Motivating Employees Through Gamification

Gamification is one way to increase employee productivity and morale, noted Linda McKenna-Welch during a breakout session at the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Summit.

Linda McKenna-Welch, principal of Employee Performance Strategies Inc., spoke with retailers on how to revolutionize employee performance through gamification during a breakout session on human capital and operations at the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Summit on Wednesday.  

Interested in getting better results from your employees? First it’s important to note where disparities exist in messaging. For example, while top level executives might want cashiers to smile and warmly greet customers, your managers goal might be more inline with just getting their employees to show up for work on time. You might want “happier” employees, and while it’s impossible to teach happiness, the way you reward and position their job description and motivate employees could make all the difference in creating a happy environment that breeds more a productive staff.

Start with your managers. Are they positive people? A manager who has an Eeyore-type personality could prove toxic to your c-store environment. Once you know you have positive team players in your management team, ask them to pitch to you the cashier/clerk job, the same way they do during the interview process. Are they focused on boring tasks like cleaning and ringing up customers? Or are they presenting a job description that matches your goals and motivates employees? McKenna-Welch noted that the way you sell the job and set expectations from day one makes all the difference. If you make sure your managers are describing the cashier/clerk position as the frontline face of the business responsible for brightening customers’ days with a smile and welcoming them to the store, you are more likely to see a change in behavior.

If employees are showing up late, it’s because they can, McKenna-Welch noted. If when employees finally show up the managers are saying, “I’m so glad you showed up,” that’s not setting the sort of expectations that will combat tardiness. 

You might think that because your employees lack motivation they are lazy. But, McKenna-Welch noted, it’s more likely that they just don’t care.

Make Success A Game
Gamification is a term that comes to us from  videogame culture and involves recognition for meeting new and different levels in a game, and it’s a reward system method to inspire employees to care.  The Millenial Generation  grew up on video games, mastering levels and reaping rewards. “They are desperate for feedback,” noted McKenna-Welch, who noted this demographic is used to being plugged into a constant feedback loop from gaming to social media.

Giving employees badges or pins for a job well done can be a great way to motivate employees. But simply handing out pins is unlikely to inspire—it’s the fanfare and recognition that breeds results. Pins are a great way to recognize employees for reaching different “levels.” If you record the levels and post them online or on some type of visual scorecard, it not only increases comradery among staff members on the same level, it motivates other employees to strive to meet the next level. Awarding of a new level via a badge or pin should be done with ceremony at a staff meeting, for example, to provide a level of recognition and celebration. Likewise, when your trainees become clerks, be sure to recognize the completion of their training at the meeting and welcome them as a full-fledged member of the staff.

Leaderboards to motivate sales can cause frustration for employees at all ends of the spectrum. The leaders might slack off when they see themselves ahead, while those at the bottom might not even try and feel unmotivated or even down about their performance. Pitting people against each other in this way can also cause tensions at work. Instead, help employees compete against themselves. For example, anyone who reaches a certain number gets a reward, and if the whole team reaches a certain number everyone gets a reward. Suddenly you’ll see employees working together to strategize and help each other sell, McKenna-Welch noted. Use an online or visual scorecard to track results.

How you give assignments can also directly impact the employees’ success rate. If you give an employee a basket of candy and say “Try to sell this today,” you’ll likely still have some candy in the basket at end of day. By contrast, if you say, “How fast can you sell this basket of candy?” you’re more likely to see results. 

Rewarding employees is important. But giving employees rewards for doing their normal job description is counterproductive, McKenna-Welch said. Instead, find reasons to give employees unannounced or unexpected rewards for a job well done or something extra they’ve accomplished, as it will provide a bigger dose of dopamine to the brain. Pins, badges and “levels” that give status without costing you anything are great ways to increase employees’ sense of purpose and likewise their motivation.

When giving feedback, how you say it also determines how well employees adapt to your expectations. The best method, McKenna-Welch noted, is to give four pieces of positive feedback for behavior you want repeated for every one piece of negative feedback. Instead of “thanks, good work,” she noted that the best feedback includes relaying the exact behavior you approved of within the feedback.

Fun Theory
The Fun Theory http://www.thefuntheory.com/  is a way of changing behavior for the better using good old fashioned fun and a little creativity. For example, to get people to take the stairs vs the escalator might be a challenge, but when the stairs are made out of a playable piano, walkers quickly make the change. The point being, operators can look for ways to increase fun to incentivise employees to do a better job and increase moral overall. Some managers, for example, hide some money in the shelves that employees can try to find as they clean. McKenna-Welch also gave the example of a garbage can that makes a noise when trash is dropped into it. Getting creative in any small way to increase the fun employees experience on the job will effectively, according to the fun theory, increase good behavior.

 

 

 

 

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