Work Hard, Play Hard

Today’s business environment is challenging. It requires hard work and determination to be successful. The argument of whether it’s better to work smart or work hard has raged on for years. Hard work will always be required to be successful, but what if the new “work smart” is actually “play”?

Over the past few years a major change has occurred as Generation “Y” (or the Millennial Generation) become more prevalent in the workforce. The sales and operation team I work with today is far different from the teams I worked with just 5 years ago. Employees still work hard, but motivators and drivers are vastly different. Many articles indicate this is a generational thing. I believe it is social thing.

Society rewards activities as much as it rewards actual results. If you play a half game of baseball as a kid, you still get a whole snow cone (as comedian Brian Regan so humorously explains). Trophies and awards are given for participating and not just for winning. It goes beyond kids though. Trophies, awards, stickers and badges are earned by adults through a variety of apps, websites and games. People like to be recognized and rewarded – it’s fun.

Smart phones, mobile apps and social media are increasing the ways people get rewarded or recognized and allowing us to communicate recognitions on a wider scale. These mediums also allow others to interact with us through dialog or “likes” about the award or activity that sparked it. On the app GetGlue you can get stickers for “check-ins” when watching movies or TV shows. The sticker in itself isn’t anything special, but sharing it with friends on Facebook has value.

The same concepts that motivate people in their personal or social lives can be transferred to their work lives. This is where play comes in. Taking game elements and building them into a business, concept or system is becoming known as gamification. This doesn’t mean employees are playing games all day, but certain aspects of gaming can be built into daily work activities. Gamification recognizes employees for completing daily, weekly or monthly assignments. Game elements include leader boards (to see who is wining and by how much), awards (in the form of virtual stickers, badgers, or trophies) and achievement levels (helping people feel they are advancing and accomplishing something).

This is about more than just games though. This is about tapping into a core psychological and sociological need. The awards and recognitions are nice, but the need to share and be heard is crucial. Creating gaming elements within your business can be powerful.

The term gamification may be new, but this has been going on in business for a long time. Sales managers, HR Directors, Directors of Organizations Development and others who are in charge of sales results, employee engagement and employee retention work on this every day. Contests, team activities, goal charts, leader boards and scoreboards all have game elements in them. Sales Managers spend countless hours each month creating contests to drive sales and encourage the right business results.

It might appear to be a lot of work. Several companies sell programs to create gamification elements for you. However, any business owner or manager can create ways to:

  • Award activities
  • Recognize results
  • Taught accomplishments
  • Reward behavior

The key to success is creating opportunities that allow employees to share their accomplishments. The more they are able to share with coworkers, friends and family, the more valuable the recognition becomes.

Embrace the idea of play; use it as a positive motivator. By including gaming elements at work and making it fun, employees will feel more valued. When people enjoy their job it translates into increased productivity and more importantly better customer interactions. We’re in a tough economy, but if we work hard and play hard, it won’t be so hard.