The 5 Easiest Ways to Fail with Gamification

opportunities through the pipeline, let everyone know just how fast she was. If you're able to insert a little personality on top of the hard facts, so much the better, but never confuse what's most valuable to your employees.

Don't Disrespect Existing Programs

When you introduce any new engagement program, you are going to encounter doubt. Your employees will ask: Why is this better than what we are already doing? This is especially important when you consider existing status systems, such as job titles. Everyone knows that a senior account manager is a higher position than account manager, and that both are higher than a junior account manager. If you're going to introduce a new system that enables a junior account manager to "outrank" a senior account manager, that program had better be specific. A junior account manager might be more proficient in a particular type of software, or have more exposure to a particular client vertical, so recognizing those things specifically is acceptable. What's not would be showing the junior account manager as being "better" than the senior account manager without contextual explanation.

Back to money: Another consideration is removing pre-existing cash incentive programs. A recognition system that focuses on rewarding talent and success is probably going to work better than a cash incentive system, but not if people interpret the switch as costing them money. Don't phase out a cash incentive program at the same time the new program is introduced. And certainly don't position the new program as a replacement.

Don't Use the Wrong Motivators

People want to feel like they are making progress, but there are different ways of creating a sense of progress. At a simple level, demonstrating structure and task completion helps employees feel like they are getting things done. But there is a fine line between success-tracking and micromanaging. For many employees, particularly those in more advanced, creative, or dynamic positions, a more compelling level of social recognition is needed. There are two opposite motivational approaches at this level: competition and cooperation. Competitive employees want leaderboards and competitions. They thrive against opposition. Cooperative employees want all the social status of victory and talent but shrink from direct and confrontational competition.

Don't Measure Weak Behaviors

How do you recognize employees for their contributions in a meaningful manner? All too often, the response is to identify the basic activities an employee engages in on a daily basis and count them. But there's a problem—in most cases, quality is more important than quantity. Rewarding employees for sending emails, leaving comments, or posting blogs might have the exact opposite effect you want: You might find your business swamped in poor-quality content that hurts the credibility of your gamification initiative and the company overall.

Gamification is as much about making the right choices as it is about avoiding the wrong mistakes. When you're dealing with employee engagement and motivation, even the subtlest change in messaging can have a huge impact. But with this subtlety comes opportunity. Gamification is on the path to becoming an essential part of successful CRM plans, and when it comes to employee productivity and retention, those businesses that do it well first will have an advantage over their competitors.


Tony Ventrice is the lead game designer at Badgeville.


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