Healthy competition in life is inevitable. We’re constantly competing with those around us, ourselves, and our environment – often without even realizing it. While it can act as an incredible driver for many, when implemented incorrectly, competition can be detrimental.

In a work environment where collaboration is widely promoted, competition seems like the opposite solution to increasing performance. However, when done correctly, competition within a team has the potential to push your employees to perform at new levels.

Implementing any competition within your workforce should be approached with caution. Try using the simple tips below to try competition at work the right way.

Mix Up the Competition

As you’re already well aware, everyone on your team works differently. Some employees have no problem going head-to-head with their coworker and even thrive on it. On the other hand, some are intimidated by direct competition, and even become unmotivated when faced with that type of challenge. Those who don’t love a good face off might thrive when working with a team against another team or might do best competing against a goal instead of an individual.

Providing one type of competition will accomplish increased production for few but will likely have the opposite effect on the rest of the team. Consider varying the types and durations of competition. This keeps the competitions from feeling stale, while simultaneously appealing to every type of employee.

Consider the following:

Face Offs

Regardless the collaborative environment at your office, there will always be employees who thrive in a one versus one competition. Set the tone early that this is a fun competition that should be taken lightly.

One-on-one competitions are the trickiest to manage when it comes to hard feelings. It is crucial to purposefully match the right employees together. Ensure that those involved in the competition are of similar performance level. Pairing up employees at differing abilities will ruin the fun of the competition and may lead to hard feelings towards your management.

Team vs. Team Challenges

Team face offs are a great way to encourage both competition and teamwork. Pitting two groups against each other is and awesome way to encourage specific behaviors. If you have a handful of leaders that you want the rest of your team to follow, split them up and build teams around them.

Providing an activity which requires collaboration opens the door to mentorship and learning from each other without feeling forced.

Individuals vs. Goal

Some people simply don’t like feeling compared to others – there are competitions for them too! Even the most introverted employee can’t resist a good challenge from time to time. Push their performance without pushing them outside of their comfort zone by setting them up with a challenge against themselves.

Make it Fun

While it should go without saying – it is incredibly important to remember to make workplace competitions fun! It is easy for employees to get caught up in their performance metrics and looking good for the boss. Don’t let it happen to your team!

Don’t forget to remind your employees every step of the way that competitions at work are for fun. Break up some of the intensity with less important competitions that highlight non-work-related skills like desk decorating, fitness, or cooking. Use different rewards to give each competition different weights – they don’t all have to be the end all, be all.

Especially when competitions are first introduced, your employees will be looking to you to take cues on how seriously they should take them. Ensure that the importance of performing well is highlighted, while keeping things friendly and light. Workplace competition is supposed to be friendly not exhausting!

Provide Variable Rewards

Every individual is motivated by different things. Some employees prefer tangible goods, while others will give 110% for the potential reward and recognition; many are motivated by rewards like time off or company perks.

To accomplish maximum participation from your team, it is important to provide prizes that appeal to everyone. Of course, it is impossible to make everyone happy every time.

This problem can be solved in a myriad of ways. The most common solution would be to change up the reward for each competition. Carefully plan your rewards ahead of time to ensure a schedule with something for everyone. Create a reward schedule that is equal parts tangible goods, monetary, perks, and recognition – but don’t share the schedule with your team. Creating a predictable schedule could cause your employees to get bored and lose interest in the competition.

If trying to perfectly plan a reward schedule that everyone will love without becoming predictable is making your head spin, there are other solutions!

At ZIZO, we were sick of trying to guess what everyone would want, so we decided to let them choose! All competitions on the ZIZO platform are rewarded with coins and ZBucks (currency). To keep things exciting, all of our competitions are worth different amounts of reward.

Winners can take the currency and spend it in our reward store for whatever makes them happiest. That way – the winner wins big every time! Giving competitors the power to choose what they’re working for increases their likelihood of caring about the competition.

Give them the opportunity to beat their own record or reward them for hitting a certain milestone by a specific deadline. Providing them with a solo competition will crank up their drive to perform without risking the adverse effects of competing against someone else.

Collaborative Team vs. Goal

Engaging the entire team to work towards a collaborative goal is by far one of the most effective ways to implement competition into the workplace. In a study conducted by ZIZO, we found that most individuals prefer working with a team towards a common goal rather than facing another team or individual.

In addition to the data, we’ve tested this firsthand. In my own agency, we’d run a contest almost every Friday. We’d give the entire team a goal to accomplish and whenever they reached that number, they could take the rest of the day off, paid. The team would successfully reach the goal 90% of the time!

Blitz Competitions

A blitz competition is a great way to jump start productivity when your team is in a slump. Announce a short competition, starting immediately to create a buzz and some excitement. A blitz should be no longer than an hour long, and its best if the prize is available then and there.

Multi-Day Tournaments

On the occasion that your team needs less excitement and more focus try a multi-day tournament. These are a great resource when your team needs a refreshed interest in any one KPI. By creating a longer competition, you’re enhancing the need for employees to focus on their performance over the course of a few days.

Battle Royale

If your whole office needs a little wake-up call, a Battle Royale is a great way to get everyone’s attention! This is a ‘fight-to-the-death’ style competition that leaves only the best as the last man standing. While employees are competing directly with their peers, the entire team is involved, which takes a lot of the pressure off those who aren’t wild for the intensity of a face-off.

Be Purposefully Transparent

Regardless of how meticulously you plan competitions, they’ll never be successful if your team doesn’t have trust in it. Perceived bias, inaccurate score keeping and lack of follow through on rewards are among the most common reasons a competition fails.

It is incredibly important to ensure your employees trust the competition mechanics 100% for them to go all-in for a contest.

The easiest way to earn your employee’s trust is to be as transparent as possible with them. If they’re able to keep tabs on the system throughout the entire competition, they’ll have no reason not to trust the outcome.

Share with employees what is being measured, who is being measured, and how a winner will be determined. Provide them with any information relevant to the competition upfront and before they have to ask.

While competitive workplaces get a bad rep, don’t let it scare you! The right type of competition can elevate your team’s performance and bring new life to your workforce.

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