Have you ever heard groans from your supervisors when you introduce a new incentive contest or had your managers cringe when you start talking about the summer picnic? Managing activities can be a lot of work for your management team. When we over complicate activities, then our effort to raise morale within our teams can have just the opposite effect. Our managers resent doing the work, our supervisors fail to engage their teams, and our representatives loose interest in the goal.
My number one rule is Keep It Simple, Keep Everyone Sane and then Reap the Rewards! You can cross mountains by taking simple steps instead of trying to run a marathon. And here is my “Keep it Simple” checklist:
- Short and Sweet! Especially the first time you run an event or competition. If you are running a competition, usually 2-4 weeks is enough to achieve a simple behavior change. If you find out you made a mistake in design you don’t have to change the rules mid-stream and confuse everyone. If you don't get the behavior change you wanted, then you don't have a big investment. You can ride it out and design it better next time.
- Focus on your Hot Button! For KPIs, use only one or two metrics. What is your current hot button? Your talk time, your close rate, your QA scores? Or get more granular and focus on one product or one quality behavior. Complex grids with multiple goals only confuse your reps and drive your supervisors crazy trying to find the time to track everything. Complex tracking runs the risk of falling behind, and nothing is more de-motivating to a rep than not knowing their stats.
- Let Competition or Participation be the Primary Reward! Start small with prizes until you are confident that a particular type of competition really motivates your team. Small prizes keep the fun while letting the competition be the true reward. There are 2 risks with starting with large prizes: a.) if you find you are not achieving your goals then you resent then investment. b.) if you have a design flaw, your reps will get mentally involved in nitpicking the scoring and loose focus on the real goal.
- Plan an effort Budget. By identifying what the effort will be at the time of designing the activity, you can ensure that it is in-line with the results you are looking for. For example, how many hours will it take your supervisors to track and post results each day? How many hours to send out cheering emails. What is a realistic investment for them? They have a lot of other work to do, so they can't spend 20 hours a week on an event. Keep it simple! For events, give the event owner a payroll budget and let them figure out what they can do to stay within it. A circus theme picnic with games sounds good until you find out too late that it takes 12 people 2 days to build and run the games. When you plan the effort budget in advance, you can make adjustments to the activity.
- Share the work! If you try to do all this yourself you will not do it long. Decide what you want to accomplish and then divide the work up. For example you have 3 managers and 8 supervisors: you might assign each supervisor one month of the year to host a fun event resulting in 8 fun events for the year. Then assign your managers to design 2 contests each to improve specific KPIs resulting in 6 contests during the year. I've seen managers use this as a development goal for their supervisors, teaching them how to use project management tools.