There may be whispers of it in the workplace, but if learning leaders haven't heard a lot about gamification yet, they will in the near future. At a recent Annual National Retail Federation conference, gamification was touted as the next form of work-based social media where people interact and socialize around a common bond of knowledge, competitive strategy, and fun.

CLOs (chief learning officers), HR directors, and operations and innovations teams across various industries are learning that integrating gaming into learning and development strategy drives performance, highlights achievement, and boosts engagement.

But gamification is more than newfangled training. Elements of game play engage employees with new knowledge encourage competition among peers and bestow public rewards and recognition on those who excel. It can cover just about any topic: improving operations, cutting logistics costs, challenging employees to understand how their roles contribute to enterprise success.

In the future, managers will see people playing games at work. Gen Y professionals have been nurtured and brought up on gaming. The average gamer is 37 years old.

Gartner predicts that by 2014 70% of global organizations will have at least one gamified application; by 2015, 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify them. Many of the world's largest brands are deploying gamification, including Coke, AOL, Nissan, Nike, and Viacom; and as more studies become available, the advantages to gaming in the workplace will become widespread.

Learning leaders who have made the jump are motivated by different things. But one primary lever promoting gamification is that employee satisfaction, which is closely related to employee retention, can no longer be achieved through financial compensation alone. Ultimately, the big-stick approach doesn't always work, and it is not the only method available to motivate and encourage team efforts. To stay on top of the game, managers must be forward-thinking.

The challenge now is in understanding why gamification is so effective and how to introduce it seamlessly into an organization. Want a better idea of how to make it happen? Keep reading.

The Top 5 Rules of the Game

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Whitney Cook is an account manager at Inward Strategic Consulting, focusing on gamification and employee engagement in the retail space.

LinkedIn: Whitney Cook