“My definition of success? The more you’re actively and practically engaged, the more successful you will be.” Thus spoke Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and one of the wealthiest and most successful people alive. You could attribute Branson’s incredible achievements in part to his understanding the importance of engagement—not just his own, but that of the people who work for him.

Employees who feel engaged in their job are more productive, more successful, less likely to take sick days, and less likely to quit their jobs. But if you’ve got a serious engagement issue, how do you solve it?

Well, you could try making a game of it.

What is Gamification?

It’s more than just fun and games—gamification is about applying elements of gameplay (points, escalating rewards, friendly competition, encouraging collaboration, et cetera) to how you conduct business. It’s about a lot more than just making work feel fun, though. Over the last several years, there’s been an increase in companies using gamification to drive sales, improve customer service, and train employees, and many have seen incredibly positive results.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this is just another entry in a long list of short-lived workplace trends—exploding across the market today, and an embarrassing memory tomorrow. But the truth is, there are solid psychological and practical reasons why gamification works, results that prove its effectiveness, and a serious growth in its implementation; the gamification industry’s revenue is expected to reach $11 billion (US) by 2020.

Why is it Effective for Employee Engagement?

Gamification works for the same reason that games played for fun are so enjoyable. Whether it’s Scrabble, Super Mario Bros., or a gamified CRM in the workplace, all of these stimulate the reward centre in the amygdala, creating an incredible sense of satisfaction in participants. And by allowing challenges to increase, yielding greater rewards as you go, users remain engaged without falling into stagnation.

By offering recognition in the form of badges, a leaderboard, or some other method, you encourage employees to feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments—which in turn encourages them to reach even higher. A University of Colorado study found that participants of a gamification-style e-learning program scored 11% higher in factual knowledge, 14% higher in skill assessments, and 9% higher in knowledge retention.

How Can It Be Implemented?

There are countless ways to implement gamification into your business, and the strategy that works best for you will depend on the goals you are trying to achieve.One way is to implement it into how you manage your CRM. Creating a leaderboard for your sales team, setting goals for converting leads into clients, and giving rewards that focus on recognition (cash and material rewards have been found to be ineffective) is a great way to start. By varying rewards—most sales made, new personal best for sales, best in customer satisfaction, and things like that—you are able to incentivize more employees more often. And of course, a little friendly competition can go a long way to inspiring people to deliver the best results they can.

Another popular method is using computer games or simulations for training purposes. Instead of simply telling a new hire what is expected of them and then leaving them to their own devices, using a game where they have to apply the knowledge and skills required to do their job effectively gives them an opportunity to learn by doing, improving their chances of retaining knowledge and keeping them much more engaged in the learning process. Employee engagement platforms like Hoopla can help with this.

What Does the Future Look Like for Gamification?

As mentioned before, as demand for gamification grows, the market is expected to reach $11 Billion by 2020. And it’s easy to see why. Since gamification can be used to improve employee engagement across multiple areas, including training, sales, customer support, teamwork, human resources, inventory tracking, and improving the overall corporate culture, and given that the results have been so promising, you can expect that it will continue to grow in popularity. As businesses find new and innovative ways to push the boundaries of what gamification can do, it can only level up from here.