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An Introduction to Using Gamification in Home Care: Motivate, Engage and Retain Your Caregivers

Published on August 30, 2021 by Sharon Morrisette

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Most home care agencies still find themselves in the unenviable position of constantly seeking solutions to increase caregiver motivation, engagement, and retention.

With caregiver turnover rates in the US still ranging from 65%–80% annually, the acute caregiver staffing crisis looks set to continue.

If your home care agency is struggling to find innovative ways to create long-term caregiver engagement, it might be time to consider strategic gamification, which is proven to improve caregiver motivation, job satisfaction, productivity, and retention rates.

What is gamification?

We’ve all played a game at some point in our lives. From board games like chess, checkers and Monopoly, to Minecraft and FarmVille on game consoles, to a vast range of online video games. We enjoy playing games.

One key factor in our enjoyment of games is that they tap into our brains’ natural wiring – a natural reward compulsion loop. They give us instant feedback on our actions/achievements, can help us create social bonds, and make learning far more engaging. Games are our way of having fun and are typically designed with high levels of engagement and motivation to keep us hooked.

Gamification cleverly takes advantage of this ‘feel good’ factor by adding games or game-like elements and game-design techniques to non-gaming activities.

It is no surprise that gamification in the workplace is gaining popularity and being used across many sectors to increase employee retention – including the home care industry.

Gamification in the workplace

gamification and smartcare

Gamification is not a new concept. We regularly experience it in our daily lives, for example, as a marketing tool to boost customer loyalty and engagement. The simplest example is customer loyalty programs, which unlock a reward when customers reach a certain level or collects enough points. Think Starbucks’ customer card for instance.

While surrounded by gamification as consumers, it is less common to see it used in daily business applications. But this is changing as smart business owners recognize the concept can be applied to almost anything where you want to encourage people to behave in a certain way or complete a particular activity or process.

By using gamification and rewarding employees for performing certain activities and tasks, businesses can create the natural reward compulsion loop – and a natural dopamine environment – in the workplace.

An obvious fit for gamification in the workplace is to help solve HR problems, including poor staff performance, customer retention issues, recruitment problems, and low employee engagement in training programs.

Gamification in the home care industry

Home care agencies are starting to use gamification’s mechanics, design techniques, and aesthetics to drive staff behaviors and achieve desired outcomes like caregiver retention.

One goal of applying game elements to work-related activities, particularly in the home care industry, is to make routine tasks more engaging – for example, clocking into shifts or completing care reports on time.

Using a home care software platform, like Smartcare’s mobile app, can help to reduce the amount of time caregivers spend on administrative tasks and logging of care. It can further be enhanced and made more enjoyable by adding gamification into the application.

Agencies can also use gamification to alter unwanted behaviors and inspire caregivers and staff to be at their best at work – simultaneously reducing work-related stress. Think ‘more carrot, less stick’!

“Home care providers are achieving better outcomes by using gamification techniques to engage a new generation of caregivers who are accustomed to tackling challenges with a gamer’s mentality.”

Scott Zielski, Smartcare Founder and CEO

Home care and gamifiaction

By gamifying caregiver tasks in your home care agency, research shows you can positively impact your employees’:

  • Attention
  • Behavior
  • Cognition/Learning
  • Memory
  • Mood
  • Motivation.

You not only help caregivers and office staff to enjoy routine tasks and have fun completing them, but you also improve their ability to do their jobs well. This can ultimately increase motivation, improve work culture, raise productivity, and achieve better retention rates.

Ideas for using gamification in home care agency environments

Gamification in the home care industry can be applied successfully to multiple aspects. When using gamification, it is essential to remember that ‘the game elements’ are merely a tool and not goals in themselves! Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

Gamification in software often involves completing various levels of mastery. You can use this idea to improve your onboarding, mentoring, coaching, and training programs, for example, by rewarding employees for accessing how-to videos and built-in documentation and then demonstrating mastery of the concept via a quiz.

Utilizing gamification motivates performance and encourages desired behaviors. Still, you need to make sure that you are rewarding activities/behaviors that lead to success, not the success itself – in that way, you encourage staff to improve at their jobs and develop new skills continuously.

Many gamified initiatives begin with competitions. Part of their appeal is that your employees will immediately recognize/understand them. They can have a significant impact on performance. Competitions will only motivate employees if they believe they have a chance of winning. Therefore, you will need to create challenges between employees with equal opportunities for success, e.g., similar skill set, experience, geography.

Setting longer-term challenges can provide added value and create purpose within a framework for work-related efforts. In a ‘game’ environment, a challenge is like trying to win a race. Gamification challenges can range from working through training modules to receiving consistently positive client feedback.

When creating challenges, make sure they are attainable but not too easy – based on each employee’s capabilities and needs. Actions required to complete a challenge must be clear and easy to follow to help keep staff engaged and motivated.

It’s also essential to make sure that progress is transparent. Your employees should be able to monitor their progress through any challenge, so they know which areas need focus and the subsequent actions required to reach the end goal.

Gamification opportunities can be easily extended to work within and across multiple agencies and often work better to get real results and achieve the level of fun, engagement, and competition needed to make it worth the effort.

Holding monthly, bi-annual, or annual award ceremonies can be a great way to bring remote teams together to recognize and reward individuals and teams that have performed well and hit their targets. Getting teams from different agencies together to celebrate successes achieved through robust gamification strategies is excellent for team building and staff morale.

Feedback and social feeds are both powerful game elements that can be used to strengthen communications as a part of your gamification efforts. They can offer many benefits, including:

  • Promote collaboration on team challenges (both game or sales-related)
  • Provide more fluid, informal communication between team members and managers
  • Support collaboration and coaching between geographically dispersed teams, as staff are more likely to communicate with colleagues outside their immediate circle if they are part of the same game/team and on the same chat feed
  • Allow team members to give each other feedback (peer reviews) and congratulate each other on successes – both known to increase motivation and engagement.

These are just some examples of how you can use gamification in-home care agency settings. As more staff are employed who can’t remember a time before smartphones, gamification is going to play an increasingly important role in keeping your staff and caregivers engaged, happy, and productive.

BONUS: Six key elements to gamification success

gamification and home care

Regardless of how you decide to gamify tasks and activities in your home care agency, there are six key elements to keep in mind to ensure that that all-important reward compulsion loop is activated:

  • Purpose – what are they working to achieve, and is it meaningful?
  • Chunking – are complex activities/goals broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks, creating low barriers to success and immediate engagement?
  • Progress – are there sufficient levels and achievement goals to encourage progression, and can they see progression in real-time – individually and/or as part of a team?
  • Feedback – is there immediate, real-time feedback to motivate continuation to the next milestone or point to adjustments needed to get back on track?
  • Reinforcement and reward – what gets rewarded, gets repeated – are there enough rewards, are they suitable and valued, are they being awarded for the right things?
  • Motivation – are Scientific American’s three critical elements to sustain motivation being met: autonomy, value, and competence?

Smartcare’s gamification tools

It is possible to gamify tasks manually within your home care agency, but this can take an enormous amount of time and effort to set up, monitor, and track. It may be more efficient and cost-effective to use home care software that already has gamification elements built into it.

Smartcare’s leading home care platform now includes gamification that creates motivation and engagement, changes behavior and, ultimately, retains caregivers by making each caregiver a hero and showing appreciation for their efforts every day.

Smartcare customers see some of the highest caregiver retention rates in home care, which leads to improved outcomes, strong connections to the agency, and improved bottom lines. Smartcare users see up to three times greater caregiver retention rates over the industry average.

For more information about the latest developments in Smartcare Software visit: www.smartcaresoftware.com


Correctly implemented, the benefits of gamification can be significant and cater to everyone’s needs within your home care agency, improving motivation, job satisfaction, productivity, retention rates and more.

Gamification can provide your home care agency with a powerful additional tool to attract, hire and retain the most talented caregivers – empowering your staff to achieve higher levels of performance and productivity – and thoroughly enjoy doing so!