06 OCT, 2014

What Companies Can Learn About Incentives From Fantasy Football

fantasy football team embarassesment

I’ve enjoyed watching football since I was 13, when I saw Bill Parcells lead Drew Bledsoe and the Patriots to the playoffs for the first time since 1986. However, I rarely paid much attention to any other teams or their games until this year, when I joined a fantasy football league.

Now, I have a personal stake in at least 3 or 4 games each week. I check injury reports on Wednesday night and make sure everyone in my lineup is at least likely to play, and I watch the games with my iPad in my lap to see my score update in real time.

I do this because now I feel a personal investment in the games that I never did before. Our league is not high-stakes, but to me it’s all about the competition and gaining bragging rights.

There is a lesson here about employee engagement and incentives. If your workers believe that your company’s success has little to do with them, they will not be all that upset if you lose or excited if you win. If they all feel they have some skin in the game, they’ll try that much harder to rack up points for your company in the form of getting new business, providing excellent service, and coming up with new ideas. And if there’s an added incentive for having a great game—such as a bonus, public recognition, or even private praise—then they’ll be all that more likely to put in the extra effort.

It’s tempting to pigeonhole certain initiatives—for example, sales goals. Only sales and marketing can contribute to those, right? How about setting a goal for accounting on invoice turnaround time? Giving customer service and account management the training to upsell? Setting a site uptime goal for IT to make sure your customers can reach you and use your services? Make sure hitting that sales goal is everyone’s job, and that everyone gets recognized for it. That way everyone is watching the scoreboard and making the moves necessary to get another one in the win column.


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