Companies are increasingly investing in gamification to help promote their products and services. In addition, many firms regard this approach as a useful way of encouraging employees to monitor and improve their health.

Employee Health Promotion: Gamification the Number 1 Strategy among North American Companies

Gamification is by no means a new concept, but the uses to which it is put vary. A report* published by WorldatWork, a non-profit human resources association with offices in Arizona and Washington DC, and Buck Consultants, a New York-based Xerox group company working in human resource and benefits consultancy, looks at the use and effectiveness of emerging technology tools for engaging employees in improving their own health and well-being. Gamification currently stands out as the preferred means of encouraging people to focus on their health, with 62% of the large employers surveyed in North America using this strategy to encourage employees to take action to improve their health, and 31% planning to do so in the near future. Some 60% of the employers reported using competitions to motivate their staff, e.g. walking and weight loss contests, while 37% said they incorporate game-like features – raffles, quizzes, etc – into their their health resources. Only 12% currently use online or mobile games, though 52% are considering adopting such features in the next three years.

Companies do not expect immediate ROI…

Among the firms surveyed, the target-group for health engagement strategies breaks down as 85% active employees, 19% employees’ family members, 11% senior executives, 11% managers, 3% retired employees and 2% job candidates. In order to motivate these people to take more care of their health, companies also call on healthcare organisations, which give information on their products and services through games. The range of providers communicating with employees in this way are wellness programme vendors (38%), health insurers (36%), care management vendors (18%) and pharmacy/drug benefits vendors (16%). Return on investment is not a major priority for the employers, as these firms are setting up their gamification systems in order to improve employee health. Some 79% of firms polled do not undertake any assessment of ROI in emerging technology, compared with just 21% who do.

…but they do expect results

Although most companies are not concerned about ROI as such, they certainly want their investment to achieve results. Some 24% of respondents stated that gamification had proved “somewhat effective” in reducing their employee healthcare costs, while 54% said that the technology had improved specific health/lifestyle behaviours among the workforce and 45% reckoned that it had improved staff health overall. While gamification has on the whole helped to bring about substantial improvements in employee lifestyles, there are also barriers which prevent some firms from going this route. Fully 71% of the companies polled said there were too many other higher-priority issues competing for the budget, while 52% pointed to a lack of buy-in and support from senior management and 35% expressed concern over the confidentiality and privacy of employee information.


*Emerging Technology in Health Engagement: a report by WorldatWork and Buck Consultants, February 2013

By Marion Auvray