Material Motivation: Designing a Workplace Competition which Drives Immediate Results
Every time we launch Passle with a new team or business, we do so with an initial onboarding competition. The rationale behind this is to drive scaled behavioural change which is aligned to generating business outcomes and results. Gamification then becomes the vehicle to prioritise this new behaviour and demonstrate the ongoing value to all active/passive participants.
Whilst our learnings are more specifically related to getting experts to create content, we wanted to share best practice when it comes to launching an internal initiative using gamification. We can do so with some authority having successfully run over 300 workplace competitions with some of the world’s largest B2B businesses.
Sponsorship from Senior Leaders
Ensure you can succinctly explain the expected return on investment from launching your initiative. Getting your senior leaders invested in the programme from the outset will ensure that it is positioned as an internal imperative, rather than being that ‘additional thing’ which doesn’t get prioritised.
Define your Launch KPIs
Once you have agreed with your senior leaders on the outcomes you want to drive across the business, think about what success looks like in the short & long term. Define a set of launch KPI’s which can be measured and used to demonstrate initial success. If your only focus is on the long-term ‘lagging indicators’ it can appear that you are not making significant progress. If however, you are regularly achieving milestones it will be much easier to garner and grow firm-wide support.
Set Teams which Reflect your Business Structure
Firstly, team-based competitions are much more effective than an all vs all, or playing head-to-head. The reason for this is that it is much easier to bow out of a competition when you are only accountable to yourself, rather than the feeling of letting your peers down.
For best practice on structuring the teams, do so in a way that connects your people based on their business commitments (ie you are in a team with your business unit, practice group, or those you are working on a particular project with). In terms of team size, select between 4-12 participants in each. Any less and there is too much pressure on each individual, any more and your involvement will not be deemed significant in comparison to the team total.
The Rules & Scoring
We are more incentivised by the fear of loss than we are by the motivation of gain (Loss aversion – behavioural economics).
With that in mind, think about how you can structure your competition rules & scoring in a way that drives adoption and reinforces the positive behaviour.
The participants have to feel in control over the points they are awarded with. This means firstly the rules need to be easy to understand; and secondly, applicable & achievable for all participants. People will opt out if they:
- don’t feel in control, or
- that the competition is not fair.
Finally, review & remove opportunities to game the system!
Host a BIG Launch
In addition to getting people excited about your the new initiative (think Steve Jobs launching a new Apple product here), hosting a launch meeting gives you an opportunity to:
- Demonstrate the value of driving this behaviour both on scale and at an individual level
- Address the question “what’s in it for me?” – so your teams are very clear on what they can expect to personally get out of their time/resource investment
- Educate, making sure everyone understands how to get involved and what to do
- Showcase best practice so that everyone knows what ‘good‘ looks like
Make sure that it is possible for the team to drive immediate results. Remove any barriers to entry for getting involved. You want to convert initial excitement into action which in turn will lead to business results fuelling long-term momentum.
Provided that your team agree with the behaviour/ results you are trying to drive, then the prizes do not have to be expensive. We would avoid a purely cash-based incentive. You are onto a winner if you can keep the prizes creative and fun in nature – it will also make for a much more engaging prize giving meeting. Also, make it so that there is more than one way to win. You can create multiple categories within the competition with things like the best use case, the best feedback, etc.
This is the most important piece of the puzzle if you want to drive sustained success. Participants in the initiative need both short and long-term feedback.
In the short-term, your team will need to be able to equate input to output. Think about how you can demonstrate the value from their initial endeavours – or even better where they can find this information themselves.
As the team then get used to executing the desired behaviour, what is the feedback mechanism which will help them to improve? You can use the competition to assist with this active learning by shining a light on particularly good use cases, any anecdotal feedback, and using stories/ team testimonials.
Finally, make it fun!
This really does sound trivial but the initiative will become infectious and pervasive across the business if people feel that they are missing out by not being involved. It cannot be your modus operandi, but with all the aforementioned elements in place, making the competition a light-hearted bit of workplace fun will help it to take off internally.
"Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do." - Steve Jobs