How to improve engagement with leaderboards in gamification?



We’ve all participated in a competition where there was a leaderboard or rankings. Leaderboards are also widely used in games. Leaderboards in gamification are in fact a great way to stimulate rivalry and thus increase employee involvement in a given process. For both commercial and non-profit purposes, it offers a solution.

We’ve sent the first test version of a new serious game to train surgical skills, to a client. One of the metrics we track is the time to complete a level. Within one day, the client got back to us to ask us what our scores were, to see if their experts could beat the developers. This is a great example of the drive and engagement a leaderboard can create.

To implement a successful leaderboard and boost engagement it’s important to motivate competitive employees and slice your leaderboard to appeal to your other employees as well. Create a fair competition and focus on the most important metrics.

What is a leaderboard?

Leaderboards are a design element of gamification. In gamification several design elements or game elements are used to improve productivity, engagement or learning. If you want to learn more about gamification, read our article on the definition of gamification.

In its simplest form, a leaderboard is a high score listing. High score listings have been around for a long time. They first got introduced to the broader public when pinball machines became popular. Since then it has been a mechanic to rank players according to their relative success []. Leaderboards indicate who performs the best in a certain activity. Leaderboards or high scores are used in most of today’s games and gamified processes. The main purpose of a leaderboard is to boost engagement.

How does a leaderboard improve engagement?

A leaderboard affects the players and enhances engagement through social comparison. Especially extraverted people report more positive experiences with leaderboards.

  1. A leaderboard is a visual representation of a competition.
  2. It allows players to compete more easily
  3. It allows players to set a goal for themselves
  4. It allows players to keep track of their progress in relation to the other players.
  5. It allows for social comparison
  6. And it provides recognition/social reward.

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How to implement a leaderboard successfully

Although leaderboards are cost-effective, it is important to design and implement the leaderboard to encourage as many players as possible to engage in the competition. This entails not only focusing on the best scoring players, but also designing for the mainstream players within your company.

Three aspects to keep in mind to correctly implement a leaderboard are:

  1. Make sure to promote the correct metric or indicator. When the scoring does not align with your company goals, a leaderboard can backfire.
  2. Do not alienate players who are not in the top ranks. The perceived gap between them and the top player can be demotivating.
    1. Slice your leaderboard to allow different employees rank high on different work aspects or skills. This can be done based on geography/location, on discipline or department, or per period. Resetting the leaderboard after a set period also gives new players a fair chance against more senior or veteran players.
  3. Measure the impact and success of your leaderboard implementation and iterate where needed.


Leaderboards are a great way to stimulate competition and improve employees’ engagement. Make sure to implement them with care and to think about all your players. Do not focus on the top players alone, as this will negatively impact your other employees.

If you have any questions about leaderboards, gamification or serious games in general, feel free to ask us!

Tim Laning

Business developer

Do you want to know more about the possibilities of serious games? Let’s discuss what serious games can do for you.


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