HR, let’s play! (Insights on HR gamification)


I had the chance to do some research lately with my colleague Ludine on gamification and HR gamification and I wanted to share here some of the discoveries I made. To start with, according to Werbach & Hunter (2012), gamification is “the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts”. This means gamification can be applied to any organizational subject, including of course Human Resources.

What are the benefits of gamification? Personally, I would say that FUN is the commodity of gamification. When we play, we have fun, and the motivation and concentration increase, what reinforces our engagement to further play and progress.

But what makes people actually want to play? The best answer we found is given by gamification guru Yu-Kai Chou. According to him, there are 8 drivers that push people to play and progress thanks to gamification. In my own words, these motivation factors are:

  • Living epical adventures that make you progress and learn in real life
  • Feeling you are progressing, reaching new targets and accomplishing new goals
  • Learning or achieving new goals thanks to a continuous creativity-feedback-creativity-feedback loop
  • Owning and developing “virtual objects”, one’s own avatar or one’s online profile. By making them better and better you also learn and progress in real life
  • Learning through the contact with others, for example thanks to the help of a mentor in a game or via a collective challenge with other players
  • Using curiosity to further learn and discover what’s next…
  • Avoiding that something bad happens to you in a game
  • Learning or progressing thanks to the impatience to achieve or access something which is difficult to have

These levers are based whether on extrinsic, left-brain motivation (obtaining/winning something new) or intrinsic, right-brain motivation (enjoying the play itself), what makes them very complementary. It is very useful to understand these motivational drivers in order to make the most of gamification. For example, if you plan to gamify a training, it is key you master and leverage on the drivers that will make participants play and progress.

Let’s look for a concrete example of how gamification was applied to an HR subject on the market. Deloitte decided to leverage on gamification to boost the popularity and the use of its “Deloitte Leadership Academy”, an online program to train its employees and clients.  The company decided to gamify this learning experience using elements like online interactions among users, making them take up new challenges, or allowing them to win progression badges.

Deloitte used at least 4 of the motivation levers we just presented. First, they encouraged user progression and accomplishment by making them receive badges to mark their achievements. Second, they allowed players to enrich and customize their online profile on the platform. For example, employees had the option to connect to their personal networks on LinkedIn or Twitter to upload a profile or a photo. Having a more and more rich and personalized online profile contributed to reinforce their engagement. Third, Deloitte leveraged on users’ curiosity by proposing for example secret badges when a whole team watched the same video in the same week. Finally, learning through the contact with others was encouraged via competition with players with similar levels and scores through a customized top-ten leaderboard proposed to each user.

Some dramatic results confirm the success of gamification for the Deloitte Leadership Academy. Since the use of gamification, there was a 37% increase in the number of users visiting the platform each week and a 47% increase in the number of users visiting it every day. Furthermore, the average user completed online trainings to earn 3 badges and one single user actually won 30 bagdes!

Now that you see clearer on the benefits that gamification can have in HR… how about trying it in some of your current HR subjects? Food for thought…


For the win: How game thinking can revolutionize your business (Werbach & Hunter, Philadelphia: Wharton Digital Press, 2012)

How Deloitte Made Learning a Game (Meister, J.C, January 2, Harvard Business Review, 2013) -available at:

Yu-Kai Chou & gamification: