Changing It Up: The Benefits of Playing Games With Your Rewards Program

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It’s still early in the new year, and that means it’s time to look back and decide what has and hasn’t been working at your company.

One of the things that you might consider looking at is your rewards and incentives program. How did it fare last year? Did employees participate? What awards and rewards did you hand out at the end of the year? Were employees excited about the program and were they talking about it for the rest of the year?

If the answers to those questions were “no,” or “I’m not sure,” then it might be time to re-evaluate your program.

Rewards and incentives programs that employees are not excited about are programs that are not effective. Rather than throwing out the entire program, a better approach is to look at how the program is being run – maybe you just need to change things up a little.

The gamification trend

One of the popular trends in rewards and incentives has been to make it a game. It’s known as “gamification” and it’s turning out to be an effective way to turn a flagging program into one that employees participate in eagerly and talk about all year long.

It’s important to remember the point and purpose of your incentives and rewards program. It’s there to incentify employees to work harder and thank those who work the hardest for their effort.

By saying thank you and keeping employees engaged, you have a better chance at keeping them from leaving the company. Without their contributions, the company would not be as successful in the new year. With that in mind, creating a program that works and gets them excited and working hard to win is a bonus for the company and the employees.

How do you gamify your rewards program? Before you start pounding your head and worrying about it, remember that there are people out there who can help you. However, here is an example that you can consider:

In Massachusetts, there is a large insurance company that wanted to promote a particular line of insurance among their brokers. In the past, they had created typical sales incentive programs that were fairly successful. Two years ago, they decided to try something new and created a concept that borrowed from the lottery.

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Doing something different

In this case, as part of the promotion, as their contractors sold a particular line of insurance policies they wanted to promote, they earned scratch-off tickets. As they continued to sell those policies, they accrued more scratch tickets which resulted in more valuable and exciting rewards. Not only did the company see a noticeable bump in policy sales, but their territory managers experienced better engagement with their clients and an excitement about the company in general.

So, what happened? The company decided to do something different. They created something that was new and exciting. They promoted it to their brokers and branded it throughout the course of the promotion. They made sure the rewards were worth the effort and that they were fulfilled in a way that kept the employees excited. It took time and effort, but the results were such that the company was satisfied and the clients were excited.

Many times, the rewards build to a big end-of-the-year ceremony or celebration that is often incorporated into the company holiday party. Some examples I have seen from various companies during past holiday seasons include:

  1. A raffle –– The company encourages employees to participate in the raffle and then offers a variety of prizes. This type of gaming shows that the company has a fun side.
  2. Wheel of Fortune — Another example of gaming and how it can enliven things around the office by incorporating physical participation – even onlookers enjoy watching the wheel spin and the surprise of finding out what they win.
  3. Remembering charity –– For many employees, being involved in a charity shows that the company is thinking about something besides profits during this time of year. The goodwill gained from this can have a cascading effect throughout the office and make the employees feel better about their employer.

Show employees you’re listening

As the new year  moves along, not only should your company be looking at new programs, incentives and other initiatives, but also remember that employees are also evaluating their lives and careers. Recent job polls show that things are improving and companies are actively recruiting. Do you want to risk losing them to a competitor, or do you want to spend the time and effort to create a program that will excite employees and keep them active?

Now is the time to show the employees that you are listening and that you care. The good-will that this produces can have a ripple effect that will last throughout the year.

Rather than suffering from talent loss and a drain on your resources, it might be worthwhile to invest in a little creative thinking to make people more engaged and enthusiastic about being at work.

Jennifer Vecchi is the Manager of Individual Incentives and Recognition Programs at Atlas Travel in Milford, MA, where she is responsible for supporting her client’s recognition programs and sales contests.

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