Level Up: Gamifying Your Workplace Development

One of the ways to invigorate your workforce is to approach how to upskill and grow your employees with a new mindset. Gamifying development is a way to inspire your people to see just where their career can go—and adds to employee engagement.

Right now, most companies handle reviews annually. Maybe, just maybe, a company might do them once a quarter. Generally, it’s “you’re doing well; here’s some goals; here’s your 3 percent raise.”

In fact, I think we all know that one of the reasons these perfunctory reviews happen at all is to document any issues in case someone needs to be terminated. Employees know it too!

But a yearly review is not motivating. It’s not in real time, and there’s a lag between where the employee is now and where they were a year ago, making some parts of the review less relevant (and certainly not inspiring). Instead, “level up” and gamify your system. I have seen how well gamifying works—in real applications.

In the course of my career with IPC, for example, I visited many factories across China. In China, the headcount turnover is extremely high. It is reported as 20 to 30 percent of their workforce in manufacturing, but talking with line managers – it’s likely higher. In North America, that would be viewed as a catastrophe. Basically, that number means every three years you have an entirely new workforce. 

But we face turnover issues as well. How do we keep people? 

Then I visited Jabil’s factory in China. I assumed they faced this same high turnover problem. However, their management team informed me their turnover rate was less than 10 percent. I immediately was curious: “What are you doing that is different from some of your peers and competitors?”

One might assume it was more money (you know the adage about “never assume,” right?). In fact, raising wages does not combat turnover in China.

What about better facilities? (Nope, though their facility was modern and a nice place to work—so were the other electronics factories near them. So that wasn’t it.)

I studied how this factory did things. They had a similar pathway as others. With one very big difference. If we use the tried and true analogy of climbing the ladder of success, they had much shorter rungs. Every four to six weeks employees could get a little promotion.

Thus, people at this factory could think: “If I stay here and I learn these things and these skills, then I can become a level-two at this position in four weeks. Then in another six weeks I can move to this position. And then in another four weeks I could be this level if I work hard.”

At each level, they are learning new skills and being challenged. I looked around and noticed that they had these levels depicted visually on charts on the walls. Every day, employees know exactly how they could become the supervisor. And more importantly, that it was really possible. They could see their peers moving up within the company…right there on the chart on the wall!

They created a system with shorter and shorter rewards—and employees also know raises are built into that structure. 

Gamifying should include:

  • Defined learning/skills goals
  • Measurable progress markers that offer visualization of goals
  • Time-bound goals
  • Real-time feedback
  • Incentives customized to appeal to your workforce

Gamifying is an ideal way to help your employees stay on their career pathway. It contributes to workforce engagement—and offers your team and people more exciting methods to watch their career soar.  And when they are so engaged…retention improves as well as the work quality!

1 Subhi, “Employee Retention in China: Tips and Strategies to Increase It,” August 3, 2020.

2 Zixi Liu,  “Why Workers’ Turnover Is So High: Managed Flexibility and the Intermediary Chain of China’s Migrant Labor Market.” Journal of Chinese Sociology, June 2020, https://journalofchinesesociology.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40711-020-00120-z (accessed May 27, 2022).