How to Increase Workforce Productivity By Adding Workplace Competition

by | Aug 9, 2016

fair-competionAccording to a recent survey, nearly half of senior managers believe that employee competitiveness has increased over the last decade.

Orchestrating internal competition is a good way to increase workforce productivity and leverage the natural undercurrent that exists in an organization. Creating and recognizing a fast-track organizational achievement is a brilliant management move.

However, If you want a workplace competition to be productive for the long term, it is essential that contests be considered fair by the players.

Unfair competition undermines creativity rather than supporting it. It will erode employee confidence, damage workplace integrity, and risk negative reactions rather than promoting positive motivations.

Fair competition, on the other hand, can be a fun way to leverage your employees’ innate drive to win, reinforce team values, increase workforce productivity and move everyone closer to your vision in a friendly way.

Managers are 100% responsible for the fairness of their employee competitions. By giving consideration to the following four factors, wise managers can avoid the pitfalls of negative and perhaps hostile unfair competition.

  1. The Appearance of Fairness. The structure, rules, and distribution of assets must not favor — or appear to favor — any particular employee or group. If, for instance, during a sales contest, you divvy up 10 qualified leads to Team A and give Team B the duds, your integrity will certainly be in question. If anyone has a concern about fairness, whether or not you feel the concerns are valid, they must be immediately and openly addressed.
  2. Team Selection. Avoiding the appearance of favoritism is critical, and every good manager will want to level the playing field as much as possible. For example, at the meeting to announce the competition, fill a box with different colored pens (as many colors as teams) and, as people enter the meeting, ask them to draw a pen from the box, sight unseen. Individuals with red pens will be on one team, blue on another, and so on. You can also assign a color to each person based on their arrival. In subsequent competitions, teams can be chosen to ensure a different mix of talents and personalities for each event, and to ensure that no in-groups are organized. This style of choice also brings different factions together, who are then tasked with discovering success as a group.
  3. The Question of Superstars. If you have one person who regularly outshines the others, it may appear unfair to leave him or her on one or the other teams. You can pair this person with a mentee as a way of educating new additions. The superstar could produce for Team A in weeks 1 and 3, and Team B in weeks 2 and 4. Alternatively, a sales contest could be based on the incremental improvement of each player.
  4. The Definition of “Winning.” There are many ways to measure performance. If you do have a superstar, the contest can be kept fair by scoring alternate metrics. Instead of dollar volume, perhaps the number of sales closed or the most improved performance over a quarter could indicate the winner. In this way, everyone has a shot, and superstars will need to work just as hard as the others, which is an excellent way to level the playing field and encourage participation.

Most of us are competitive on some level. Healthy workplace competitions can tap into this area of our psyche to encourage improvement and build on teamwork and increase workforce productivity. Managers lead by example when keeping competition fair and fun, yielding benefits that recognize the entire team.

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