Catch the 7 Lessons Pokemon Go Teaches About Employee Motivation

The recent news is filled with outrageous stories about what is happening to the Pokemon Go players. I’ll admit, I’m not a gamer, but I’m baffled by the behavior of the players. It’s as if they shift into a hypnotic state once starting the game. A good phrase I heard was, “Zombie aPOKEalyspe!” It’s a great description of what people look like as they are playing.

bigstock--138595754People are suffering injuries and criminals are using the game to lead players into situations where Pokemon-related attacks are happening. All this got me thinking … why are so many so fanatical about this game?

It appears that Pokemon Go is harnessing the power of augmented reality by giving incentives for people to go out and explore.

There must be something we can learn and apply in motivating employees at work!

These are a few things I’ve learned about the game that I think are relevant:

  1. The game offers clear structure
  2. Players receive immediate feedback
  3. Players are challenged with attainable goals
  4. The game encourages going outside and walking
  5. Playing the game facilitates paying attention and noticing more
  6. Players find it easier to interact and build rapport with strangers
  7. It’s fun to play

So, how do these factors translate to the workplace in motivating employees? Here’s my take on it:

  1. Provide clear structure with roles, responsibilities and authority – tension and conflict among the team can often be addressed when everyone clearly understands who is responsible for what, along with aligning the responsibility and authority parameters. This common understanding can go a long way in establishing expectations and preventing duplication of work and stepping into one another’s territory/scope. Clarity can be quite motivating!
  2. Offer feedback on performance regularly and in a timely manner – this too helps everyone understand how their performance/behaviors are measuring up to the expectations. Remember, some people need more than others. If you are someone who doesn’t need frequent kudos, you may forget that others do need more feedback, praise and encouragement on a regular basis. Here are a few more feedback tips and traps. By the way, it’s also motivating to high performers when the low performers receive timely feedback or face consequences should performance not improve.
  3. Set challenging, yet attainable goals – you have to have a way to measure performance and develop your team. Setting goals is a common practice, but you want to make sure that it’s a collaborative process with the other person. Take time to understand team member’s personal development goals in combination with performance requirements. This way you’ll gain more buy-in and the other person will be incented to achieve those goals.
  4. Encourage and support cross-functional work – this is another great way to develop your team. If there is an opportunity to work on a task force or special project with others in different functional areas, that person will not only learn from others’ expertise, but will expand their internal relationships. This widens their perspective and encourages being open-minded when soliciting ideas from others. This also addresses #6 in the Pokemon list. There is a reason to connect with people outside their regular team and previous strangers now have a common interest!
  5. Delegate meaningful work or request they stand-in for you in meetings – similar to #4, when we offer people the opportunity to take on new, challenging work or allow them increased exposure with new/more senior people, it may put them a bit out of their comfort zone. When we are out of our comfort zones, we are more alert and boost our efforts to bring our A game. This also applies to #6 in the Pokemon list.
  6. You’ve gotta have some fun at work – let’s face it … we spend so much of our lives at work. If the work environment is a constant grind and filled with stressful situations, it’s miserable. Leaders set the tone for the team and if you take yourself so seriously all the time, lose your sense of humor and the human touch, your team will be cycling through a revolving door.

Next time you see a person ambling around, eyes glued to their smartphone, let it serve as a trigger to think about how you are motivating your employees. Let the Pokemon Go craze serve a higher purpose!

… and be careful out there!!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at