Workplace contests are no place for indifference

TrackThere’s nothing worse than launching a workplace competition and then finding out that your workplace has no interest in competing. Okay, there are some worse things…or several. But if you spend the time and effort to build a contest, especially if it’s meant to make an “uninteresting” activity seem to be the opposite, an uninterested team renders the whole thing a loss. Luckily, you can take steps to prevent that from happening.

Complications are overrated. 

Well-designed competitions influence employees’ behaviors, instilling good habits. Especially if you’re new to the contest scene, it can seem tempting to try and instill every positive habit that you can come up with in one competition. Resist. Focus on one or two behaviors per contest. It’s better to have a successful run that fully fixes one behavior than a decent run that slightly touches five.

Aside from producing stronger results, this simplicity also allows employees to better understand a contest, and that’s exactly what they need. Your team should fully comprehend what they’re supposed to be doing, how their actions will be scored and what they can win. After all, they already have enough to think about; allow your salespeople to focus their attention on earning points in a competition (and thereby changing behaviors), rather than on trying to untangle contest guidelines.

…but your team’s time isn’t. 

Keep contests short. We’ve seen clients run a successful competition in one day. We suggest using anywhere from those 24 hours to two weeks, or even a month. Successful salespeople tend to have a sense of urgency that leaves them less likely to stay engaged in a lengthy competition.

This is not to say that longer competitions can never be justified; certain scenarios, like that leading to a quarterly bonus incentive, might make sense as three-month competitions. But make those the exception. When more time is required, parent/child contests provide a great option, too. Create multiple smaller contests that run as regular and all feed into one ultimate parent contest, which also offers a prize.

Remind them again…and again…and then maybe once more.

Some managers design a contest, give a good “Go get ‘em” speech and then don’t move again until it’s time to tally the results. That’s not how it should work, though – at least in the world where employees stay engaged. After a competition launches, employees should receive constant reminders not just of the competition and its standings, but of how it all works. Reinforce their understanding of what they’re supposed to be doing, by when and for what. Remember to mention the competition through email, in Chatter – which can be especially useful for trash talking, a fun motivator – and in meetings.

Wait a minute – you’re a salesperson and you’re competitive? 

During a contest, there should not be one moment when an employee needs to go searching for standings, because they should always be surrounded with auto-calculated, real-time scores. And that means being able to see each participant’s standings. Environments where employees can only see their score and that of the person leading the contest are breeding zones for disengagement. “I need 27 more appointments in three days to beat Jim?!? Why bother?” However, if an employee can see that they only need 2 more appointments to move up one place in the standings, well then that should fire up their competitive drive.

False: It all comes down to the prize.

Spend more time on things like reminding your team of the contest and designing the next simple competition than on stressing over the prize itself. Yes, an interesting incentive can spark greater interest, but, as you just read, it’s only one thing that can do that. One of LevelEleven’s clients recently changed an entire team’s Chatter habits by offering a plaque and a plastic chatter teeth toy. (Click here for the story.) Other organizations see ROI on contests that offer only bragging rights. We’ve learned from clients like these that a lot of times, motivation really comes from the competition itself.

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