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Benovate Healthy Living Blog

How Gamification Principals Can Influence Engagement in Wellness Programs

Motivating employees to engage in a wellness program is hard. Despite employee benefits ranking consistently as one of the top reasons people choose and stay at jobs, when folks have to opt in, it’s a little less fun.  But employers are starting to explore new strategies for getting employees excited about wellness programs—like gamification, which (according to WSB’s Hannah Uttley) has “…created a new landscape in the daily lives of most people.”

So what is gamification? In the simplest terms, gamification builds off the strategy behind a game in general.  Whether you’re playing Farmville on Facebook or Scrabble, any game is essentially a series of meaningful choices. Gamification adds elements made possible by social media and mobile strategies to create a kind of action and reward system for members of a community.

A great example of using gamification tactics to engage an audience is Dropbox, as Sensei Marketing discusses.  Dropbox is a web-based file storage service which gives users a certain amount of storage space for free, and more if they choose to pay for it—or if they invite others to use Dropbox as well, which gets them more space. Or if they share a file, users get more space. Or if they just complete their profile, users can get more space. There are a multitude of ways in which a user can get more *space* in Dropbox, and regardless as to whether or not they’ll actually use it, the game of it provides a kind of impetus.

Research has shown that gamification strategies that provide rewards like this are incredibly effective.  Sensei Marketing also points to LinkedIn, which modified their networking base to include some gamification techniques like visualization (have you noticed the sidebars that advertise different jobs and show your picture with whatever job title is being advertised?) and incentives for you to ‘endorse’ people’s skills.

In theory, gamification meets many of the target goals of wellness programs. The gaming demographic, which centers around 30 year olds, is close to the target demographic for wellness engagement. And before I go all Call of Duty on you, let me also say that 47% of gamers are women, so there’s not the gender gap that some people assume.

Gamification is beginning to find its way into employee benefit programs, like my dad’s company, which gives rewards for employees who wear pedometers and meet their weekly step goal. Developing a strategy is the first part to employee engagement, as Uttley notes, but the second part is determining effectiveness, something with which companies who have started to branch into gamification are struggling.

However, the most important part of any gamification strategy is ensuring that what you’re “gamifying” is something that people want. It’s one thing to have a system for counting employee’s steps, but it’s another to incentivize it in a way that makes them want to continue, or makes them want to lose weight, or engage in the wellness program. Additionally, there are varying costs associated with using gamification. How do you want to implement it? Does it need a mobile strategy? Will there be rewards with monetary value? Or are badges, points, quizzes, et cetera rewards in themselves?

Every application for gamification is different, and it’s too soon to even declare best practices beyond having a strategy in place. However, the only limit to the potential of implementing such a system is only limited to your imagination.

If you could design a wellness program as an employee benefit, what gamelike features would you include?