Employee Engagement—what employers can learn from video game makers

Why are videogames so addictive? Dr. Marjorie Blanchard of The Ken Blanchard Companies believes that there are three reasons.

  1. The player is in control of their environment.
  2. The player receives rewards and recognition on a regular basis.
  3. The player experiences a sense of growth and mastery as they continue playing.

Employers can learn a lot about creating motivating work environments by studying video game design. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors and how they can be incorporated into today’s workplace setting.

In control of the environment.  Better known in business circles as Autonomy, this is a key component to creating a motivating work environment.  People need to be allowed the freedom to choose how and when work tasks are performed.  Once goals are set, managers need to provide direct reports with the tools and resources they need to get the job done.  What people don’t want—and what they find demotivating—is a manager who wants to control every detail and use the employee as just a pair of remote hands.  Not much fun in that type of game.

Rewards and recognition on a regular basis.  In any good video game, players are constantly achieving objectives and receiving rewards.  Whether it is a new asset, a pot of jelly beans, or a cool new weapon, game programmers build constant opportunities for self-achieved rewards along the way.  Employers can learn a lot from this approach by building in small opportunities for reward and recognition into the work environment.  As simple as this sounds, the reality is that most employers do just the opposite.  As long as an employee is succeeding, they rarely get feedback.  In most organizations the only time you hear something about your performance is when you are off-track or not achieving your goals.  How long would you play a video game like that?  My guess is that it would not be a very popular game.

Growth and mastery.  The final aspect of a motivating environment that we can learn from video games is the importance of growth and mastery.  Both are important to employees.  People need to feel a sense of growth and accomplishment, especially if they are to perceive that their current job is in alignment with their overall career goals.  While achievement at work may never equal the kick you get from achieving the next level in Angry Birds, it can probably get a lot closer.

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