Are You Taking Gamification Too Far?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Abraham Lincoln made the biblical phrase “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” famous. While Lincoln was referring to the debate about slavery in our country, sales managers should be thinking about this phrase in the context of employee rewards and recognition. We’re nearing the end of the calendar year, the time when you’ll be rewarding sales reps for their progress toward making quota.

Salesforce recently released its Third Annual State of Sales Report. The company’s research indicates that 57% of reps will miss quota this year. They’re probably feeling the heat. And, you’re under pressure to meet your own numbers for 2018. As a result, you might be tempted to gamify your sales process.

In a wonderfully lucid article for Aeon, Vincent Gabrielle traces the history of how companies have micromanaged and tracked employees with the ultimate goal of increasing productivity. While employees toiled to make the grade, they seethed at management. In these environments, morale usually plunges and injuries increase.

We like to think we’ve come a long way from the era of bosses walking the factory floor. But, as Gabrielle points out, technology has taken managers’ ability to motivate and terrorize employees to a new level. “A gamified workplace sets not just goals for workers but precisely how those goals can be achieved.”

Your sales reps won’t always take kindly to receiving badges, which is one common reward in the 'gamified' workplace. For one thing, they might believe they deserve a different kind of badge. Or, they may be envious that someone else received a better badge in what they believe is a subjective rewards process. Your reps also won’t appreciate seeing their names at the bottom of a public list that shows their lack of sales progress. Above all, if you pit your employees against each other to win one coveted prize for the year, they may engage in sabotage. They may withhold valuable information from each other to improve their standing in the system you created.

Instead of making a game out of the sales process, coach your reps and help them improve their skills. When it’s time to recognize your reps, personalize the recognition by giving them a reward that has meaning to them.