Categories Articles, Staffing & Recruiting

Competition will always exist to some extent among your staffing team. After all, you probably hired a team of go-getters who thrive on hitting and surpassing their weekly or monthly quotas. It’s the nature of the business, and not only is competition inevitable, it is ultimately beneficial.

However, there is a difference between good, healthy competition between your staffing employees that builds everyone up; and bad competition that hurts the team. A recent Robert Half study reports that managers have seen  co-worker competitiveness growing over the past decade, are you sure you are setting the right tone for competition in your workplace? Here are three ways to foster healthy competition that won’t tear apart your team.

1. Don’t create an undue sense of urgency.

When employees feel they are short on time, that’s usually when they go into survival-mode where they only care about themselves. Likewise, when there is only a limited amount of rewards, you are apt to see more unhealthy competition where reps fight and tear each other down.

Yes, at the end of the day, things need to happen by a deadline. There are quotas to be met, of course. But the key is to not create a culture of urgency. To do this, announce goals and reach-goals far in advance of the deadlines and don’t alter goals once you start. This way, your employees will have time to not only mentally prepare for the sprint, but will feel like they have the full time period (be it a week, a month, or a quarter) to run the race. Furthermore, having clear and consistent goals is imperative to eliminating urgency. Less questions about goals mean less distractions.

To alleviate the urgency for the rewards, instead of making it a “zero-sum” game and having a reward for just the top performer, consider staggered rewards for the top three or five performers. It’s easier to have friendly workplace competition when there are multiple “winners” rather than just one.

2. Focus on individual goals and performance bests too.

When there is a “winner take all” mentality to rewards in the workplace, the bottom half of the pack often checks out of the competition. Though they might be good workers, they realize they might never have the drive to “be the best” and give up. This can lead to complacency and resentment, which are obviously byproducts of unhealthy competition.

To combat this, your staffing company should also focus on individual performance. By rewarding reps for individual bests and achievements, and (quite importantly) recognizing them in front of everyone, the idea of “competition” can be turned inward, so each rep has an incentive to be better even if he or she isn’t at the top of the heap.

There’s no reason this sort of reward can’t exist side-by-side with an overall reward for best rep performance, either. Beating personal bests should be celebrated as much as monthly leaderboard winners. This will foster a positive atmosphere of competition for all your employees.

3. Make data transparent, simple, and accessible.

We’ve been championing data transparency since we started, and a big reason is that the more data is accessible by your employees, the more healthy competition it will foster automatically. For example, imagine charts like this constantly rotating on your big screen:

Sales Leaderboard

These charts can have a powerful effect on your reps. After all, no one likes being at the bottom of a leaderboard. Using basic gamification in this way is a method of providing data transparency in a purposeful way.

A leaderboard can also spark internal collaboration. A low performer can seek out the counsel of a top performer to learn his/her successful approach to the business.  By keeping the presented data simple and accessible, it won’t get buried or forgotten like a complicated Excel spreadsheet full of statistics. Instead, it will be referred to throughout the day by your staffing team to check performance.

These charts can also show team totals instead of individuals, if that is more appropriate for your company. In all of this, make sure the level and tone of competition is right for your team. While bad competition can cripple your team, healthy competition can supercharge your team’s performance and improve your bottom line.

Samuel Clemens
Sam is founder and chief of product & marketing for InsightSquared. Previously, Sam was VP Product at HubSpot, VP Product at BzzAgent, and on the founding team at Elance.com. His background also includes venture capital with Greylock Partners, the Algorithms group at Amazon.com, and management consulting with Booz Allen Hamilton. Sam has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in Applied Math from Yale. In his off time he dives shipwrecks in the New England area.
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