Gamification for performance management

Gamification within performance management

Your benefits for reading this gamification article:

  1. Understand what gamification means in life and business

  2. Gain an insight to future expected trends of this growth sector

  3. How to use a badge reward system

  4. How to design the correct context and elements to implement gamification

  5. How gamification can be used within performance management

  6. Know where to find additional material and reference links

Adopt a gamification mindset

Adopt a gamification mindset

Do you have a fitness app that congratulates you on a personal best time or number of calories burned or pitches you against other runners? Do you use Audible and gain badges for meeting criteria of their awards list? Have you noticed how LinkedIn places a % water ball with grades depending on how much of your profile is complete? The gamification in daily life continues to grow and make deeper cross over into the business world.

What is gamification? In a simple definition, gamification is a method of introducing a theme and recognition to tasks or experiences. The mechanics of games is delivered to help bring motivation and engagement to personal or business goals.

Take a peek at this 17minute TED video explanation from gamification guru Yu-Kai Chou

·         Key Take Away:

  • Life: You already are engaged in gamification, even if you did not realize it

  • Business: There is a lot of untapped potential using gamification

Why should I care about gamification?

Performance and satisfaction are great reasons on their own. However, the increased consumption use of games in day to day life brings a need for quick rewards and recognition of progress. If done correctly the process and system provides a controlled rapid feedback loop to the user. This improves consistency and clarity of progress. Gone are the days when a manager may remember to compliment and thank the team members on their results, today with millennials it is crtical to be swiftly.

Today, a manager needs to establish a process where the gratifications are automated and can be used as supportive tools for their leadership and motivational pointers in staff tasks. The power of social media provides unique and frequent opportunity to create shared communications of progress and success.

What badge should I wear?

I guess many of us can recall the use of badges at scouts, guides or at other club events. These merit stars and badges created a motivation and sense of achievement. The extensive use of badges as rewards within gamification is well established and utilised. A question to the relevance of the badge is one area that needs some further explanation.

  • To create a badge there needs to be a measurement system to provide progression status. The scores in the measurement system can be used to attribute different rewards, badges.

  • The design of the badge needs to be simple, relevant to the reward name, recognizable and have broad appeal.

  • There is strong reason to establish exclusivity, scarcity and collective common badges. These differentiators generate the broad “me to” appeal of easier badge awards and move to more aspirational badges or exclusive badges. Examples for scarcity and exclusive badges are 1) Specific Team award for a closed unique event. 2) Specific skill or repeated customer excellence.

When is a badge not a badge?

Consider using a unique hashtag instead of a badge system for broad social terms to develop and build a following (keep a look out for a JAMSO specific hashtag bade for goals in 2016)!! . So, use a specific unique hashtag for reward information or interaction with special guest VIP's. Other examples of none badge awards can be certificates or other physical awards such as increased flexi hours for a month.


The proportional benefit of rewards should be designed into the gamification process. The best practice is to avoid disproportionate rewards or a system that is too complex to understand. The simplicity of your designed system will be a key to its success. So, easy tasks should have low grade easy rewards and hard complex tasks with higher valued rewards.

  1. The delay in receiving the rewards is important to understand from a users perspective. We live in an age where instant gratification and results are expected, so design your performance gamification process with this in mind.

  2. The design of your process should consider a couple of key additional elements. a) Transparency through some social outlet is important as a design motivator to support people and teams driven by status, reputation and increases the competitive nature of your actions. b) The design of a performance system that provides a relative base line is important, therefore the system should reflect negative results to the base line. i.e. if performance is worse than when it started have a status/badge that reflects it.


  • Life: Set your own personal digital or manual system with family or friends.

  • Business: Specific design of relevant badges and agreed reward progression levels often need to be adjusted with time.

What is the future for gamification?

Although it can often be hard to predict the future with secure reliability, there is enough supportive cultural evidence from the past several thousand years that people across the world continued to be attracted to games. Thus the method and game may change however the “game” will continue. It makes sense therefore to expect to see a demand for gamification in new ways we interact with life. Here are some examples:

  1. Imagine having a savings app linked to your bank account that produces incentive to manage your money better. This is already seen with the developments within some Fintech companies.

  2. Imagine using a variation of SIMS to create design concepts for products. A trial example has been used recently in Sønderborg, Denmark for a product design class.

  3. Imagine been awarded for your safe driving behavior (see video content example above)

Gamification has entered many areas of our daily lives across all ages

Gamification has entered many areas of our daily lives across all ages

The Internet of Things (IOT) influence.

More devices continue to be added to the internet, the forecasts show billions of devices with variable levels of security and data transfer. Some of these devices could have the potential to interact and improve the gamification process and user experience for everyone. Imagine going to your fridge door and seeing a smiling face each time you take out a fruit juice instead of a beer! The power of big data may take this scenario further and understand that this is the first beer you consumed all week so the face gives you a wink and reminds you not to drive in the next 2 hours (the fridge knows you normally go out at 7pm and it is 5.15pm).


  • Life: Understand the process and incentives been encouraged by new devices

  • Business: Invest in the correct IT infa-structure to maximize relevant new data available.

Gamification Principles

Short term motivation can be a struggle and this is the perfect scenario to introduce gamification. By having a design board that is broken down to smaller steps the progress and feeling of reward is felt by the user.

Your unique result is to generate a desired and positive behavior change. Therefore the motivation of some rewards is a short term motivator supported by the learning of a skill to create the new ability and a frequency or event trigger.

There should be an emotional and not pure logical reason to link for the user. Where possible provide the user the opportunity to identify key values and shared personal goals to the context of the task and output needed. This will support any reward system and help provide the inspiration needed.


  • Life: Identify your core values and link them to shorter term goal steps

  • Business: Get to know the individual motivational factors for people, then highlight shared values.

Why gamification affects the user experience.

Imagine a party where the music is piped, the drinks are flowing; the food is great and the company pleasant. This becomes the norm and over time less memorable for their specific event experiences. We tend to recall the unique moments of a specific conversation. Now compare that to a similar party where there is a theme, a fancy dress or board game or even a drinking challenge. Now these parties are the ones we seem to have no problem in recollecting and seeking to plan for the next and gaining enough guests. 

The full user experience should be designed and deeply integrated within the culture of actions. Gamification can start as an new step but over time can become a necessary part of the whole process and organizational design for internal and external customers. 

Source: JAMSO

Source: JAMSO

How to create the correct context for implementation:

The big word in the headline is CONTEXT. When creating a positive and sustainable gamification roll out within your life or work environment there needs to be a relative gamification process. Although it may be easier to roll out a role play gamification incentive program in software company amongst programmers it will no doubt have less success in a team of old doctors or traditional cultured lawyer business.

The same applies from nation to nation. A gamification roll out is more likely to be a rapid success on the west coast of America than a small family engineering business in Germany. Therefore sensitive design and consideration is a must, especially for multinational companies.


  • Life: Expect different levels of gamification engagement depending on the task and goal

  • Business: Sensitivity and design of your system remains critical for success. It may not be a one size fits all solution.

Critical Questions for your current gamification system

  1. How many people are using the system and how is this measured?

  2. How many tasks have been started and completed

  3. Who are the high engagers and what significant performance benefits are seen?

  4. Is there cherry picking of challenges?

  5. If you already have created SMART goals then consider my prior article on SMARTER goals to see how gamification can become part of the process design in activities.(see link below)

  6. Leadership culture should evolve and become part of the gamification change.

Creation of interesting work first and contagious engagement

  • Before creating complex, engaging gamification strategies I suggest each business should first seek to create meaningful and interesting work. This first step before gamification can already bring performance improvement and increase staff engagement. Once done, gamification becomes a more interesting and attractive prospect. So, does not place gamification process have to hide none interesting and potentially demotivating work?

  • Good gamification roll outs can be used as pilot schemes that are on a voluntary basis. Once the positive experiences are shared across the business the potential for a contagious appeal for involvement can occur.


Source: Gartner : Gamification seen to reach a plateau of productivity in 5-10 years.

Source: Gartner : Gamification seen to reach a plateau of productivity in 5-10 years.

How can gamification remain sustainable?

The sales and marketing industry has run for several decades with campaigns and variations of games to provide positive incentives for high performance and behavior. Change to the actual design may need to evolve and themes to be adjusted however there is sufficient supportive evidence to demonstrate its sustainability, not least as shown in the image above provided by Gartner.

What does all this mean for performance management

Typical outcomes from gamification are motivation, skills/talent/mastery and action. This is great for the first 18 months, you will need to reinvent your design and system to retain a high level of engagement with the system. To solve this challenge and ensure sustained results, I propose you link the vision, mission and culture of the business to each staff member. There should be sufficient opportunity for each staff member to align their personal vision, mission and goals to the actions needed. This will help move the motivational elements to inspirational actions. I think this is the very essence of meaning for performance management and so gamification should be seriously considered for every business and part of our personal lives.

 Further Reading and Reference Material

  1. JAMSO Pinterest board on gamification

  2. SMARTER goal setting

  3. Podcast on gamification

  4. Over 90 cases and ROI examples for gamification

  5. Slideshare 2015 trend overview

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