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We all have that one co-worker. The person who even makes climbing the stairs a competition—who’s eager to outdo you in everything from Ping Pong to prospecting, and will never let you live down a bad loss. But what about the rest of your office? How do you motivate and engage the rest of your team to be as competitive as your top performers? The good news is it doesn’t involve changing anybody’s personality. Sometimes boosting competition is just a matter of changing the way you run your office. Here are a few simple tweaks you can make to get started.
Sure, it can be exciting to get the month’s stack ranking’s email, or see who the employee of the month is. But when you save those “victory” moments for a single email, once a month, you’re virtually guaranteeing that it’s not something that will be on the top of most people’s minds. In fact, you’re limiting the chances for true competition. Imagine having a leaderboard for your sales team, updating in real time, allowing everyone to know who’s got the most leads this week. What if every time one of your employees had a recognizable moment, it was broadcast for everyone to admire? Wouldn’t that boost another employee’s desire for that same greatness? Rather than resigning that they won’t be at the top of the stacks, you’re allowing them to dream of a moment in real time where they can show they’re the best.
There’s a reason that almost every metaphor in the business world is a sports reference: competition—and more specifically, team competition—is an incredibly inspiring tool. When you know you have teammates by your side, who are not only pushing you along but also counting on your performance, it can bridge the gap between slackers and top performers. Think about it in your own office: there may be a wide gulf between the most productive employees on the floor and the ones who spend their time watching the clock. But when you put those groups of people together, they have a chance to rise up in a mutually-beneficial way. Leaders can offer advice, and those who may not have that same sense of motivation can find purpose in chasing that team win. Encouraging employee engagement is integral to building the kind of teamwork that boosts performance.
It feels good to be recognized. Whether it’s a simple pat on the back, or a dream promotion—affirmation goes a long way. But can you quantify just how far it goes? One study reported in HBR may have done just that: frequent, smaller rewards, as it turns out, may have an overall more positive effect on performance. The study recorded the difference in sales performances (generated revenue) when associates were rewarded quarterly bonuses versus annual bonuses: “removing quarterly bonuses from laggards’ incentives … would decrease their overall performance by approximately 10%. The same change would decrease the overall performance of core and star salespeople by 4% and 2%, respectively.” You don’t have to break the bank to make this work. In essence, it’s a simple principle: the more opportunities for rewards, the more frequently employees will go after them.
At the end of the day, it’s not about a fundamental change in the way people work. Employee engagement is about understanding your team and finding out what works for them. When you give your people the runway to be competitive, and show their best selves, they’ll take it. You just have to give them the opportunity to do it.