How Gamification Boosts Engagement and Performance
Learn how two adidas teams drove employee engagement and motivation by introducing gamification to their work.
It’s fair to say that soccer teams perform stronger in competition than in pre-season training sessions. Why so? They’re fired up by the cheering crowd, the thought of playing for the fans and let’s not forget the shiny trophy they could win at the end.
Can you relate to the feeling that performing on game day is more exciting than training? When you shoot that goal and your brain congratulates you with that sweet release of dopamine? It’s not surprising that if we enjoy our work, we perform better and work harder, thus we’re more productive.
Believing in this power of gamifying tasks, two teams engineering the infrastructure and front end of adidas’ digital platforms set out to design games tailored to their respective departments. The mission: turning not-that-exciting tasks into rewarding experiences by building a captivating and fun competition around them.
The results prove that introducing healthy competition to the workplace can be a real game changer.
How can you apply elements of gamification to your job?
Follow these 5 steps and learn from our adidas teams’ gamification initiatives:
1. Define your challenge and objective
Just as in sport, at work we prefer playing or performing over practice. It’s all about having that moment to shine. Our Tech teams realized that this sensation comes largely when introducing new things and that we don’t feel the same amazing sense of achievement when tackling more mundane tasks. Similarly, we don’t celebrate those seemingly smaller achievements as much, yet the job needs to be done.
Thus, we boost engagement and, in doing so, increase the quality of the output and strengthen the team spirit at the same time.
We wanted to design a competition to motivate people to clean up the ‘technical debt’ – technical inefficiencies such as old code in our systems. The goal was to improve maintainability and stability of our digital products, such as our app, before scaling up and rolling out new features.
We aimed at creating an initiative to increase engagement in the IT engineering community spread out over different locations, and to establish a collaborative culture of acquiring and sharing technical knowledge.
2. Set the rules of the game
How can your teams win points? How are they evaluated? Is the game over at some point, or will it run for the long term?
We introduced the ‘Game of Technical Debt (GOTD)’, an annual spring-cleaning week to get rid of technical inefficiencies in the system. All team members were empowered to create their own teams and defined what they wanted to get done during the cleaning week.
A jury evaluated their work by how much they had achieved and the overall business impact of the code they revamped. Although the competition only extends over one week, the idea is to induce a mindset shift for teams to invest into the sustainability of their products at all times.
Leveraging an already well-established hashtag that we had activated a year before to engage the community, we named our long-term engagement initiative and competition ‘#adidoescode’. Employees can apply for 1-stripe, 2-stripes, or 3-stripes stickers in different skill categories, such as automation, data science or coding. We defined for each sticker what training or other activities benefitting the community employees needed to undertake or offer to be eligible to earn it.
3. Provide incentives
It’s offering small gestures of recognition based on performance that can make all the difference for teams at work. Popular gaming elements to reward people are leaderboards, badges, points, scores and levels.
Our teams could win shopping vouchers and personalized prizes, and – more importantly – had the opportunity to showcase their achievements directly to Senior Management, thus creating an additional moment of pride and recognition.
The stickers that people earn in #adidoescode are really more than just stickers – they are perceived as a badge of honor within the Tech community. Once a certain number of these badges of honor have been collected, employees are rewarded with a special adidas Originals sweater. Wearing the print #adidoescode on the back is less about the treat itself but more about the strong symbolism of belonging and being an active community member.
A valuable side effect of introducing the #adidoescode approach is personal and professional growth, since employees need to either participate in or provide trainings.
4. Be goofy, have fun
You can easily gamify a work task by making elements more visually engaging or telling a creative story around the task.
The first version of ‘Game of Tech Debt’ was inspired by a popular TV show. We created imagery around that and asked people to choose which team they wanted to be a part of, with the end goal of taking a seat on the honorable throne – who could resist that one?
Similar to a sticker scrapbook, our colorful stickers were designed in a way that people put them on their laptops like honeycombs, one after another, and show off their skills. Gamification is all about triggering the inner child and gatherer in us.
5. Measure results, scale, repeat
After completing the first round of gamification, look back at what you’ve achieved. How did it impact team engagement and motivation? Did it also have a positive business impact?
Through gamification we found a Why. The Game of Tech Debt not only drove engagement and excitement in the team, it also enhanced consumer experience and saved costs.
Since we launched #adidoescode about two years ago, this has become the popular game everyone wants to play a part in. People see someone with the #adidoescode hoodie on campus and want one themselves!
Finally, think about how to scale the competition. Level up to the second round!