“Employee engagement,” the high-profile catch phrase that’s been echoing through the halls of corporate America for the better part of the last decade is buzzing anew. The reason? An actual solution -- a game changer if you will -- has emerged, and with its proven ability to impact employee participation and commitment, it’s injecting new life into the concept of an engaged workforce.

How many times have we seen the business world caught up in novel ideas and concepts that, while in theory should change the world, in practice have limited impact? Grand concepts that lack the brass tacks required for success lose interest until the right technology comes along to deliver on the promise.

As such, “employee engagement” has languished somewhat over the years. While numerous studies have repeatedly demonstrated its value, and most companies recognize its importance, few have devised effective strategies to implement and, more importantly, maintain it.

The guidelines that have emerged to date to steer organizations toward the holy grail of high employee engagement have been rudimentary at best: Recognize workers for their efforts and showcase their accomplishments; let them know exactly where they stand and why; provide them with a career roadmap to help them navigate their professional future.

We already knew that. Did we need a list?

The challenge isn't figuring out what makes an employee engage with the company, it’s to identify and implement a methodology that engages employees in a scalable and repeatable way. We knew what the goal was, and we knew the value of the goal. What we didn't know was the route to achieve it.

Gamification as the Key to Engagement

It turns out, the best way to encourage engagement in employees is to use the same proven mechanisms used by video game designers to drive player engagement.

shutterstock_127582352.jpgPeople don’t fundamentally change when they walk in the workplace door -- they are driven by the same human needs and desires: competition, achievement, challenge, status and so on, that motivate them when they’re playing games. By creating programs that address these needs and desires in the workplace, through a process called gamification, businesses can engage and motivate their employees and drive meaningful results.

The loyalty industry is a great example of basic gamification in action. Think about frequent flyer programs -- today more than 120 million people around the world accrue points, complete challenges, elevate their customer status and earn rewards in the form of free flights. And loyal travelers go out of their way to engage with the vendor where they have the most points and status.