Wednesday, April 24, 2013


"Who do you want next to you in court?"

That was the value statement of an employer I worked for a while back. The world of compliance was changing rapidly: paper was being converted to digital, employees were representing companies in the social was the birth of big data. I worked for the best company in the industry and we dominated in the space. We had great leadership, forward-thinking strategy, and outstanding corporate governance. But, the job meant nothing to me! I loved the people who I worked with and the company valued my leadership, but I really didn't identify with the organizational cause. That doesn't cut it!

After a few bad manager's, I sought out a new profession. I discovered (what was then referred to as) Employee Recognition. Going from a world of internal competition, stop-gap strategy, and entitled middle-management to a world that put emphasis on the good stuff employees do? Yes, please! 

I was no longer the man telling companies the worst consequence of their actions. I was the person talking about the best things any given company had to offer. Over time, employee recognition evolved into Employee Engagement which has created a greater emphasis on pro-active performance management.

Now the feel-good world of employee rewards has a revenue-producing model for organizational development. The good stuff is even better when it produces a proven return on investment.

In his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt revealed that our behavior is driven by the following equation:
23% reason 
77% emotion

So how do we tap into our employees emotion?

There are 3 distinct ways:
Those who are uber-competitive tend to freak the rest of us out! In fact, the first post I ever wrote for this blog was a examination of the self-affirming logic of individual effort. Times have changed....

Our personal brands are now so strong that it is incumbent upon our organizations to create a collective. 

Top performer programs can suck the life out of the competitive landscape if formulated incorrectly. The best of the best want to remain there and it would be difficult for a new hire to raise to the level of a 20 year veteran. Thus, the spirit of competition is destroyed by fueling the egos of those who make more money than anyone else. Double downer!

Organizations need to find a way to level the playing field. To allow like for like competition in the spirit of idiosyncratic fit. To incent everyone based on performance metrics that are realistic within their job function, tenure, and opportunity landscape.

Putting Skin in the Game!         
In a consumer loyalty study done at Columbia University it was discovered that students completed their loyalty milestone 30% quicker under the impression that they had pre-loaded loyalty rewards. 

You would be more likely to join a hotel loyalty program that gave you 20,000 points up front than one who left you with a blank registration document. 

Employee adoption is no different. If you offer an incentive to join a wellness program, attend a community service event, or to participate in an organizational initiative; I am more likely to buy-in if I have some skin in the game. If said initiative is engaging and relevant to my personal development, you have solidified my trust.  

This is the Behavioral Economics concept of Goal Gradient Theory.  

Gamification is a Made-Up Word
Gamification comes with the gaming culture baggage. Many HR pros affiliate a slacker status to what they believe is a non-sensical approach to workforce management. They are oh so wrong!

Game Mechanics have been in place for decades. Leader boards in the sales office, bingo card consumer promotions, even functions of CRM can be affiliated to game mechanics. Tom Chatfield in his book Fun Inc explains in 7 simple steps to why game mechanics are the future of organizational development & workforce management.

We are aware that the premise of reviewing performance once a year is no longer a positive motivator. Game mechanics promote long and short term goal management, consistent feedback, real-time progress management and high-touch recognition of effort. Still think this is a slacker's style of motivation?

One cannot be engaged if one's emotion is not provoked in some way, shape or form. I quit a job that I was good at because being good wasn't good enough. Punching a clock and collecting a check only leads to a plateau. We need more! We need to find what really matters to us and put meaning in what we do.

Put yourself at your retirement party. How will you address the people in the room? Will you have made a group of lifelong friends? Will people admire the work you have done? Will you have done work that is bigger than yourself?

Don't Forget to Remember!



  1. David I thought this post was very insightful. Thank you for putting it together.

    Founder at Badgeville

  2. Thank You Kris! Always awesome to have expert opinions from the Gamification world on DFTR! You have been awarded a DFTR Rock Star Badge!