Tag Archives: gameofwork

How to motivate workers

Not everyone agrees on how to motivate workers. I’m still trying to decide which of these ideas sounds most correct:

  1. Charles Coonradt, author of The Game of Work, gives five reasons why games are better than jobs:

    1. Feedback is much more frequent in games, 2. there’s always a score to “reinforce the behavior you want repeated,” 3. consistent coaching, 4. goals are more clearly defined, and 5. more personal choice. (source)

    For example, in a game of soccer, imagine how easy it is to know which goal is yours, who your teammates are, who your competitors are, how to get feedback from your coach, and how much time you have left to score.

    See also “Make Life More Like Games” by Sarah Milstein.

  2. In Managing the Nonprofit Organization, Peter Drucker says:

    People need to know how they do–and volunteers more than anyone else. For if there is no paycheck, achievement is the sole reward. Once goals and standards are clearly established, appraisal becomes possible. …with clear goals and standards, the people who do the work appraise themselves.

    In all human affairs there is a constant relationship between the performance and achievement of the leaders, the record setters, and the rest….If one member of an organization does a markedly better job, others challenge themselves.

  3. However, Joel Spolsky, quoting a Harvard Business Review article, says Incentive Pay [Is] Considered Harmful:

    … at least two dozen studies over the last three decades have conclusively shown that people who expect to receive a reward for completing a task or for doing that task successfully simply do not perform as well as those who expect no reward at all. [HBR Sept/Oct 93]

    …any kind of workplace competition, any scheme of rewards and punishments, and even the old fashion trick of “catching people doing something right and rewarding them,” all do more harm than good. Giving somebody positive reinforcement (such as stupid company ceremonies where people get plaques) implies that they only did it for the lucite plaque; it implies that they are not independent enough to work unless they are going to get a cookie; and it’s insulting and demeaning.

  4. A colleague of mine received the MVP Award from Microsoft. He said it’s peer selected, hard to get, and hard to keep. (You have to maintain annual certifications.) The award is given for past accomplishments, but he thinks it has the effect of motivating many people to do more.

Which one is it?

Do the same rules apply to volunteers at a nonprofit as employees at a company?

Thinking…