Exploring four core human motivators that can drive better engagement through gamification

One of the best ways to understand how human motivators can be applied to increase engagement and productivity in business practices is to study how they are activated and used within the setting of a game. This is why gamification has become such a hot topic in recent years – there is finally hard evidence backing up the methods used to achieve better engagement and productivity. By reflecting on our own behaviour and that of people we have played games with in a social and/or digital setting we can find practical ways to improve the design of many business practices and rejuvenate dull routine work tasks.

Based on how we at Game2change have successfully created change and learning programmes, we have selected four of the predominant motivators that we often apply in our gamification solutions:



Every serious game has a path of progress and through this journey players often encounter random events creating surprise and sometimes disruption. Word of Warcraft has based a large portion of its gameplay on exploring an imaginary world, triggering feelings of excitement for players.

We have applied this at Game2Change by building elements of surprise into our programmes. Surprise can invigorate and engage employees and learners. An example of this in our game-based learning is how we design our board games so as not to make it clear who is winning the game right until the final round when we have booster points that can either help the leaders move further ahead or allow those further back to shoot into the lead. This aspect of our gamers means that the players/learners rarely lose interest and engagement right until the last round.


This motivator plays on our natural human drive to want what we can’t have. Many games make use this principle with by limiting a player’s time on tasks and gameplay and by offering points to be accumulated as one progresses through a game.

We place time limits on employees and learners in our programmes and have found that this is a great way to build scarcity and apply pressure to drive better performance. Rather than make the constraint punitive though, we build in extra rewards and points for meeting the deadline or achieving a task within a given timeframe.


Having a sense of ownership re-enforces our identity and place in the world and this usually makes us feel good and more engaged in our environment. This can often be seen in the turmoil created when a business moves from fixed seating to a hot-desking concept.

By creating a sense of possession in our game-based workshop, all players have an identity with a particular team or avatar and contribute towards some reward or point system. Players/learners are far more motivated to push through difficult tasks and activities when there is a sense of possession.

Social influence and belonging

As social creatures we are hardwired to connect and want to feel part of a community. Gaming creates a framework in which we can socialise and relate to each other in different and varied ways.

We apply this by driving all our initial engagements with interactive sessions that initiate a connection and create a sense of belonging. The social interaction occurring in a game-based workshop allows for a different type of engagement, one that often strengthens working relationships and diffuses tensions. The overall motivation of a team is greatly improved and this flows into other areas of work and engagement.

These four core motivators are simple but effective ways in which gamification can drive a more engaged and motivated workforce. How could you apply these four principles in your workplace to design better business practices and learning? In our next post we continue this discussion with some practical tools and techniques seen in popular gamification case studies.

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