How to Make the Most of Games at Work

how to make the most of games at work

I admit it. I am a gamer. I play games on my computer, my phone and my tablet. It is entertaining and a good way to relax. But playing games is not just about entertainment. There is a serious side to games that can be a useful tool for many HR issues at work. If you understand the nature of games, you will know how to make the most of games at work.


Gamification means applying gaming elements to a serious activity at work. It involves incorporating one or more activities that are normally part of a game for some other purpose. Gamification elements that can be incorporated include.

  • Achievements: Employees are given recognition for hitting specific benchmarks, such as learning a new skill or performing a particular task. These can be provided online and can be added to employees’ own accounts that list their achievements.
  • Badges: These are symbols that are more tangible indicators of achievement. They can be physical objects or virtual badges that are only electronic.
  • Leaderboards: Some companies maintain a website visible to all employees that track everyone’s performance over time. This is something often done with sales so everyone knows who the top producers are.
  • Levels: A rank system where employees are given specific levels based on achievements. Typically the sequence required to level up is provide to employees so they know what they need to do to rise in level.

How to Make the Most of Games at Work

Games and gamification can be used for many purposes in organizations. The most popular include

  • Pre-employment assessment. There are many kinds of pre-employment assessments such as psychological tests and interviews. Gamification elements can be incorporated into assessments in a variety of ways. One way is to have job applicants “play” a specially devised simulation game that can be used to assess job-relevant qualities, such as social skills or sound judgment. Groups of employees can play a game at the same time to evaluate teamwork skills.
  • Training with Computer Games: The most obvious way to use games for training is as a simulation to teach a particular skill. This might mean finding a serious use for an existing computer game that can be used as a simulation exercise. For example, the military will use computer flight simulator games early in flight training for pilots. These games can be a good way to introduce trainees to the major elements involved in flying so they understand what is involved. It can also mean creating a game that has all the elements needed to train a particular skill.
  • Computerized Interactive Training Exercises: There are many ways that interactive exercises can be used for training. A recent development is the use of such exercises to train leadership skills. The exercise is like an old adventure game in which the trainee watches a short video clip of another employee who says something. The trainee is then given the choice of responding with one of 4 or 5 statements. The choice determines what the other person “says” next. This exercise is a way for people to explore the impact their statements have on the other person. They can take one approach (e.g., being aggressive) to see what happens, and then start again with a different approach (e.g., being diplomatic).
  • Motivating Performance. The gaming elements noted earlier can be incorporated as rewards to motivate employee performance. They are particularly useful when it is possible to define desirable behaviors (completing training modules) or achieving specific outcomes (sales of products). Such systems are more applicable to some jobs like sales than others.

Companies are just scratching the surface in their use of gamification, but it is a growing trend. If used wisely, games and game elements can be valuable tools for a variety of workplace issues. It might be tempting to consider games as frivolous, but games are powerful tools for assessment, training and other serious purposes. With that said it is time for me to get back to my game.

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2 Replies to “How to Make the Most of Games at Work”

  1. Mark Rober does a Ted Talk on gamification and some implications in the real world and life in general. It doesn’t go into applications in the work settings (more focus on just life challenges) but there are many parallels. Changing how our outlooks are when we face challenges can dramatically change the outcome and how long we attempt to overcome them. Also framing how we provide challenges to others on what is overall the same task can help motivate others more. If you haven’t seen it, I will provide the link as well. (

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