How gamification can collaborate with workplace incentive programs

Along with a weekly wage or monthly salary, your employer may also have some sort of incentive program in place to keep you happy and motivated at work. But while several members of staff appreciate getting a free gift or monetary bonus every now and again, the vast majority of incentive programs are rather boring and repetitive.

This is especially true if you have worked at one company for many years and continued to receive positive appraisals throughout this time, only to receive an arbitrary “incentive” as a reward. A lot of the time, each and every employee will receive the same thing too, which isn’t tailored to your contribution, achievement, or how long you have been a loyal member of staff.

Thankfully, there is an alternative. You might associate gamification as a way to increase engagement with staff training, but it can also be used as an alternative to traditional incentive programs. Instead of handing out tangible presents that aren’t scalable according to the individual’s performance and can end up costing a great deal of money, gamification provides participants with unique aims and bespoke rewards.

In the opinion of Gabe Zichermann, author of The Gamification Revolution, the majority of people aren’t achievement or winning-orientated anyway and would prefer the reward of being in control of their own destiny, which gamification goals and gratuity can afford.

But how can gamification collaborate with workplace incentive programs?


Follow the SAPS model

“People may be motivated by getting a gift card, but what really drives them is recognition [as well as] status, access power and stuff (SAPS),” says Zichermann. In fact, he believes that these things are want people want to be rewarded with in life – in that order. For example, higher tier airline fliers benefit from the status of being able to board first.

“It turns out that cash isn’t that good of a reward,” adds Zichermann. “Status is a fantastic motivator for getting people to do stuff.” Unfortunately, several incentive programs do not recognise this fact and focus on physical gratification instead.

However, it goes without saying that employees appreciate visible recognition from their peers and superiors, which can be built into a gamification campaign. Individual achievements can be acknowledged and published for the rest of the workforce to see.


Make recognition a more regular occurrence

When it comes to receiving a bonus, most employees will have to wait until the end of the year to find out whether they are deserving of this reward. On top of that, an “Employee of the Month” picture or plaque doesn’t exactly inspire members of staff to keep performing on a daily basis.

For this reason, it is a good idea to make recognition a more regular occurrence. Happiness and motivation levels among employees are bound to increase if gratification is being offered on completion of a gamified exercise or activity.

As Zichermann explains: “Weekly recognition and incentives provide employees a chance to start the week fresh and work hard towards a SAPS structured goal.”


Give rewards that relate to individual staff members

As touched upon previously, not all staff members are created equal, especially in large organisations with a multitude of different departments. So, there will be little incentive for a travelling sales rep to work harder if the reward on offer is an in-car Bluetooth headset, which they probably own already.

Therefore, be certain that individual members of staff will appreciate the gifts you are giving out. “Whatever the actual reward, make sure it relates to what the employees value,” Zichermann recommends. “Consider conducting a gamified employee survey to help determine some specifics.”

Examples include giving customer service staff who work unsociable hours a complementary day off or providing software developers the opportunity to attend training, which could result in a new qualification and possible promotion.


Encourage staff to master a particular subject

“When confronted with a game challenge, people are often more satisfied with mastery of the game than completion,” cites Zichermann. “It provides a deeper sense of accomplishment, especially when their mastery is shared in some way with the group.”

This is where you can take advantage of things like cloud technology, which has the power to increase collaboration between employees but also share their incentive program achievements.

But while members of staff should be allowed to participate in gamified scenarios at their own pace, it makes sense to establish a framework that encourages progress at a reasonable rate too. Otherwise there is a possibility that employees will become discouraged and lose interest.


Promote competition among your workforce

Incentive programs should give precedence to fun and recognition, but this doesn’t mean to say you can’t introduce an element of healthy competition as well.

After all, Zichermann believes that “incentives are typically valued more when they are ‘won’ and employees will take more pride in their accomplishments if they work hard to achieve them.”

It helps if competition is structured with multiple tiers, which features rewards that are accordingly equal. After all, the last thing you want is for a few staff members to outperform everybody else, causing the rest of the workforce to abandon the program altogether.


Place importance on originality for long-term engagement

Even though employees will grow tired of the same old physical or material rewards, the same can be said gamification too. So, you should place importance on originality with your incentive program to achieve long-term engagement among the workforce.

“Gamification should be kept fresh by tweaking the ‘game’ itself or by shifting the focus from one area of the employee’s work to another,” believes Zichermann. “The rewards should also shift over time to encourage participation.”

By doing so, you will be able to provide employees with regular and meaningful recognition that keeps engagement levels high. As a consequence of greater interest, members of staff will also better serve the needs of the entire organisation as well as those of colleagues and customers.

Written by: Persia Shahkarami

Published: 7 Mar, 2016