Stop gamifying motivation!!! #triggeralert

I have been working in Human Resources for the past 10 years.

But if you count my endless hours spent studying psychology and human behavior, my unquenchable thirst for insight into motivation and principles of mindset and personal change, and all my investments of time and money studying humans, it is fair to say I have been working “with the human mind” for as long as I’ve known myself.

Coming with all of that theoretical baggage into the business world is most of the times incredibly rewarding. It allows me to connect with people, to inspire insight and coordinate change management the way a pianist plays the piano simply because 1. I love it 2. I have practiced it for so long 3. I’m doing that from a flow state.

Sometimes though it also is the number one reason behind my complete and utter rage with how people understand the function of “HR” in the business. And by people I include HR representatives as well.

Somehow everyone walks around thinking anyone can do an HR person’s job. But here’s just one example of why that is both false and dangerous.

One of the things that really annoys me is the well intended, but poorly thought through rewards and recognition systems.

By now pretty much everyone knows a good company should be having one of those. And most of the companies leave that to the responsibility of entry level employees who haven’t had a day’s training in psychology, team building, employee motivation, the science behind rewards and punishments and why people use them in the first place. (Spoiler alert: reward and punishment education systems were studied in early 1900’ by an array of researchers: such as Pavlov with the famous experiment of the dog drooling when a bell rang announcing food.)

See THAT is my problem.

Human motivation and engagement is different from training dogs to drool. The fact that I have to write this enrages me as much as it probably enrages you.

This is why we need EXPERTS to develop motivation and engagement and we cannot just copy paste games ideas from the Internet.

If companies really care about employees and their well-being they should reflect that in their budgets and in how much they invest in training, paying, developing and protecting their people.

Sounds so simple and obvious right?

But then why so few companies actually implement that?


That is pretty much like saying “You are the love of my life” to someone, but never making time for them.

It’s like the politicians who display an array of promises before Election Day and then never fulfill any of them after getting the votes.

Here’s what I think is wrong with that.

First of all, besides being employees, they are PEOPLE.

People have genuine needs, interests, aspirations and fears.

People don’t need recognition “systems”, they just need recognition.

They need to be seen. By someone. Anyone.

They need not just to hear, but to be talked to and treated as more than just a badge, a job title, a bee in the beehive.

Some like to be recognized publicly.

For others that is their worst nightmare.

Some prefer to be praised. Others prefer to know their manager is aware they just had to move to a new house and is ok with them needing a more flexible schedule.

Some are fresh graduates who prefer to have fun after work with their colleagues.

Others are single moms for which an after-hours office event is another task on their super long list.

Yes, it’s that complicated.

Doing the right things and doing things right is supposed to be complicated.

But that should not stop us from doing them! :)

So if you genuinely want to improve your people engagement and motivation practices here’s a couple of options:

  • Hire the right people — a qualified and experienced HR professional. Or hire a junior/mid level HR professional and invest in their growth!
  • If you do not have the budget for a full time HR onboard (maybe you are at the beginning of your business journey as an entrepreneur), hire a consultant on a needs basis.
  • If you are a people manager/leader, learn to work with your HR/Talent department and grow together. Share resources, feedback, go to classes together, experiment together. In a successful company where business goals are achieved in a balanced way, HR and people managers need to be in a happy & respectful relationship of collaboration!
  • Best way to evaluate the succes of your rewards & recognition systems is to get feedback based on them. Have they made an impact in the organization? Have they brought positive change? What is the people’s opinion about them? The best system is the one that is constantly improved.

Have fun learning and cracking the code of what makes people happy and engaged!



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