Help your workers reach “high scores” with this productivity tip

Looking to gamify your workplace? A new study suggests this one trick to boost productivity even further

Help your workers reach “high scores” with this productivity tip
Anyone with a smartwatch or a fitness tracker will tell you, digital trackers can be very effective motivators. Whether it’s counting your steps or getting a high score in a mobile game, the “gamification” of everyday activities instills a sense of accomplishment in even mindless routines.

But a new study from the Association for Psychological Science suggests that even arbitrary, meaningless scores can serve as effective workplace motivators, just as long as they’re accelerating.
Gamification refers to the application of typical game elements, like point scoring, to non-game activities. Website development company DevHub utilises a “badge” system, awarding badges to workers doing particularly boring or challenging tasks. Since employing that system, the firm saw employee task completion jump from 10% to 80%.

"We all know that people like high scores, but what is less known is how to give scores," said researcher Luxi Shen of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School. Their team found that it isn’t the amount or the speed at which scores increase, but the way it increases. “It’s motivating if the score first increases at a slow rate, and then increases faster and faster.”

In three related experiments, the researchers asked participants to type a target word as many times as they could within three minutes. An onscreen display showed participants the number of times they had entered the word and the elapsed time. Some participants also saw a score at the center of this display, which would increase at different rates.

The experiment found that people who saw an accelerating score outperformed their peers, typing the target words more times within the time period compared with those who saw a score that increased more slowly over time, a score that increased at a constant rate, or no score at all.

With the wealth of data produced and analysed by HR departments within firms, it’s not difficult to imagine human resource practitioners utilising employee performance metrics and gamifying them. While many firms already employ this system to push workers to perform, finding ways to accelerate that feedback may yield even better results.

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