Low motivation of employees is a critical problem for companies and, if deeply rooted, also for the entire global economic system.

A low level of involvement at work has consequences for employee performance, for teamwork and for the entire company.

The research conducted by Gallup, an American consulting firm, monitored the level of employee motivation and involvement through daily questionnaires.

The results for the period 2000-2016 are discomforting:

worldwide: 87% of employees do not feel involved at work.

The lack of enthusiasm is due to different motivational factors. For example, the absence of a set of corporate objectives obliges employees to take on excessive workloads with respect to the time available.

And what are the consequences of poor organization?

Daily tasks are based on what is urgent, rather than on what is important.

We end up postponing fundamental activities simply because they are considered less urgent at that moment in time, thus creating a vicious circle.

And, of course, it adds to the amount of stress, which is one of the worst and most widespread evils of modern society.

Not only does it cause less productivity in many companies, but it also discourages communication among colleagues and increases mental and physical problems. In a nutshell, it results in a complete disaster.

The situation is not better among Millennials, that is, those who were born in the early 80s and late 90s, the first generation to be hyper-connected. The data concerning this part of society has to be monitored carefully as this group will form the future working population.

A report called “How Millennials Want to Work and Live”, released in 2016 by Gallup, based on a sample of more than 1 million American Millenials, argues that:

– 71% describe their job as being de-motivating or non-engaging,

– 50% don’t think they will work in their current company the following year,

– 6 out of 10 workers are open to new job opportunities.

“Work engagement refers to a positive, affective-motivational state of high energy combined with high levels of dedication and a strong focus on work” Schaufeli and Bakker, 2010

But we shall not despair: as much as low motivation can weaken a company, enthusiasm is able to strengthen it!

The document Work engagement: current trends by Bakker and Albrecht explains how an employee’s active participation in work activities improves the way in which the tasks are performed and the financial results that are obtained.

If the worker feels sufficiently involved, he will be more inclined to engage in new experiences, to show his creative side, to be innovative and to work as a team member. Motivated employees are more likely to continue working in the company for several years, without seeing their job as a temporary situation.

It is easy to understand how such a working atmosphere can foster the success of entrepreneurial activities, particularly in terms of increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How can gamification improve corporate engagement?

We can now see how it is possible to make employees more motivated. As a starting point we chose a definition of the concept of gamification:

“The use of game elements to increase engagement and make life and work more fun” Nick Pelling, 2002

In formulating the definition of gamification, Pelling uses engagement and fun as keywords. To what extent do you think it could be useful for your company?

The least you could do is to make sure that your employees don’t feel like robots, understand their employee journey, and how it is possible to make their job more challenging. This approach will surely bring you benefits.

Gamification applied in the business environment redefines the whole work experience, i.e. the employee journey, without altering the existing core business processes. It focuses on the way in which employees and customers live out the business reality.

A gamification application will be able to organize work tasks based on the value they will bring to the company. So the employee can concentrate his efforts on a structured path, following the right guidance and direction. There will be no unnecessary waste of time and resources resulting from the absence of defined objectives and priorities.

The concept of gamification should not be reduced to ranking, scores and random prizes. These activities, alone, are no use to any company.

In order to clarify what we mean, since the term gamification may sound unfamiliar to you, let’s consider some of its applications which you may have encountered.

Several examples can be found in our daily activities: from the application to learn languages, which rewards progress, to the fitness tracker which compares the results of your workouts with those of other users worldwide. Professional games also use gamification logics: they are used by human resources departments to help in the selection process, to organise team building activities, to foster loyalty and improve productivity.

And what makes us spend time on these apps?

What are the characteristics of these successful gamification applications?

Taking it as a given that playing is more fun than doing other things, what is the fundamental element that makes us participate?


That’s right, a properly gamified application is able to activate the neurotransmitter in our brain that is fundamental to motivation and productivity.

Dopamine, in fact, is associated with the human sense of rewarding. This is what mediates pleasure through the human brain, and it is activated by satisfying circumstances and stimuli, such as good food or a song we love.

Similarly, during a game, every time we reach an objective, unlock a new level or defeat a monster, a reward is activated in our brains. This will push us to repeat the actions that generated it again and again, according to the virtuous logic of stimulus-reinforcement. And the best part is that everything will happen without making us feeling the pressures of tiredness, time or the concentration needed to achieve it.

If a company is able to master the logic of gamification correctly, it will understand how to use the motivational process to improve its business.

Gamification and motivation: a winning combination!

Motivation is important : this is clear. But how can you increase it?

How can a demotivated employee, who does just the bare minimum (or perhaps less), become proactive and enthusiastic in carrying out their duties?

In most cases, keeping a worker in the office as many hours as possible, imposing tight deadlines and monitoring him closely is not the best strategy. Actually, this might make the situation worse.

All these “precautions” do not ensure an increase in motivation and productivity, nor do they promote a sense of belonging to the company.

“Motivation arises from an individual’s choice to engage in an activity and the intensity of the commitment or persistence with which he or she performs it.” Garris et al., 2002

Let’s consider the use of gamification: a corporate gamification system, if properly executed, not only increases productivity but can even decrease absenteeism and accidents at work.

The Yu-Kai scheme is an excellent example of the practical application of gamification, and has contributed to the success of several companies such as Uber, LEGO, eBay and Volkswagen / Porsche.

In his Octalysis framework, Yu-Kai provides a detailed list of the main components of gamification, dividing them into eight categories which he calls “core drives”, i.e. fundamental units which form its base:

1. The epic meaning motivates the player and provides them with a sense to the time spent playing it;

2. Success is what triggers the player’s inner drive to make progress during the game, as well as to develop skills and overcome challenges;

3. The player’s power is legitimised by instant feedback which will involve him in the creative process;

4. The sense of ownership given to the player through his avatar and the virtual objects he gains invites him to protect them and to collect new ones;

5. The social influence within the game can push the player to pursue activities based on what other players say and do;

6. The elements of scarcity and impatience encourage the player to try to get what they can not have, as they are driven by quasi-explicit external inputs;

7. The game’s level of unpredictability and curiosity is aided by the sense of pleasure experienced during uncertain situations, in which the players have the opportunity to do new things;

8. The need for avoidance and loss keep the player alert: the threat of having to give up what has been carefully earned over time prevents the player from abandoning the game.

(Yu-Kai Chou is one of the pioneers of gamification, the original creator of the Octalysis Framework, author and Keynote Speaker for Stanford, Google and LEGO. In 2014, 2015 and 2017, he was awarded as Gamification Guru of the Year at the World Gamification Congress and the Gamification Europe Conference.)

Customisation: the basis of the gamified User Experience

The user must be motivated, there is no doubt about this. But how can the right leverage be found for everyone?

Every employee, as a person, has his own characteristics and preferences that must be taken into account. A well-structured gamification system needs to be built on what really motivates the player in a given context. The same type of action or reward will not be suitable for everyone. The level of effectiveness depends on the individual.

“The biggest thing we’ve learned is that no one reward fits everyone. The trend is going in the direction of platforms that tie multiple types of rewards together to drive customer action” Maxwell Finn, 2017

A customised gamification system will be more interesting and challenging for the player than a generic system which does not take their preferences into account.

The user will choose to spend time in a gamification system if they feel supported in reaching an important goal or find the topic interesting.

Research carried out by six scholars at the University of Waterloo, AIT (Austrian Institute of Technology in Vienna) and Gamified UK, The Gamification User Types Hedax Scale, undertook a thorough analysis of the concept of customisation.

“Gamification is complex because human motivation is complex.” TalentLMS, 2018

The research provides companies with guidelines to develop a gamification system tailored to the needs of their employees.

The researchers’ starting point was the Hexad model: a diagram illustrating the six types of gamified users. They then identified which design elements should be entered into the system, based on the player’s motivational preferences.

The six types of users of the Hedax model and the respective design elements are:

1. The Philanthropist

Motivations: altruism, achievement of a goal without rewards

Elements: knowledge sharing, donations, administrative roles

2. The Sociable

Motivations: interpersonal relationships, interactions, social connections

Elements: team, social networks, comparison, competition

3. The Free spirit

Motivations: autonomy, freedom of expression, creation, exploration

Elements: unlockable contents, exploration missions, non-linear gameplay, creative tools

4. The Ambitious

Motivations: demonstration of skills, tests and tasks to be completed, possibility of making progress

Elements: challenges, certificates, new skills to learn, missions, levels, epic challenges

5. The Player

Motivations: extrinsic rewards, prizes given by the system

Elements: scores, awards, rewards, rankings, medals, lotteries

6. The Destroyer

Motivations: bring positive or negative changes, try and overcome the limits of the system even with the risk of destroying it

Elements: innovative platforms, voting mechanisms, development tools, anonymity, anarchic gameplay

While applying the Hedax model, we must consider that it is a simplification of the types of existing users. In reality, users can have several motivations for their actions, and sometimes thay can overlap. For example, a “free spirit” could have some characteristics in common with a “destroyer” or an “ambitious”.

Important figures of gamification

Now, in order to give a more concrete idea of its potential, here are some figures concerning the size of the global gamification market.

2015 – Value: 1.65 billion dollars (about 1.46 billion euros)

according to the Gamification Market by Solution report (Consumer driven and Enterprise driven), Applications (Sales and Marketing), Deployment Type (On-Premises and Cloud), User Type (Large Enterprise, SMBs), Industry and Region – Global Forecast to 2020 published from MarketsandMarkets | February 2016

2017 – Value: 2.17 billion dollars (about 1.9 billion euros)

according to the Global gamification market report published by Mordor Intelligence, April 2018

“With such an impressive growth, gamification is destined to become a turning point for small businesses over the next two years”


The same report, for the period 2018-2023, argues that the CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of the gamification market will be 44%.

The expected value for 2023 is 19.39 billion dollars (about 16.9 billion euros).

This market is proving to be very interesting, isn’t it?

In June 2018, the American company TalentLMS conducted the survey The 2018 Gamification At Work Survey, interviewing 400 employees, with an average age of 36, who are used to dealing with applications and gamification software at work. The results were really promising:

– the use of gamification software at work was rated as fun for 80% of respondents

– gamification makes them feel more productive (87%), more involved (84%) and happier (82%)

– intrinsic motivational factors are considered to be more motivating, both when carrying out tedious tasks (43%) and completing demanding tasks (45%)

– 75% say they would be more productive if their job had a more game-like approach

Keep an eye on these trends and statistics

Today average users, especially those belonging to the Millennial generation, are increasingly looking for personalisation and experience. Involvement and sharing have become fundamental in the private sphere as well as at work. This is the reason why it is crucial to think of a tailor-made employee journey as the target, one that belongs to the modern world.

The combination of these trends is reflected jn the widespread distribution of mobile devices: none of us could live without the internet and smartphones. We live in a hyper-connected reality, where we spend a lot of time on mobile devices in order to communicate and have fun.

Companies have been able to make the most of this reality: employees are increasingly encouraged to use their personal devices to access work resources. This phenomenon has been named in English as BYOD, bring your own device. Research by Insight, BYOD statistics provide snapshot of future, shows that among 87% of the companies analysed, the phenomenon is widespread.

Another important trend for gamification is the synchronization of mobile devices with wearable technology (Fitbit and similar items). According to Smart Insights, more than 125 million wearable technology units will be used by the end of 2019. These devices can increase competition and socialisation, by sharing progress and achievements.

Together with mobile devices, the exponential increase in the use of social media is both a challenge and an opportunity for companies. The ability to carve out a space during the time spent on social networks by employees is challenging, but it is an opportunity that offers further room for involvement. In fact, for companies, the low use of CRM and the digitalisation of processes constitutes a serious limitation.

In particular, in Italy there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of digitisation, as it ranks only 25th out of 28 countries in Europe. Drafted by the European Digital Economy and Society Index, – this is a truly bleak picture (DESI, 2018).

Gamification would bring benefits for both aspects: on the one hand it would provide companies with the necessary digital processes, and on the other hand it would validate the tools and processes created. Moreover, this would involve employees through awards, rankings, competition and, above all, fun!

The current situation offers a significant boost to the development of the gamification market, being both a tool and a form of support at the same time.

Those companies which sieze these opportunities will have a significant advantage over their competition in terms of processes and efficiency.

For a more detailed explanation as to the possible benefits of gamification for companies, click on the link to book a call with our experts.