How to Gamify Your Employee Onboarding Process

Founder, robot with feelings. From planet Aiur.

Gamification is a bit of a buzzword these days. But if you want to make the most of it, you should learn how to do it right. We bring you tips on how to gamify your employee onboarding process.

Gamification has been a buzzword in corporate culture for a good while now.

We know enriching corporate tasks with elements typically associated with games enhances productivity, inspires creativity, and motivates employees to collaborate in new and exciting ways.

Today we’re looking at some of the basic principles of gamification, such as point systems, quests, leaderboards, and immersive experiences.

All these can be leveraged to make your onboarding process an unforgettable ride your employees will sail through with ease.

Let’s discover the exciting world of gamification in employee onboarding!

Match Onboarding Gamification to Your Business Goals

Gamifying the elements of onboarding is a great way to introduce the new member into the team and make this period of learning more fun and engaging.

However, it’s essential to remember that gamification, like onboarding itself, should be aligned with your company’s goals and enable you to accomplish them faster and easier.

For example, is there a particularly demanding, yet mission-critical, part of the job your new recruits need to learn?

If so, that’s a perfect candidate for gamification.

The Lawley Insurance company faced this exact situation with a key activity for their workflow.

Their sales pipeline was a mess because employees weren’t diligent enough about data entry and activity logging.

To fix the problem, the company introduced a points system to motivate employees to take better care of the pipelines.

For this purpose, they used LevelEleven’s gamification software which lets you add participants and assign them points for achieving various KPIs.

LevelEleven’s gamification software
Source: LevelEleven

For example, updating the stage of a sales opportunity could win you 50 points, as could inputting a close date. They also wanted to motivate call and meeting logging, so they were valued at 25 and 75 points, respectively.

The competition went on for two weeks, during which time there was a 257% increase in pipeline-related activity the company wanted to motivate!

What Lawley Insurance did was gamify an important work process (cleaning up the pipeline) with a competitive point system.

This resulted in a productivity boost and encouraged desired behaviors, while at the same making a tedious task more fun and engaging.

The Proper Way to Gamify Onboarding

This is a great practice to follow: gamify activities that advance your company mission and help you accomplish your goals.

For Lawley Insurance, even the choice of gamification software was aligned with business goals. They used LevelEleven because it integrates with Salesforce, which the company uses for its sales activities.

Gamify Your HR Software

Sales aren’t the only aspect of work that can be gamified so successfully.

Another process new recruits are rarely thrilled with is filling out their personal information and HR data in the company HR interface. Luckily, that can be gamified too.

If you think about it, it makes sense that tinkering around with HR software is one of your employees’ least favorite things to do during onboarding.

They took on the job to do what they do best and are anxious to prove themselves, not to fill out endless forms and sign tons of documents, no matter how accessible your HR software is.

Screenshot from BambooHR
Source: BambooHR

So, why not make this necessary aspect of onboarding a bit more fun?

Instead of making the employee engage with a process they’re less than enthusiastic about, you could try to incentivize them to complete their tasks in the company HR software by offering a small reward.

For example, imagine this scenario: the employee comes in on their first day and you brief them on their tasks. Among those is the inevitable login into the company HR software.

But, instead of telling the employee the information absolutely needs to be entered before the week is over, you tell them that if they manage to fill out the forms and sign the documents by the week’s end, they get to take home an awesome reward!

Employee recognition gift idea
Source: TINYpulse

Rewards are a big part of gamification, and people love winning them.

It can be something small like a plant and a candle (pictured above), or something relative to your employee’s interests, such as tickets to a basketball game.

Doing something like this requires very little effort on your part, but it will make a lasting impression on your new employee. They will start seeing your company as caring and nurturing.

And you’ll never have to chase down an employee for their information again!

Gamify Elements of Onboarding to Boost Your New Hire’s Confidence

One of the biggest challenges of onboarding new employees is helping them get out of their shells and do their work with confidence.

We’ve all been there. The first couple of weeks at a new job, you’re trying to keep a low profile, avoid making mistakes, and just fit in.

You don’t know any of your colleagues yet, and meeting new people and establishing working relationships is definitely no picnic.

This is something everyone goes through as they’re starting a new job, but finding confidence is especially tough for introverted people.

According to some sources, introverts make up almost half of any office, so making things easier for them is something that’s definitely worth your attention.

Introverts make up almost half of any office

A lack of confidence and self-esteem isn’t just a problem for your employee. It’s also an issue that can hinder onboarding.

Think about it: new employees are often too shy to ask key questions about their role and the tasks they are assigned.

This means their learning process is slower, and they are liable to make mistakes on the way.

Worse still, this could potentially hide high-achievers and exceptionally talented employees just because you won’t see them at their best during the onboarding process.

To avoid this, you simply need to find ways to reward your employees for speaking up or showing initiative.

And a great way to do that is by gamifying elements of onboarding where a bit of confidence is needed from your employees.

A company that does an excellent job with this is StackOverflow, the online community for programmers.

They employ an upvoting feature that allows users to reward the most useful questions and answers in the community.

StackOverflow Upvoting System

With an upvoting system, developers get a confidence boost knowing that their questions are smart and their answers are valuable to others.

You can use the same practice in your onboarding practices.

For example, if new employees are hesitant about providing feedback, you can gather it in an anonymous forum and allow participants to upvote feedback they agree with.

That way, employees are learning that their opinions matter—and they’ll be more likely to speak out on other matters as well.

This will also allow you to hear suggestions you may have missed otherwise. And that means you have a better chance to keep improving your onboarding process, as well as other work processes.

Send New Employees on Quests

At the very mention of “games”, the first word to pop into a lot of people’s minds is sure to be “quest”.

That’s only natural since quests are such an important part of the games we played as kids, as well as the video games we still play today.

That’s because quests are always an adventure, a search for something very important that can help us learn and grow. We can do it on our own or with the help of others in close collaboration.

Quests are perfectly suited for the adventure of learning and collaborating that is your employee onboarding process.

Turning tasks into quests is by no means a new concept.

There are even fun mobile apps that gamify everyday tasks by turning them into quests, which make running errands or going shopping way more fun.

A good example is the iOS app Quest that turns task management into a classic 8-bit game.

In the context of employee onboarding, the idea behind quests is that instead of presenting your employee with information (by showing them a training video, for example), you have them seek out that information and report back to you with their findings.

For instance, when you need your new employee to learn about company policy, code of conduct, work-related procedures, and so on, instead of putting a stack of papers containing this information on their desk, you could send them on a quest that takes place inside your company knowledge library.

If your company uses quality documentation software, like Archbee, your employees should have no problem finding every document they are tasked with.

That's because Archbee helps you organize all of your documents and interlink them using document trees and knowledge graphs.

Knowledge Graph in Archbee

During their quest, your new employees will get acquainted with the key documents your company is founded on and also learn to use your company documentation software efficiently.

Keep in mind that onboarding requires your new employees to absorb a lot of information in a very short period of time.

That’s why this learning period needs to be as interactive as possible, and a good way to make the learning process more engaging and fun is by sending your employees on quests.

Level up Your New Employees

Progress is another key element of employee onboarding.

Your employee needs to become better at their new job and more integrated into the company culture as the onboarding process goes on.

However, progress is difficult to measure, and we all sometimes feel like we’re treading water even though we’re achieving growth.

When employees feel like they’re not progressing in their work, they’re in danger of becoming disengaged, and if this problem becomes widespread among your staff, you could be facing a dramatic drop in performance.

That’s because companies with an engaged workforce are proven to outperform those without by a very large percentage.

Company performance in linked to Employee Engagement

Knowing this, it’s easy to see why it’s important to recognize growth and development during the onboarding process.

A clever and fun way to do that is by introducing the notion of leveling up.

Example of leveling up process

There are a few steps to establishing a leveling up system at your company so let’s go over them.

First, it’s a good idea to divide the onboarding period into several meaningful phases which are centered around key tasks or learning units.

After completing each phase, the employee levels up and enters a new phase, with harder challenges and more responsibility.

It’s also a good idea to commemorate the successful completion of every phase with a small reward.

For example, you can award badges for successfully completing levels of the onboarding process and exceptional achievements.

Small rewards for completing levels of the onboarding process and exceptional achievements
Source: Mangoapps

And, of course, leveling up is a great cause for celebration, so don’t forget to mark the occasion with some public praise or even a party.

You might hold a small event for your employees who have “graduated” from the onboarding process and leveled up to the status of a full employee.

We all have a need to conquer and succeed, that’s why we love games so much.

The notion of leveling up taps into this very human need and helps keep your employees motivated and engaged throughout the onboarding process.

Offer Rewards for Completing Tasks

Surveys show that a third of employees start looking for a new job within their first three months of employment. So you want to keep new recruits motivated during onboarding.

A lot of companies have found that putting a reward program in place is a gamification practice that helps them do just that.

Rewards help keep employees motivated and engaged. Knowing that they will be rewarded for their hard work, people tend to do their best and they also perceive work as being more fun and meaningful.

Rewards and recognition can come from a variety of sources and can take on many different forms.

For example, at Zappos, the shoe retailer famous for its insistence on nurturing the company culture, rewarding achievements and extraordinary effort isn’t up to management, but rather the employees themselves.

There are multiple reward programs, but the principle is the same. Employees nominate each other for going the extra mile, showing solidarity or team spirit, and volunteering to help their colleagues.

The rewards aren’t lavish, but they’re creative and extremely thoughtful.

For instance, the Master of WOW program features the most coveted parking space at their Nevada office (in the shade and near the entrance) as a reward for stellar performance.

Fun parking lot from Flickr
Source: Flickr

Another great practice can be found at Apple, where the entire workforce gets additional paid time off as a reward for putting in the extra effort.

The best part of Apple’s policy is that it’s customized according to the workers’ location and position.

Employees get extra time off during the official holidays in their country, while retail staff, who by necessity work hard during the holiday season, get time off at another part of the year.

As you can see, a rewards program can be made to reflect your own company values and culture.

So don’t be afraid to come up with ways to recognize your employee’s hard work in ways that will reinforce your company’s own spirit and the way you like to do things.

Leverage Leaderboards

It’s no secret that competitiveness drives productivity.

When work tasks are organized as a competition, employees are likely to put in their best effort, stay engaged at all times, and collaborate with others, for no other reason than to come out on top.

You can leverage this useful fact in your onboarding process by including leaderboards around the office and regularly updating them with the results of your new recruits.

Here’s an example of a leaderboard:

Upgrade onboarding process by including leaderboards
Source: yeself

There are a couple of sound rules to follow here.

First, be specific on accomplishments and tasks that your players will be competing in. Make sure they’re easily understood and can be measured accurately.

For instance, if you decide to establish a leaderboard system for the new members of your sales team, a good category would be the number of sales closed in meetings.

That’s a category everyone can understand and it’s easy to measure. Moreover, it’s relevant to your company goals, so you’re once again gamifying the advancement of your company mission.

Second, be sure to exhibit your leaderboards where everyone can see them, so they don’t forget they’re playing. You can display them on TV screens around your office if you have them.

Exhibit your leaderboards where everyone can see them
Source: Ambition

Also, don’t forget to update the scores as often as possible, so that the rankings are always relevant.

Last but not least, try not to get carried away. Leaderboards can be a fun and engaging activity, but if you’re putting too much emphasis on the result, you may see some undesirable behaviors start to emerge.

One study of 204 employees found that excessive insistence on competition in the workplace can make people feel anxious and desperate, which may lead to cut-throat behavior and unethical actions.

So, as they say, all things in moderation.

Leaderboards almost always inspire creativity and collaboration, but too much competitiveness can make for an uncomfortable work environment. Therefore, use them sparingly.

Provide Immersive and Interactive Experiences

If you remember the games you played as a child, you’ll know that they are a way to build new realities and live out experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

Onboarding gamification can serve that purpose as well. That’s because companies today are becoming more and more tech-savvy and aren’t afraid to explore learning opportunities provided by media and technology.

Using technology during the onboarding process allows for a more immersive learning process.

Instead of passively absorbing information given by instructors, employees can use all of their senses and engage with the knowledge you want to transfer in a deeper way.

That way, the lessons will be easier to understand and will stick with your new hires longer.

Take IKEA, for example.

Their talent development strategy relies on using virtual, augmented, and mixed reality in training sessions for new employees.

Instead of drowning recruits in rules and policies, the goal of their VR-supported onboarding is to show recruits how working for the furniture giant actually feels.

The VR experience helps new employees understand more about the different working environments, as well as job functions, at IKEA. This gives them a broader understanding of the company’s culture and production process.

But immersive and interactive doesn’t have to mean high-tech.

You can also use quality storytelling to immerse new employees into your history and company culture.

For example, you can create a stylish, down-to-Earth employee handbook to speak to new employees in a language they will understand and relate to.

That’s exactly what the app developer Big Spaceship Co. did.

Their handbook is a unique, well-written, excellently-designed testament to their company’s quality which covers everything from how to talk to clients to how the company is structured.

Big Spaceship Co. unique handbook
Source: Big Spaceship

What both IKEA and Big Spaceship are getting right is onboarding new employees into a way of life, instead of just a regular job.

And that’s a great way of thinking about onboarding that will help you get employees excited and keep them loyal for a long time.

There Are So Many Ways to Gamify Onboarding...

We’ve barely scratched the surface of everything gamification has to offer in an onboarding process.

We’ve offered a couple of practices we find to be great examples of how onboarding can be turned into an engaging, fun, and competitive period your employees are sure to remember long after they’ve started working for your company.

Games are a big part of our lives, so try to think about what captivates your interests and sends your heart racing and see if it can be applied to your onboarding process.

There are virtually no wrong answers here, so just keep experimenting until you discover practices that best suit your company’s spirit.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is gamification in corporate culture?
Expand FAQ
Gamification in corporate culture refers to the application of game-design elements in non-game contexts. Its objective is to enrich corporate tasks, enhancing productivity, inspiring creativity, and motivating employees to collaborate in different and exciting ways.
What aspects can be gamified?
Expand Button
Various aspects such as point systems, quests, leaderboards, and immersive experiences can be gamified to make employee onboarding more engaging and exciting.
What was the result of the gamification system adopted by Lawley Insurance?
Expand Button
Lawley Insurance company introduced a gamified points system to improve its sales pipeline management. As a result, there was a 257% increase in pipeline-related activity the company desired to incentivize.
What is an example of gamifying HR software?
Expand Button
HR processes like personal information and HR data entry can be gamified by offering rewards, such as gifts or benefits, to employees who complete these necessary tasks in a specific timeframe.
What approach does StackOverflow take to boost employee confidence?
Expand Button
StackOverflow uses an upvoting feature which allows users to reward the most useful questions and answers in the community. This gives developers a confidence boost since their inputs are validated and appreciated by others.

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