Five Major Pitfalls to Avoid in Gamification

By Whitney Cook August 19, 2013

Companies worldwide are adopting gamification—the use of video games—into their core business strategies to drive engagement among employees, customers and partners. Inward Strategic Consulting, an employee brand engagement consulting firm, has worked with some of the world’s largest brands, including Wal-Mart and HP, and has discovered some unexpected drawbacks along the way.

The following is a list of the top five pitfalls that plague gamification programs:

Ignoring Motivation

Understanding and strategically planning around the question “What’s in it for me?” are essential to gamification success. Companies make the mistake of creating programs that initially get lots of attention, but in the end they lose their audience because there is no intrinsic motivation to keep playing. Find out what motivates your audience and your game, and its intended results will win every time.

Failing to Plan

Gamification requires well-thought-out strategic design and execution.

Many companies err in thinking that they can easily add a game to their current strategy. However, superficial gamification can lead to superficial engagement and a disappointing return on investment. When and how rewards happen and how they aggregate are components that must be carefully considered and well-integrated into the overall strategy.

Failing to Obtain Senior Leaders’ Approval

Gamification can be scary for some people, especially executives who look at lost productivity as lost profit. Making sure leaders understand the difference between gamification and gaming will help clear up the confusion. Gamification isn’t necessarily a game; rather, it’s the concept of using game dynamics (competition, rewards, status, etc.) and mechanics (points, leaderboards, badges, etc.) in the business world to engage users, drive participation, influence behavior and solve business problems. Games, on the other hand, are purely entertaining without having a specific purpose. If your top execs understand this, they will be more apt to buy in to your gamification strategy.

Ignoring Social Sharing

Gamification has little power if users can’t share their experience and accomplishments with others. Creating a program that has a social aspect is imperative to driving motivation and success. Even something as simple as a Facebook share or Twitter post can help drive engagement.

Being predictable

Games can quickly become stale and monotonous unless businesses make a concerted and conscious effort to manage, update and keep them alive. As with most things in life, people get used to processes and this “new” game can quickly become the “norm.” Creating a variable rewards structure and planting randomized fun mysteries throughout the user experience will help avoid the potential for boredom.

Regardless of the industry, avoiding these pitfalls will help create meaningful gamification programs that won’t be flavor-of-the-month company initiatives but will help drive engagement and provide long-lasting business results.

Whitney Cook is an account manager at Inward Strategic Consulting, an employee brand engagement consulting firm. She can be reached at



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.


HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.