Gamification and Sustainable Behavior Change in the Workplace

Read Accenture’s report about how gamification can be used to change systematically the behavior in the workplace.


How can enterprises capitalize on the appealing—even addictive—power of games to engage users and shape their behavior? That question has been driving a lot of interest in “gamification”—the idea of using game design and game mechanics in non-entertainment contexts.  

Accenture Technology Labs’ Manish Mehta and Alex Kass look at how gamification can be used to improve employee engagement and effectiveness.

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There can be no doubt that gaming elements have the potential to make an impact on the enterprise workforce: game mechanics such as the use of competition and leaderboards have been used effectively for a long time before they were labeled as gamification. 

One thing that makes gamification especially appealing now is that a set of techniques have emerged that are both easy to use and affordable, thus providing organizations the opportunity to get started by:

  • Awarding points for engaging in desired behavior and keeping score.

  • Using leader boards to create friendly competition.

  • Providing badges and other forms of recognition when users reach-defined performance levels.

The big question posed by Accenture Technology Labs is: How can the gamification trend be broadened to tap more of the power that great games have, in a way that systematically connects that power to key objectives for changing behavior?


The intense interest in gamification has provoked significant backlash, with the most prominent detractors including vocal gaming devotees and developers. These critics are not arguing against the use of games and game mechanics in the workplace. On the contrary, they argue that the first wave of gamification is exercising too limited a repertoire of game-design techniques, and is not ambitious enough.

The basic gamification techniques listed above seem best suited to incentivize behaviors which employees already know they should perform, but which they typically delay or ignore. Such tasks might include answering surveys or filing out expense forms on time, perhaps even speeding the checkout lane a bit. The techniques that keep Farmville players working on their plots seem to work as well for these workplace tasks.

Great games are more than simple mechanics that are easily imported into existing enterprise applications: they generally involve interesting stories, complex simulations, and/or other elements. And they can do much to engage, educate and inspire new behaviors.


Early gamification successes, as well as some of our own experience developing learning technologies with some game-like elements, provide evidence that it will be possible to use games to transform behavior. But systematically achieving that effect will require us to draw on more than game-design experience.

We present a five-stage model which we have adapted from the literature about behavior change to help organizations organize their thinking and focus on as they move forward with more advanced gamification initiatives:

  • Stage 1: Raising awareness: Recognizing that there is room for improvement.—Workers do not know what their current behavior patterns are, or why they are incorrect.

  • Stage 2: Building buy-in: Committing to the change effort.—
    Workers may not understand the value in behavior change.

  • Stage 3: Learning how: Understanding the mechanisms underlying the target 

          Workers do not have the knowledge to                   select and perform target behaviors.

  • Stage 4: Initial adoption: Trying out the target behaviors, getting used to executing them.—
    Workers are still unpracticed at translating the theory into action.

  • Stage 5: Mastering and maintaining: Perfecting target behavior through extended practice.—
    Behaviors are understood but are not yet second nature.

We should remember that while games have proven very successful at drawing users in, game-design techniques have not generally been developed with the idea of changing user’s behavior outside the game. Grand Theft Auto, for instance, is not really designed to turn players into car thieves!

Contact Accenture to discuss further how we can help you turn great ideas into projects that improve performance.