Every organizational leader can learn a lesson from the science behind employee gamification, which is the use of game-inspired tactics to engage employees.
As with any initiative a leader undertakes, the purpose of gamification is implemented to create some sort of change or progress. For example, the primary objective may be:
- Increase employee referrals for external recruiting candidates
- Increase participation in training programs
- Improve employee health to increase productivity and reduce the cost of health care benefits
- Improve employee collaboration and information-sharing
- Increase employee contributions to their 401(k) and improve their investment diversification
When planning gamification or any other strategy for engaging employees and influencing behaviors, the most important key is to target the right motivators: the drives that make people want to engage and that stimulate the right thoughts and actions to accomplish your objectives. [click to continue…]
In the 1930s, Harvard psychology professor Henry Murray analyzed the motivations of people. Rather than directly asking people what motivated them, he developed an exercise (still widely taught and used today) to identify their subconscious thought patterns. Murray identified over 300 human needs. In the 1940s, these needs were organized and prioritized by psychologist Abraham Maslow into the famous Hierarchy of Needs pyramid.
In the 1950s and 1960s, another Harvard psychology professor named David McClelland, a former student of Maslow, led a team that did further research on Murray’s 300 needs. They discovered that three of the needs — which became known as the Social Motives or the Three Needs — are the most common by far:
- Achievement: Needs to complete tasks, accomplish goals, take moderate risks, master a task or situation, and receive regular feedback on progress and achievements. Likes excellence, efficiency, career advancement, beating competition, beating past personal records, and being unique. Prefers individual work, and responds well to individual incentives.
- Affiliation: Needs to belong to a group, to be accepted and liked, and to create and maintain close personal relationships. Likes friendships, socializing, collaboration rather than competition, and certainty rather than risk; avoids conflict, negative notice, and being disliked by anyone. Prefers to work in groups, and prefers group incentives.
- Impact (also known as Power): Needs to influence, teach, or encourage others. Likes status, prestige, reputation, influential relationships, accomplishing group goals, and making a difference in people’s lives. Prefers to pursue the “big picture” or long-term purpose, even if it requires change or flexibility, and even if no feedback or negative feedback is received.
“97% of U.S. knowledge workers are driven by at least one of the Three Needs.” (tweet this)
McClelland found that over 80% of all people worldwide are motivated by some combination of the Three Needs. This is true whether people are rich or poor, and from developed or undeveloped nations. Even more remarkable, McClelland and later research led by David Burnham discovered that 97% of U.S. knowledge workers are driven by at least one of the Three Needs.
Whether people know it or not, what they really want is one or more of the Three Needs. As a leader, are you helping them get what they really want?
For more about the Three Needs, you may be interested in:
Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast and managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. If you know anyone who would benefit from this information, please share it!