by Whitney Cook | January 15, 2013
At a recent National Retail Federation conference, gamification, where employees interact and socialize around a common bond of knowledge, competitive strategy, and fun, was touted as the next big form of social media.

Gamification is more than newfangled training. It is engaging employees with knowledge that encourages competition among peers and bestows public rewards and recognition on those who excel. It can cover just about any topic: improving operations, cutting logistics costs, and challenging employees to understand how their roles contribute to enterprise success.

CEOs, human resources directors, and operations and innovations teams across various industries are learning that integrating gaming techniques into their companies drives performance, highlights achievement and skyrockets engagement within their organizations. Experts at Stamford, CT-based technology research firm Gartner predict that by 2014, 70 percent of global organizations will have at least one gamified application; by 2015, 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify them. Many of the world's largest brands are deploying gamification. Coca-Cola, AOL, Nissan, and Nike are all jumping on the bandwagon and, as more and more studies become available, the advantages to gamification in the workplace are becoming even more apparent. Intrigued? You should be. Here are five indisputable reasons why you can't ignore gamification and its potential to empower your business.

1. Gamification Allows Your Employees to Actively Gauge Their Performance
Those dreaded yearly evaluations: Everyone has to do them, but wouldn't it be nice to give your employees access to real-time feedback whenever they need it? The great opportunity with gamification is that there is immediate cause and effect. If you make a wrong move in a game, you are corrected on the spot. If you make a strategically smart move, you receive immediate positive reinforcement.

Gamification gives the power of feedback to the employee and accelerates knowledge. This is good for the company because it creates a more efficient and engaging way to monitor employee progress. In addition, it fosters transparency about how performance is measured and where the employee actually stands.

2. Gamification Improves Knowledge

It's no secret that most of us started playing games at a young age. Indeed, our brains are built for gameplay. Doesn't it make sense for us to use the same types of techniques today in our training environment? As we all know, knowledge retention is a big part of any employee's daily life. Training and promotion aren't just important for the employee, they are essential to the growth of the company. Industry expert and author Jeanne Meister asserts that interactive learning games can increase long-term retention rates by up to 10 times. That's a pretty powerful statistic when you start talking about knowledge retention.

3. Gamification Enhances Achievement Across the Board

Every year, companies spend thousands of dollars sending employees to seminars, classes, training sessions - the list is endless. You might know from personal experience that one of the pros of learning is displaying our achievements through certificates on our desks, letters behind our names, and highlights on our LinkedIn pages. We love to compete, to win, to receive validation. In the workplace, people are automatically judged on their knowledge, achievements, and overall reputations. Allowing your employees to become masters of their businesses and creating a community that openly recognizes their accomplishments will not only grow your team, it will grow your bottom line.

4. Gamification Creates Unparalleled Levels of Engagement

Employees crave social interaction in the workplace. We love our lunch buddies and kickball teams, and might even go to the teambuilding event at the local golf course. People like to feel that they belong, that they matter, and that they are more than cogs in the big corporate machine. Gamification creates a virtual world where you can be productive and still have fun. This is good for your business because it fosters innovation, productivity, and fun, which inevitably enhance the work environment. Studies have shown that happier people equal higher revenue.

5. Gamification Reinforces Learning and Development

It's not surprising that many companies are embracing gamification in order to encourage innovation among their employees. In 2011, 40,000 people worked for just 10 days to solve the secret of a key protein that scientists believe may lead to a cure for HIV. Researchers had been working on the problem for 15 years. How did they do this? By playing a crowd-sourcing game called Foldit, which was developed by the University of Washington. Needless to say, this discovery is a big deal! While you may not be searching for a cure to a deadly disease, creating and fostering innovation within your company is absolutely essential in today's marketplace. Reinforcing learning and development within your team will not only foster a productive work environment, it will also create opportunities for expansion and job security for employees down the road.

Whitney Cook is an account manager at Inward Strategic Consulting, focusing on gamification and employee engagement in the retail space. Cook advises businesses on the best ways to introduce gamification and has established partnerships with some of the most respected names in the gaming industry that focus on brand loyalty, employee engagement, and innovation. She can be reached at [email protected] or at