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Workplace Contest Ideas

May 29, 2022

employees about to play a game

Any industry is rife with competition. Indeed, you’re likely to spend a significant amount of time and investment in understanding how to get the competitive edge. This is, of course, a good thing. After all, a competitive sector helps to push all companies within it to raise their game. As a result, all stakeholders stand to benefit.

But what about internal competition? An increasing number of companies have begun adopting contests in the workplace. These add an element of gamification and potentially positive rivalries among individual workers or even between departments. There are certainly some benefits to be had by raising the stakes within the company as well as between businesses.

We’re going to explore workplace contest ideas a little further. Why utilize them and what are some options you can try out with your own employees? 

Why Use Contests?

Some business owners feel that the contests are an unnecessary distraction from work. Yet, in many ways, the opposite can be true. The drive to be first or best can be a useful way to focus your employees’ efforts toward specific goals. If you think about it, the results your business needs to achieve to gain strategic advantages aren’t always of interest to your workers. In many ways, they can feel arbitrary. Or, worse, these targets can feel dictated to them. Contests that influence the success of your business while giving employees something relatable to strive for.

You’ll also find that contests are useful simply as a method to motivate your workers. Understandably, this tends to be most effective when there are tangible rewards at the end of the contest. Though, this isn’t to say that prizes will be the only incentivizing aspect. Often, the opportunity to compete for employees or departments to be recognized as the best in the business, can be a spur to achievement. 

It’s also important to recognize that contests are a useful way to quantify good performance. You’ll find this is especially effective if your workers are in positions where their work isn’t necessarily measured by sales. The contest offers measurable goals for workers to strive toward. This can boost morale as well as engagement.

Nevertheless, for all the reasons to use contests, it’s vital to recognize there can be drawbacks. Chief among these is the potential for the morale of those who don’t do well in contests to drop. When this occurs too frequently, they may begin to disengage entirely. You may also find that contests create unhealthy divisions within teams. Neither of these are necessarily reasons to avoid contests, but you should take steps to mitigate negative impacts when utilizing them.

What Are Some Positive Workplace Contest Ideas? 

Productivity Targets

Making the core duties of employees’ work into a contest can be a useful way to align company goals with friendly rivalry. This is also one of the simpler forms of contest to arrange, as it doesn’t require much additional organization. You’re already tracking metrics for each of your workers, you just need to set the target levels for winning the contests.

This could take a couple of different formats. A first-past-the-post system involves setting a productivity target and the employee (or employees, if you want to have several rewards) that reach this first wins. You could also do a simple scoreboard across the week, with visible rankings managers adjust on a daily basis as results come in. 

However, it can also be wise to hold different types of target contests throughout the month, each focusing on a different indicator of productivity. One week could focus on sales, the next a measure of efficiency, the following a level of customer satisfaction, with the fourth based on peer recognition. This gives employees who are skilled in different areas a fair opportunity to excel and benefit from the contest. Indeed, it can be fun to have an additional monthly contest where you reward aggregate scores from all areas.

Team Projects

Good teamwork is among the most valuable assets your company can possess. Sure, individual actions are important, but when combined with those of others in a meaningful way, they have a more profound influence on success. It’s also an important point of morale for employees. When your workers can develop meaningful bonds with their co-workers, they tend to get greater satisfaction from their work experience. As such, one of the best contests to promote this type of collaboration and relationship development is team projects.

This is where you set a problem for teams to solve. There can be various ways to judge this type of contest too, with potential to award prizes for different outcomes. You can reward the team that achieves the intended outcome the fastest. You could also provide prizes for those that produce the most creative or innovative solutions to the problem. 

It’s also worth noting that these team projects don’t need to be focused on solving problems related to employees’ work or even your industry. The point is to get them building their collaborative skill sets and outside-of-the-box thinking. Indeed, choosing a problem that is unusual or fantastical can enhance the sense of fun workers can have with the project, boosting their tendency to engage with it meaningfully. 

Remember, too, that keeping employees within their regular departmental teams is not always the best route to go. Create teams with contributors from different departments and mixed levels of seniority. This helps workers to form connections with those they don’t normally mix with and learn to appreciate one another’s unique talents.

Charity Fundraising

One of the responsibilities of any company is to have a positive impact on the community. Contributing to local charitable initiatives is a valuable way to do this. It can also affect your local reputation. Not to mention it can bolster the authenticity of your company’s ethical values. A fun and effective way to approach this by treating fundraising as a contest.

This should start with reaching out to your employees to suggest a charity or cause for the fundraising. They are likely to already have better perspectives on their community’s needs. Encourage utilization of feedback channels to offer suggestions or to provide thoughts on where the company has not been effective in its past efforts so improvements can be made this time around.

You can then set up contests whereby teams are tasked with devising and executing methods of fundraising in the community. Don’t just rely on workers doing this in their own time, assign a certain amount of paid working hours each team can dedicate to this.

The obvious approach is to reward the most money raised for the cause by a team and/or an individual. However, you can inject some fun into the scenario by offering prizes for other metrics. Have company-wide voting for the most creative fundraising project or for the individual employee who demonstrates the most commitment to the cause. Alongside traditional rewards for the winners, it can also be wise to reward them by matching the funds raised by that team.

To Wrap Up

Workplace contests can be a valuable way to incentivize staff, encourage competitiveness, and improve worker satisfaction. There are also various ways you can go about this in an impactful way. You can structure competitions around hitting productivity targets. Help workers build collaborative skills and more meaningful colleague relationships through team projects. Charitable fundraising contests can also see your employees have a positive effect on the community. Offering some nice rewards for winners is great, but it’s also important to make sure these contests are both inclusive and fun.