Can Gamification Increase Employee Engagement in a New Zealand Context?
Gamification is the application of game principals in non-game contexts (i.e. the workplace). With unsatisfactory employee engagement in New Zealand, gamification is proposed as a possible solution in this thesis. Theoretically, gamification is linked to self-determination theory which recognises that individuals have innate psychological needs (i.e. relatedness, autonomy, competence). The rewards, status, progress through gamification, potentially provides a pathway to satisfying psychological needs, which when fulfilled can foster engagement. Two research questions in relation to gamification were formulated to structure this thesis: How does gamification impact employee engagement in New Zealand? How can gamification be successfully managed within New Zealand workplaces? Considering that gamification is a relatively new concept within workplaces, the literature gained from an applied search methodology was satisfactory. Four themes and additional content were identified and communicated in relation to gamification and employee engagement. The information extracted from the review was ultimately used to validate and inform an empirical study. Methods to ensure valid research included bracketing, creating an interview schedule, a recruitment plan, and template analysis. In total, twelve in-depth qualitative interviews with employees who had some form of experience with gamification, were conducted for data collection. To ensure high levels of employee engagement there needed to be a managerial ability to eliminate gamesmanship, clarify gamified rules and purpose, and to promote employee input, otherwise engagement levels would suffer. A framework created within this thesis, the “Gamified Perception Framework”, aimed to link managerial actions which equate to both high and low levels of engagement. Employee engagement was also dependent on gamification applications pertaining to employees’ psychological needs. To have high levels of engagement there needed to be applications which satisfied specific psychological needs. If gamification applications could not cater to employees’ psychological needs, it correlated with lower engagement levels. To communicate the utility of gamified applications a framework was created. The “Gamification Application Framework” attempts to illustrate the impact of the four primary applications utilised within workplace gamification. In addition to the discovery of the two variables, a way to commonly assist in gamification structure was deemed unsatisfactory, an alternative way to generate structure was formulated, and gamified engagement was found to not be generation (age) or industry specific. The primary implication of findings was the formulation of a “Five Step Guide to Installing Gamification in New Zealand Workplaces”, aiming to assist managers with workplace gamification. The guide provides a method to answer the second research question within this thesis. The guide’s multi-step nature is a metaphor for the high amount of devotion needed to manage workplace gamification. Complex in the sense of needing to constantly assess, communicate, and implement gamification when necessary. Based on findings, gamification can both increase and decrease employee engagement within New Zealand. However, increased employee engagement would require a lot of dedication entailing a high level of professional commitment. Gamification, with serious devotion, can improve the state of employee engagement within New Zealand.