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Incentivizing Staff with Employee Recognition Games

By Mike Faden

It can be challenging to get employees to change the way they work, even when the changes offer clear benefits to the organization. One approach gaining traction is the use of game concepts to drive behavioral changes, often through employee recognition games. Known as gamification, this approach is built on the idea that people naturally like to play games—and that games are extremely good at keeping people engaged.1

Gamification uses game features such as points and other rewards, rules, and challenges to encourage employee behaviors that support specific business goals.2 Organizations have used these employee recognition games to engage employees in learning activities, reward team players, and drive other activities that contribute to business performance but might otherwise go unrecognized and unrewarded.3

 

Gamification Origins and Definitions

 

Gamification’s “game mechanics” include points, challenges, leaderboards, rules, and incentives—the things that make games fun. “Humans are hard-wired to enjoy games and have a natural tendency to interact more deeply in activities that are framed in a game construct,” according to research and consultant firm Gartner.4 Experts say the key is to focus employee recognition games on behaviors that address key corporate objectives or ROI.5

 

Using Employee Recognition Games to Achieve Corporate Goals

 

Gamification differs from conventional incentive methods, such as sales team competitions and rewards, in that it uses additional game mechanics and rewards a broader range of corporate goals and behaviors.6 Some examples:

 

  • A call-center company used employee recognition games to motivate 20,000 widely distributed agents, providing digital badges and points for completing additional training, converting calls, and articulating client companies’ quality objectives and culture. While encouraging competition by tracking points on public leaderboards, the program also rewarded collaborative activities, such as sharing knowledge and coaching others. Benefits included faster agent onboarding and increased customer satisfaction.7
  • A large technology company used points and badges to encourage knowledge-sharing and software reuse at minimal expense, awarding points to employees for joining communities, publishing or contributing to documents, and publicizing reuse.8
  • A consulting firm motivated its principals to share information internally, spreading their expertise, and to build their personal brands by creating blog content. Program rewards included badges as well as more conventional incentives such as vacations. Consultants also benefited by building their reputations inside and outside the firm. The program was credited with driving millions of dollars in revenue.9

Companies can also use employee recognition games for other purposes, such as encouraging procedural compliance and promoting workplace safety.

 

Achieving Success with Employee Recognition Games

 

When designing employee recognition games, it’s important to focus on key principles and avoid common pitfalls, according to the Incentive Research Foundation.10 These include:

 

  • Clearly understanding the desired behaviors. It’s important to focus not only on the broad corporate goals, but also the fine-grained details of the individual behaviors that contribute to achieving those goals, according to the foundation. For example, the goal may be an increase in productivity—but that requires changes to individual behaviors such as seeking new types of education, adopting new tools, sharing tips on how to solve operational problems, and meeting new people. Employee recognition games should therefore incentivize each of these contributing behaviors to achieve the higher-level outcome.11
  • Implementing sophisticated tracking and analytical capabilities. Tracking employees’ behavior in recognition games is essential to rewarding them appropriately. It also provides information about which aspects of a program are working and which need to be adjusted. In some cases, employees may need to log their behavior. In other cases, software can automatically track progress and provide employees with positive feedback for participating.
    For example, if a company is incentivizing mentorships, it can enable mentees to rate their mentors online. This mechanism not only tracks success, but it also provides immediate public recognition and a further incentive for mentors.12
  • Watching out for unintended consequences. There’s a risk that some employees may find ways to “game” the employee recognition game by engaging in behaviors that reward them but don’t fulfill corporate objectives. For example, introducing colleagues to others could become an annoyance if overdone. At a large technology company, one employee continuously posted trivial responses to community forums, thus gaining points for contributing in the company’s knowledge-sharing program.13
    It may be necessary to set limits or to personally contact individual offenders to minimize these problems, experts say.14 There may also be negative reactions from employees who don’t win, which companies can address by creating more reward categories and considering other factors, such as location and unusually deserving circumstances.15

The
Takeaway:

Employee recognition games use game-like features such as points, rules, and challenges to drive employee behaviors that support specific business objectives. Some companies say their gamification programs have helped them achieve corporate goals, such as increased productivity, knowledge-sharing, and customer satisfaction.

Mike Faden

The Author

Mike Faden

Mike Faden has covered business and technology issues for more than 30 years as a writer, consultant and analyst for media brands, market-research firms, startups and established corporations. Mike also is a principal at Content Marketing Partners.

 

Sources

1. “Gamification Done Right—The Do's and Don'ts,” Incentive Research Foundation; http://theirf.org/research/gamification-done-right---the-dos-and-donts/132/#Good1
2. IT Glossary, Gartner Inc.; https://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/gamification-2
3. “Game Mechanics, Incentives & Recognition,” Incentive Research Foundation; http://theirf.org/research/game-mechanics-incentives-recognition/130/
4. IT Glossary, Gartner Inc.; https://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/gamification-2
5. “Game Mechanics, Incentives & Recognition,” Incentive Research Foundation; http://theirf.org/research/game-mechanics-incentives-recognition/130/
6. “Out of the Box Gamification Ideas for the Workplace,” Bunchball; https://www.bunchball.com/blog/post/1930/out-box-gamification-ideas-workplace
7. “How LiveOps reduced onboarding time for call center agents from weeks to hours,” Bunchball; https://www.bunchball.com/customers/liveops
8. “How to motivate knowledge sharing using gamification, goals, recognition, and rewards,” Medium; https://medium.com/@stangarfield/how-to-motivate-knowledge-sharing-using-gamification-goals-recognition-and-rewards-6611457be603
9. “Bluewolf Empowers Thought Leadership and Drives Revenue Growth,” Bunchball; https://www.bunchball.com/customers/bluewolf-success-story
10. “Gamification Done Right—The Do's and Don'ts,” Incentive Research Foundation; http://theirf.org/research/gamification-done-right---the-dos-and-donts/132/#Good1
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. “How to motivate knowledge sharing using gamification, goals, recognition, and rewards,” Medium; https://medium.com/@stangarfield/how-to-motivate-knowledge-sharing-using-gamification-goals-recognition-and-rewards-6611457be603
14. Ibid.
15. “Gamification Done Right—The Do's and Don'ts,” Incentive Research Foundation; http://theirf.org/research/gamification-done-right---the-dos-and-donts/132/#Good1