I’m currently a few chapters into The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, by Karl Kapp, and so far it’s a great read. As I’m reading it I’m getting flashes of my days as a retail manager where I had unwittingly attempted a handful of gamification tactics to improve results. Most were misguided but it’s all part of the journey.
The Leader Board: Leader Boards, from what I understand, help the player see where they stand on a social level. “I’m ahead of X but behind Y.” Pretty straightforward stuff. The value of the leader board comes from sparking internal motivation in the players, the need to want to be ahead of others. A bit of a diabolical way to get people to try harder, but I don’t think it’s all that bad. I had tried this as a sales initiative to improve the sales of an ‘at-the-register’ type item. I created a leader board based on how many units each cashier sold per hour. It kind of worked. It very clearly confirmed who was making the biggest efforts and who was coasting. Regardless of the method, sales is a numbers game.
I had two major challenges; maintenance and communication.
The work to keep the stats up to date was always a problem. There was no system that had access to the hours each cashier worked in the relevant department and how many units each had sold. I had to use three different programs, paper slips filled out by the customer and then do the math to create a spreadsheet. Great information but difficult to compile.
Communicating the information was also a challenge. There’s no point in collecting information if you’re not going to do anything with it, and the real value comes from the employees seeing and understand the spreadsheet and chart. That, plus a few coaching conversations, can motivate them to the desired level of performance. The way that cashiers got their floats assigned to them and the limited exposure to the chart due to it’s location worked against me. Couple that with having four different managers, all with their own initiatives to focus on and you’ve got a recipe for an uphill battle.
The leader board was one of the best initiatives that I let die. I wasn’t the best manager in the world and I was only willing to give so much. It had potential and if I knew the power that a properly run leader board wields I might have been more inclined to keep it going.
One of the other initiatives that I tried was an attempt to increase employee engagement at an all-store meeting. The way most discussions at all store meetings go, you get three associates (aside from the managers) that do nearly all of the talking. One of them adds the conversation, one of them detracts for the conversation and the last derails the conversation. Not an ideal mix. If you look at the makeup of any group you’ll have those three categories represented but in a more favourable ratio. Most people are good natured and intelligent. Most. I wanted to encourage everyone to talk and I offered a ballot for each time someone contributes to the conversation. The ballots went into a draw for a camera. I meant well. The gamification aspect of this example is the ‘fixed ratio schedule’. The player gets rewarded once they complete an activity. Every time I work out I get $10. It doesn’t matter how often I do it, once a day or once a month.
What happened was I had one employee who wouldn’t shut up. He kept contributing to the conversation, without any regard to the quality of the contribution, simply to accumulate more ballots to win the draw. And that’s exactly what happened. The guy who talked for the sake of talking ended up with the reward. He was also the guy who kept his popcorn bag from the local movie theater so he could just swing by for free refills whenever he was in the mood for popcorn. I was really disappointed with myself in not seeing that coming. It’s a learning journey.
I’m learning a lot about why my previous efforts failed, which now lands that experience in the ‘win’ column. I’ll take it.