Gamification: The Secret to Accelerate Onboarding


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Slow ramp time for new hires is lethal. Sales leaders will not Make the Number if they fail to rapidly onboard new talent. The good news is that new techniques are now emerging that make a measurable difference. The sales environment is uniquely suited to take advantage of an innovation called “gamification.” This post is for HR and Sales leaders who ask, “How can we accelerate the productivity of our new hires?”

Simply stated, gamification provides enticements for accomplishing prescribed learning tasks. The rewards include points, achievement badges or levels, countdowns, leaderboards and even virtual currency. These inject fun and excitement into onboarding.

Early adopters of gamification report significant improvements in ramp productivity. The time may be right for your organization to leverage this trend. Find out if gamification fits your sales onboarding needs. Download the free “Sales Onboarding Gamification Checklist” and jump-start your program today.

The Game: A Great Match for Sales?

Gamification doesn’t have the same impact on every organization. In fact, there are many examples of disappointing results from early deployments. Improper structure of the games is one major pitfall. But another is the finding the correct fit for the audience.

Fortunately, the selling role is uniquely suited for gamification for several reasons. The 4 primary characteristics that make it an accelerant to onboarding include:

  1. Competitive Environment: Top sales people are highly competitive. They perform best when they are in an environment that allows them to measure themselves against others.
  2. Incentive Compensation: Sales people are “coin-operated.” They thrive on opportunities to win rewards and prizes.
  3. Remoteness: Field sales people are spread across wide geographies. Since they have limited chances to work with peers, virtual games encourage teamwork. Social media like Chatter can bridge the distances.
  4. Rejection: Top performers must face rejection as often as they can, constantly seeking to turn “No” into “Yes.” The positive experiences of winning points and badges provide a welcome contrast.

Onboarding Goals Brought into Harmony

Mark Stein and Lilith Christiansen identify 4 traditional factors in their excellent book Successful Onboarding. These include recognition, incentives, interpersonal support, and clear goals. The authors add that sales people themselves rank “the feeling of progress” even higher. Yet sales leaders have a different expectation: quota attainment. How can these disparate directions converge?

Gamification can be the answer. It accentuates the feeling of progress that new hires need. It is a unified platform for the 4 factors Stein & Christiansen espouse. And, it speeds sales productivity, which is the ultimately the name of the performance management game.

Early Adopters Achieve Results

Gamification ResultsA February 2013 report by Aberdeen Research validates the impact of gamification. Onboarding with gamification produced significant improvements in turnover and engagement levels. Yet only 17% of the organizations researched have embraced gamification.

Leading providers of gamification platforms like LevelEleven, Hoopla, Bunchball and Badgeville are reporting more successful launches every day. (See below for links to case studies.) Each of these providers offer solutions that are integrated into the CRM platform. The AppExchange includes a dozen such gamification providers.

Bonus Points: CRM Adoption

The most valuable benefit for gamification may be the impact on adoption of the CRM system by new hires. One sales manager at a leading B2B technology firm recently shared his experience: “I forced my team to enter everything into I had to be the bad guy to get them to do it. With gamification, instead of punishing non-compliance, I can use the leaderboards to reinforce positive behavior.”

There is no intrinsic value to a CRM system for a new hire. The benefits only materialize when the system has accurate, actionable data. Winning points and badges for entering and updating sales activities establishes good record-keeping habits. The quantity and quality of data soon reaches a critical mass. New hires who are immmersed in the CRM system right from the start rely on the data integrity long after their onboarding ends.

Leverage Your Investment in LMS & CRM

Your Learning Management and CRM systems provide a ready platform for virtual leaderboards and social communication. Put an end to the solitary drudgery of self-paced tutorials and dull webinars. Stimulate friendly rivalries and encourage collaboration among new hires.

The diagram below shows how a typical gamification program can be implemented in 3 phases. Most sales onboarding programs include plenty of “learning” and “doing” tasks. But they lack the excitement and collaboration dimensions that truly engage new hires.


Get in the Game!

A well-designed program can help bridge the gap. Rewarding the right behaviors will speed up onboarding. But if gamification is done poorly, it trivializes the learning efforts. It’s important to get the implementation right to get the full benefit. SBI and the 3 Phase approach above can help.

Take the next step. Download the Sales Onboarding Gamification Checklist. It provides an overview of the essentials for your program.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

John Kenney
John Kenney serves as Senior Consultant at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI). John brings more than 20 years of direct sales and sales management experience to his consulting role. His recent client list includes: Hewlett Packard, Phillips 66, Motorola Solutions, and Sanofi BioSurgery.


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