Pokemon Go And the Art Of The Employee Perk

There is a direct (and hopefully positive) correlation between your recruiting and retention efforts. Specifcally, the time, money, and effort spent landing the best talent for open positions is a complete waste without a commensurate effort to keep them engaged. The folks at Great With Talent talk about ignoring the relationship recruitment and retention as HR suicide. Dramatic? Yes. Overstated? Absolutely not. While there are many factors that go into the decision by employees to leave, the lack of the right incentives plays a prominent role for many. So, what kind of incentives do employees really want? Although some articles claim cash is king, there is plenty of data to refute this (here's one, here's another). Studies suggest that 4 out of 5 employees are more motivated by non-cash incentives. And that's where Pokemon Go comes in.

In case you're one of the six people orbiting the earth right now (yes, there's a website for that) who has never heard of it, Pokemon Go is a location-based augmented reality game that's become a global phenomenon - it's been downloaded 100 million times and has generated over $211 million in revenue to date. That's from kids, millennials, baby boomers, Gens X, Y, and Z and everyone in between. It's not just your 8 year old’s favorite show anymore.

Pokémon Go can actually teach us a lot about what motivates people. Think about it: Pokémon Go is appeals to masses of enthusiasts because of the challenges it presents  and the immediate rewards they get. Colorful creatures with wacky names are tracked down, captured, and users earn points and hopefully burn a few calories. Built into the entire experience is the rush of completing a mission, the thrill of competing with friends and strangers to catch the most or the rarest Pokemon, moving up levels to find more powerful monsters, all in the hope of owning your own Pokemon gym. The goals are specific and guaranteed, as long as a user puts in the work to achieve them.

So how can we incorporate this concept into the workplace? First, make sure that you're choosing the right incentives. An article in Inc Magazine reports that 96 percent of employees say they are motivated by travel incentives. Travel is such an effective incentive that airbnb, Salesforce, and Yahoo are all using it. Pinterest offers happy hours, game nights, wine clubs, and even Apple products to its employees

Related article: 8 ways leaders can motivate employees beyond money

The types of incentives that will be most effective depends on the culture and workforce. Is your organization full of tech-savvy geeks? Offer the latest and greatest hi-tech gadgets. Is  your company heavy with millennials? Craft beer (or craft anything really) is a terrific way to show your appreciation for a job well done.

The creators of Pokémon Go understand the human need to work towards meaningful goals. As one gaming website points out, “The self confidence that arises from the achievement of a goal… motivates people to play more and more.” Bring this strategy into the workplace by rewarding employees each time they reach a milestone. Rewarding wins, big and small, will give employees the motivation and confidence they need to go above and beyond. 

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Alan Margulis