According to numerous experts, game-like competition at work (aka "gamification") helps employees solve new problems, increases their individual contributions and creates greater team loyalty.

Gamification, however, is nothing new. Sales have run sales contests for decades and informal competitions sometimes emerge spontaneously, such as when programming teams compete to see who can fix the most bugs.

Recently, though, companies have been making such competitions more formal, using gamification to change behaviors and achieve larger corporate or organizational goals.

The sales training firm FantasySalesTeam, which helps companies run sales contests, recently studied 164 gamification efforts, and came up with ten tips for making such contests both more interesting and more likely to produce positive results:

1. Use gamification strategically.

The point of a contest isn't just to have fun or increase engagement. The larger purpose is to create better results by changing the behavior of individuals and teams.

2. Have teams compete with teams.

Games and incentives which use teams and get players pushing and relying on each other, are far more effective than individual-based contests.

3. Create multiple ways to win.

When you only have one way to win the contest, some players inevitably fall behind or out of contention. Create multiple paths to win to keep the teams engaged longer.

4. Hold a proper kickoff.

To make sure there's excitement from day one, don't announced the contest by email. Instead, get everyone together and showcase the structure, prizes, etc.

5. Hit reset every month or two.

Keeping each contest short term allows you to change the structure, metrics, prizes and so forth in order to keep things fresh.

6. Use activity metrics as well as results.

If you just measure results, your traditional top-performers will win most of the time. Instead, find ways to compete and win based on specific activities and behaviors.

7. Make the prizes creative.

Low cost prizes can be as effective as luxury items or cash. Examples: trophies, an assigned parking space, an extra day off, or even the ability to pie your CEO in the face.

8. Update the results frequently.

It engages teams more fully when the results are updated frequently. If possible, tie the result to something that you're already measuring, such as a CRM pipeline.

9. Make the results super-visible.

Put results and updates front and center! Send out regular notifications. Display leader boards throughout the office, or an automatic tracker on everyone's computer.

10. Measure, Measure, Measure.

Make sure you know how you're going to measure success so you can prove that the contest was worth the effort and thus worth repeating.

Published on: Dec 5, 2014