation of points. Badges can be physical or virtual
i. i.e. A team or individual is awarded a Badge of Communication Ninja as recognition for accumulating 20 points in cross-department communication
c. Gifting – To give a gift or reward to others as a form of contribution for the efforts and achievement of an individual or team.
i. i.e. The team achieves a sales goal and the company donated 10 computers to a local school.
d. Points – To collect points based on actions, achievements, support, or efforts.
i. i.e. team member receives 5 points when they achieve a goal
ii. i.e. team member earns black 1 point when they are late
iii. i.e. after a team member has 50 points they reach a new level or get a badge
e. Collections – Collections are based on positive or negative behaviors or results. They can be collected for the team or for external charity and be anything from money to canned food.
i. i.e. Team members pay $1 every time they are late and the collections are used for a monthly outing.
ii. i.e. team members donate as they please for an internal recreation room and the company will match the donation when a goal is reached.
f. Team Unity – The creation flags, t-shirts, banners, button, or wearing specific colors to maintain a unified team identity. This can also be connected with levels or badges
i. i.e. when an individual reaches a level of productivity, he is awarded as part of elite Productivity Ninjas and is allowed the black ninja t-shirt as part of the elite team
ii. i.e. the R&D team has their banner posted on the wall because they were the winning performers for the week over the other department teams
g. Levels – A set of stages a team or team member can advance as part of an accumulation of points, badges, achievements, usually with the theme…
i. i.e. when a team member accumulates 20 points or collects 2 badges, he advances to the level of Super Hero
ii. i.e. after the team member reaches the 4th level of Black Knight, he is allowed to unlock the chest that contains the mystery lunch package for
h. Tangible Rewards – A reward for an achievement or accumulation that could be money, a new office, better tools…
i. i.e. after unlocking 8 parts of the combination lock through various achievements and levels, a team or team member accesses a $1000 bonus
ii. i.e. each new level achieved comes with a badge and a $100 reward
i. Content Unlocking – A complete result that is broken down into parts so that each part can be “unlocked” when an achievement, or level, or number of points is reached.
i. i.e. 8 movie tickets are in a box and it is hidden so that you must have a treasure map to find it. The map is broken into 4 pieces and each team must achieve their weekly goal to get a piece. When all the pieces are found, they can find the ticket and have a fun day at the movies.

  1. Identify game partners– The most obvious players are our team, but what if we include people, teams, organizations that support us. Game Partners could be vendors and even customers. Getting others involved expands not only expands the scope of the game but the accountability in standard and achievement.

a. Here are some questions you can ask to identify Partners:
i. What type of partners do you need? Why?
ii. What do you need from a partner to succeed?
iii. What should a partner need from you to succeed?
iv. What must each partner have to keep consistent and achieve mutual objectives?
v. What emotional drives should be common in the partnership?
vi. How will partners fit into the game?
vii. What are the results each partner will see?

  1. Measure Everything: Connect, report, and promote measurement of the game outcomes – Measurement and the display of measurement is the key to successful gamification and make sure you choose an appropriate Resurrection time to in the measurement structure, I recommend a weekly basis. Knowing how you do in a specific behavior or achievement and when you are on track provides clarity and confidence. While Squadli is a powerful tool to measure and gamify the measurement should be in the physical world as well. Here are some ways to make if visible and make it fun:

a. Leaderboards – A display that shows the progress toward an objective of multiple teams or individuals at the same time to show who is in the lead and who is behind
b. Hero’s Index – A display either physical or virtual of individuals or teams who have achieved a specific achievement or level
c. Progress Indicators – This measures one specific objective and the progress that is made towards it by teams or individuals
d. Time – A deadline to an objective or achievement
e. Milestones – Specific parts of a bigger objective that can be celebrated or rewarded
f. Finish Line – Is this a continuous process or is there a defined finish?


The COVID19 pandemic has transformed business and has drastically affected culture. The uncertainty, isolation, and in many cases salary reduction has caused disruption in many people’s lives. However, the pandemic has also created a unique opportunity to improve morale AND improve culture where it may have been more difficult before.

Many organizations aspire to do some type of culture evolution but have not moved on it, or have done training or short term initiatives in hopes of improving their culture. Initiatives that are usually temporary quick fixes that do not affect the root cause problem. But the biggest issue is not the investment required in a root case culture evolution project, it’s the time and potential productivity loss of such a project without any real guarantee of ROI.

But in the wake of the pandemic, employees time constraints and focus has changed, leaving new opportunities to build better, more engaging organizational cultures virtually to affect the overall wellness of the organization and its ultimate competitiveness in a disruptive New Normal environment.

Enter gamification to recover employee optimism, energy, innovation, and purpose in a disruptive environment…

A key factor in the success of a more excited group with the ability to solve problems is HUMAN CONNECTION… and a gamification strategy supports this.

First, let’s look at the destructive forces of worry and uncertainty. Physically these emotions cause us to be less creative and certainly less productive. And in any disruptive situation, the way to get out is through new innovative ideas and processes. So negative emotions will perpetuate negative outcomes.

Positive emotions on the other hand, improve immunity, induce more excitement, support creative problem solving, and productivity… and a personal sense of purpose breeds positive emotions. Combine purpose with gamification and collaboration and you have the recipe for TOTAL AWESOMNESS!

So how do we do this?

The potential to manifest a goal that will affect the organization while improving personal sense of value and happiness yields hope… and hope is the fuel for Purpose. Which is cultivated from the process, not the result, of creating something bigger, better or more satisfying.

Creating a better life through work for example, would support a greater Purpose. If employees were actively involved in creating a better Culture for them to eventually go back to, an Ideal Work Environment where they would thrive and succeed in their jobs… and create fun and diversity in the process, avoiding obstacles like Lockdowns and isolation… they would have a Greater Purpose that all can connect to (reducing isolation) because they are working for the future, the bright future!

And what if they united to achieve this?  People gain purpose and excitement through creating an Ideal Work Environment in a culture THEY create. A bright future they will engineer in downtime to improve life, productivity and engagement when they go back to work. They become the architects of a better life for themselves and others. They are elevating their sense of value, connecting with others and creating innovations to solve problems, improve organizations, and achieve personal goals.

For mor Specific Step by Step Work Gamification Strategies to improve Organizational Culture and efficiency, get the ultimate gamification book by Arthur Carmazzi: GAME ON – Reinventing Organizational Culture with Gamification