This post has been updated for 2020.
What’s the big idea behind using gamification for improving employee performance? For starters, it’s backed by science. Take a look at positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is a subset of operant conditioning, studied and widely popularized by the psychologist B.F. Skinner. Positive reinforcement seeks to increase the likelihood of a behavioral response by offering a reward for that response. Examples:
- You want your dog to sit, you give the dog a treat every time she sits successfully
- Parents give students money for each A on the report card
- Companies provide employees with bonuses for exceeding goals
By implementing sales gamification, you use the psychology of operant conditioning to meet business objectives. Managers set small milestones and employees receive positive payoffs for meeting those goals.
It’s important to make your gamification sustainable, so combine short-term weekly goals with longer-term monthly, quarterly, and yearly sales goals. Set up sales gamification like your fantasy football team, everyone moves positions every week, every week is a new opportunity to rank better, and the seasonal winner takes home a bigger prize. This keeps employees engaged weekly when they can gain small bonuses and recognition, and rewards high achievers at the end of the period.
Open Data Means Higher Engagement
Lots of teams talk about visibility, but gamification opens up sales data to help increase growth and improve overall sales. By making your data open for general consumption, everyone has a chance to publicly recognize high performers and share best practices with the team. While best practices (and general politeness) don’t suggest punishing low-performers, the fact that their stats are published every week may help motivate those who tend to fall behind.
Like any open data policy, plan your way forward carefully. You want to reward high performers and help the stragglers. Bring the performance metrics to light in an atmosphere of full cooperation rather than competition, and you should find your team striving for higher and higher group goals.
Re-Focus on ROI
When done correctly, gamification can help your teams rally around direct business objectives that drive revenue. Sales can get caught up in the day to day grind of individual prospect touches, but gamification refocuses teams back on the larger business objectives. Gamification rewards the sales rep for the wins, and helps them move toward more and more of those. It teaches the team to focus on the important metrics rather than the daily grind.
Ideas for Improved Performance
1. It’s not all about the Benjamins
Money is awesome. As Homer Simpson so succinctly put it: “money can be exchanged for goods and services.” We all want more of it. You should probably tie monthly and quarterly goals to bonuses, because your employees come to work to earn money, not to play games.
At the same time, other factors of operant conditioning and positive reinforcement are at play here:
- Recognition from peers
- Completing goals give teams sense of accomplishment
- Successfully working as a team improves morale
Varying your rewards to include recognition, time off, and “buying” tickets for games of chance like raffles can keep the motivation momentum rolling. While that $5 payout per sale seems like a good idea at first, teams can quickly become immune to its charms, at which point they’ll up the ante.
2. Combine gamification with your LMS
A great example of a gamified LMS is the Salesforce Trailhead, where individuals earn badges as they make their way through training modules. Trailhead drives engagement with the Salesforce product and makes surface users into power advocates because of their increased knowledge sets. A defined learning set of videos and activities keeps people on track and builds knowledge and confidence. Combining the gamification and LMS also lets everyone on the team have a chance to participate for points and recognition, not just the sales reps.
3. Keep it simple, then upgrade your tech
Yes, you heard that right—I’m not here to sell you gamification software (but here’s a lot of options if you want to take a look). If you want to succeed, begin with a workable reward system. Don’t get so bogged down in which software to buy that you lose sight of your goal: increasing ROI.
Before you purchase and implement a sales gamification software, try running a few contests to see how your teams respond. Once you know that it works and improves engagement, you can buy gamification software that will give you lots of reports and insights into how your team is doing. Remember that you should look for a software that connects with the tech you already use: your CRM, sales software, lead scoring, and reporting.
4. Make gamification part of business
Tie your games—and your rewards—to business objectives. Playing games and friendly competition are fun, but you don’t want to distract from the reason you’re at work: to make money. If it doesn’t tie directly to business goals, you run the risk of alienating management and some of the employees who won’t see the value to the company. Tie each gamification program to a specific set of business goals, objectives, and values to stay aligned and on track.
Once you’ve tested your gamification process, you’ll want to start looking for software that provides sales teams with an easy to use interface and managers with agile reporting so that teams can continue to improve. Our gamification software Product Selection Tool has over 100 choices to help teams improve engagement, sales, and maybe have a little fun in the process.