Gamification enables you to focus your team on the exact metrics that will drive your business forward. (Photo: Shutterstock) Gamification enables you to focus your team on the exact metrics that will drive your business forward. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Each year, insurance agency managers spend countless hours designing compensation plans that are intended to motivate their teams to do more. The problem is that the vast majority of these plans are focused on one method of motivation: money.

Employees are reduced to one-dimensional money-grubbing automatons who require every work-related decision to be based upon the potential for more coin. But money represents only one of many rewards that motivate professionals to achieve.

Financial rewards are extrinsic, which means they act as an external influence on an individual’s behavior. Simply put, if you remove the reward, you remove the motivation. On the other hand, intrinsic rewards are more enduring because they are based on internal influence and values.

Competence, competitiveness, status and a sense of contribution are all examples of intrinsic rewards. While financial rewards can certainly improve motivation, they should simply be one piece of a larger motivational framework. The goal is not only to improve productivity but also to create a happier team.

The proper motivation can create a team that is more engaged and motivated, works better together and has less turnover. Many of these motivational methods can be employed through the “gamification” of work.

Related: 30 motivational quotes to inspire sales success

What does it mean?

Gamification describes the use of game-like elements in a non-game setting to drive participant engagement. In a business setting, gamification explores point scales for sales and activities, badges for accomplishments, competitions, leaderboards and teams.

Gamification is more than simply adding a competitive element to work; it’s about using an entertaining format to align employee focus with company goals, recognize and celebrate achievement, and capitalize on your team’s intrinsic reward center to drive superior results through genuine employee engagement.

Why does gamification work?

The hard truth is that part of being an insurance agent involves completing boring, repetitive tasks. Unfortunately, success is often built upon a foundation of boring, repetitive or generally unpleasant tasks.

Now, imagine these are elevated to a public, team-based competition, complete with live updates, competitor standings, multiple prize options, and the attention of both peers and managers.

Tapping into the competitive spirit

It’s no secret “sales” is a competitive field in which competitive people excel. However, in my experience, people in any business want to know they are doing well, even if they are simply comparing themselves to previous performances. Whether it is a head-to-head duel, an office vs. office showdown, or an effort to achieve a personal best, diligent professionals desire to distinguish themselves and improve their own performance.

A solid gamification program can enable both individuals and groups to compete against one another, or against themselves, to harness their competitive energies in a positive manner that benefits the entire organization.

Related: 17 ways for insurance agents to get more work done

Teams vs. individual accountability

By creating team competitions, you add an additional layer of accountability and touch on the desire of most people wanting to not only belong but also to have status within a group of peers.

Team competitions also foster communication within the group as members encourage and congratulate each other. More communication results in more teamwork and performance.

Collaborative focus

When managers focus on a business plan, their teams will focus on that same plan.

Gamification enables you to focus your team on the exact metrics that will drive your business forward. Whether it’s quotes or customer satisfaction surveys, your team will have laser beam like focus on the metrics used in your gamification strategy.

Regular updates, public leaderboards, milestone achievement recognition, and countdowns will continue to draw your team’s attention to the relevant metrics, thereby making it much more likely they will produce the relevant metrics.

In every business, there are important metrics that need constant focus. Gamification is an excellent way of getting your team to naturally and enthusiastically do the checking for you.

Related: Growth in 2019: Five common themes of successful independent insurance agents

The role of recognition

According to Gallup, the number one reason employees leave their current place of employment is due to a lack of recognition. I know many of you are already groaning and saying that’s just those, “whiny, entitled, thin-skinned, attention-seeking millennials.” I don’t personally subscribe to the idea that millennials are much different from earlier generations, but I do believe in the following:

  1. Millennials are used to getting lots of recognition.
  2. Millennials like recognition.
  3. So does everybody else.
  4. Recognition is a good thing (when it’s deserved).

Gamification is an outstanding way of publicly celebrating achievement and giving agents the kind of recognition that is so crucial to job satisfaction. Beyond simply displaying leaderboards, which only showcase the top performers, a good gamification strategy should recognize individual milestones which demonstrate achievement or improvement. Success, however small, should be celebrated.

I want to be clear: Recognition should be deserved. Assume that you have an agent who is not meeting your expectations. It wouldn’t be effective or credible to trumpet their less than stellar performance. But let’s say that this same performer just set a personal record for quotes in a day. Even if they are not meeting your sales expectations, even if their personal record is less than what you expect, there is still a legitimate reason to celebrate this small success.

Why? Momentum!

Whether it’s losing weight or running a political campaign, the success of any project is greatly impacted by momentum. A personal best is worth acknowledging because it gives a small taste of success that will stoke a desire for more.

Related: So your insurance agency wants to recruit millennials?

The many benefits of gamification

They don’t call it “work” without reason. Work can be viewed as a never-ending list of difficult, repetitive and thankless tasks.

Or, work could be viewed as an exciting opportunity to earn distinction and recognition, master skills and have fun while doing it.

I’m not going to claim that gamification alone can turn a miserable work environment into a day at Disneyland. But it can certainly inject a sense of excitement and adventure into a stale routine.

Gamification can also provide intrinsic rewards by filling your team members with a sense of accomplishment and competence, and by satisfying their natural competitive energies.

Essentially, gamification can make work more rewarding which leads to better morale, lower turnover, increased engagement and higher productivity.

Related: How to avoid regrettable employee losses and turnover

Seth Preus (preus@racingsnail.co) is the founder of Racingsnail, a software technology company acquired by Imprezzio in 2013 and the creator of “Leaderboard Legends,” the industry’s newest gamification software designed to motivate insurance agents’ performance and propel a company’s productivity.