Need to Motivate Your Trainees? It's All About Recognition

Written by Mindflash | Feb 23, 2011 7:43:27 PM

Today my coworker Victoria hit a milestone in her caffeine consumption: she reached the Starbucks Gold Card level, signifying her purchase of 30 beverages using her Starbucks card. Then she freaked out. Why? Because she misread the fine print, and thought the program had changed so she wasn't going to get her card. Quote: "I don't care about the discounts, I just want the shiny gold card with my name on it!"

Trainers, take note: This neatly illustrates much of what game expert Gabe Zichermann has been saying about the rewards that motivate people to complete a task, continue to try to beat a level, or buy 30 cafe americanos at Starbucks. Gabe says that the rewards that drive us are, in order of importance:

  • Status: a member of  Yelp's "Elite Squad" or a Platinum cardholder
  • Access: invitations to members-only events or a fanclub preview of a new album
  • Power: moderator status over other members a la Wikipedia
  • Stuff: money, iPads, free coffee

This may seem counterintuitive  — why would anyone prefer a Foursquare mayorship over a $5 off coupon at a restaurant they frequent? When you ponder it, you can easily think of cases where this is true: I am going to take this American Airlines flight over that cheaper Delta flight because I am thisclose to my American Airlines Gold Card. Another example of this is the cult-classic movie The King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters about an epic Donkey Kong battle for the highest-ever Donkey Kong score. The main players, Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, spend considerable hours, money for travel and emotional energy over achieving something that is,  for all intensive purposes, meaningless.

While this is all abstractly interesting, it's also fun to think about how you can apply this in your office, at home with your family, or with your customers. For trainers, it's easy to see how you can build status incentives into your training programs at work: a leader board that tracks trainees with the highest all-time scores, or the highest-rated training courses. With your kids or your spouse, games like Chore Wars reward chores done with points and levels  - status that makes otherwise painful activities fun. If we can make our daily life and our work activities more fun, we can encourage people to be more productive AND more engaged, without offering them more monetary incentives. Sounds like a win-win, no?

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