What To Do When The Systems Don’t Stick

When you have tried many strategies, but your team aren’t 100% invested yet in your systems, there’s a strategy that often gets overlooked but done the right way. It may just be the answer to finally getting everyone on board and paddling in the same direction.

So here’s the thing, it’s not easy to get your team to fall in love with systems, especially when they are super busy and see the systems as a hindrance rather than a help.

For you, the business owner, it can be demoralising. You’ve put in a lot of effort to build systems, you have involved your team in the process, and you have done all the right things, but still, there is resistance from your team.

70% of business transformation efforts fail due to lack of engagement

Staggeringly, 70% of business transformation efforts fail due to a lack of engagement (Source: Gartner Press Release). When you put time, money and effort into systemising your business and with so much at stake, you can’t afford to fail at change.

Adoption and engagement of your systems and processes are paramount to the success of the systemisation process and for the business to transform.

Gamification is an engagement tool, the same initiative that game designers use to keep players interested. It’s the carrot on the stick that keeps the rabbit keep chasing.

Disclaimer – before you consider putting this strategy in place, make sure you have implemented systems into your business the right way. I suggest that you read my article on 5 Ways to Get Buy-In From Your Team.

What To Do When The Systems Don’t Stick

In the article, I briefly covered the strategy of Gamification. To understand what Gamification is and how it can assist in the adoption of systems, let’s dive deeper into this playful strategy.

What is Gamification?

Gamification incorporates the elements of recognition and rewards. In the context of learning, gamification is the integration of gaming to create a highly effective learning experience and learning retention. When applied strategically, gamification encourages systems adoption by challenging the team in a controlled environment.

Gamification promotes friendly competition, creates a sense of achievement and motivates individuals or teams to be consistent with the use of the systems. Ultimately the outcome we want is for our team to be engaged with our systems as part of the business culture.

The purpose of gamification, from a business owner’s point of view, is to encourage the behaviour you want. However, behaviour is a hard thing to change.

Without delving too deep into the psychology of behaviour, there are three elements to successfully changing behaviour, according to Professor B.J. Foff at Stanford University.
These elements are:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Trigger

To be effective, all three elements have to happen at the same time. If all these conditions are met, gamification can change behaviour, create motivation and keep employees engaged.

Gamification can change behaviour, create motivation and keep employees engaged.

When and How to Implement Gamification

Gamification can make a huge impact if done well. Gamification is best applied when a business is in the process of systemising, and the team are showing signs of resistance.

Other times that gamification comes into play is when there has been a period of adoption and, for some reason, bad habits are starting to creep back. Sometimes something can happen that causes the team to revert back to old habits. Here are some examples of reasons for non-compliance of systems:

  • A sudden increase in workload/too busy
  • Processes are hard to look up or read
  • No one is driving the system’s implementation and adherence
  • Processes are out of date or no longer apply
  • Other team members are not using the systems (including the business owner and managers)
  • The team member had no input and felt alienated
  • Team members don’t believe in the new process or that it is inefficient
  • They just can’t be bothered
  • Can’t see the bigger picture and how this impacts them and the business

It’s important to note that before you introduce gamification, you first find out where the resistance is coming from. Ensure that you have applied the other 4 strategies to successful systems implementation as described in my previous article.

Additionally, spend time with each team member individually to figure out what the non-compliance issue really is and work through solutions together.

After that, if you’re still experiencing challenges around systems adoption and you have addressed other reasons for non-adherence, then it’s worthwhile applying gamification to help get the system’s implementation across the line.

Before you introduce gamification, first find out where the resistance is coming from.

To be effective, gamification needs to have the following elements:

  • Challenges
  • Rewards
  • Feedback (both parties)
  • Accountability (by users)
  • Support (from managers)
  • Competitiveness
  • Collaboration (if multiple teams)
  • Mindfulness of team’s learning styles
  • Analytics report

Examples of Gamification

Traditional Quiz/Assessment
This could be a simple survey where you encourage feedback on systems and processes and recognise their input and response. A systems quiz is also a great tool to gauge your team’s understanding of when and how the systems and processes are used.

Recognise the team members who score the highest. This is a great way to recognise who in your team could be considered for the role of a system in your business.

Game-Based Learning
The learning path is converted into a game featuring scores, badges and leaderboards. When implementing any training, a game that forces the learner to apply newly acquired skills will have a higher impact on knowledge retention.

Product Knowledge Training
Scenario training can be effective for product knowledge training. Learners have to help their clients understand the features and benefits of their products. Each level of the game can be a topic through which the team have to progress through, completing challenges and earning points or trophies along the way. Leaderboards can be added to impart a sense of social recognition.

Habit Forming Challenges
Habit-forming challenges are designed to make the team aware of what they need to achieve to complete a challenge. In the context of systems adoption, the simplest challenge would be to recognise the consistent use of the systems and processes over a period of time.

Recognise those team members with the highest adoption rate of your systems.

Gamification At Play

Increase Leads
Internet Marketing Inc wanted its sales team to actively collect more leads for the business. They motivated their team by incentivising this with a competition that awarded sales representatives based on how many leads they collected over several months. In less than 3 months, they had doubled the number of leads that they had previously collected over 3 years.

In this example, the outcome was that the team had more engagement in their job and encouraged them to stretch just that little bit further.

Systems Adherence

Set up a game where team members are rewarded for every time they:

  • Notify tasks using the new task/project management systems instead of using email
  • Make announcements using the new intranet system instead of email broadcasts
  • Use the @mention features in a system instead of using CC in emails
  • Complete a checklist in the system
  • Use a template in the systems instead of starting projects from scratch
  • Following step-by-step the new process instead of reverting to the “old way”
  • Acknowledge another team member following a new process
  • Help a team member to follow a new process

There are plenty of ideas depending on what your adherence issue is, you can get creative in your approach.
Remember not to make the challenge too difficult at first. Make the challenge weekly or monthly; your team will lose interest if the challenge is too long or overly complicated.

Come up with rewards rather than punishment. For more serious offences, such as safety compliance, consequences such as disciplinary action are appropriate.

Reward ideas for individuals or teams:

  • Gift certificate
  • Buy lunch
  • Buy cakes
  • Buy coffee
  • Movie tickets

Rewards don’t need to be expensive or elaborate; your team will appreciate the recognition more so than the actual prize. If you are going to use negative rewards, make sure they are lighthearted, such as buying cupcakes for the office when they fail to follow a process. Try to understand your team’s personalities and find a challenge that will be well accepted.

Understand your team’s personalities and find a challenge that will be well accepted.

What To Do When The Systems Don’t Stick

Guidelines For Implementing Gamification

  • Use positive rewards rather than negative consequences
  • Make the challenge sort to start with IE: for one week
  • Make the rules of the challenge simple and clear
  • Get everyone involved, including management
  • Make the challenge fun
  • If you don’t have ideas, ask the team for challenging ideas
  • Don’t suddenly stop even if you got a great response; keep challenges going to improve the adoption rate
  • Get feedback from the team on the challenge
  • Recognise the winner/s within the company – do not alienate or bully non-winners
  • Recognise those team members that made an effort
  • Use tools to manage the games/challenges that the team are already familiar with
  • Share results frequently of how the processes are making a positive difference to the business

Make a big deal of those team members who made a great effort and got to the top of the leaderboard. Post announcements in company newsletters, on your intranet board or in your general Slack channel. Recognition will encourage future participation.

The Business Systemisation Culture

Using the systems and processes in your business is part of your business culture. It is important that every employee understands that the processes are there to help the business run efficiently, productively and without error.

While there may be more underlying reasons why some team members adopt the systems and process better than others, there are strategies, of which gamification is one of them, that can assist in making it all stick.

It would be a terrible shame if all your hard work came to nothing because your transformational changes were not adopted by your team. It’s a big problem, but there are solutions with the right approach and some creativity.

It has to be said that engagement still requires strong leadership and inspiration to stick. No matter how great the game is, it needs to be part of a larger systems culture strategy to truly transform the business.

If systems adoption is an issue for you or you are at the stage of planning for systemisation, I might be able to help. Book a Systems Success Call, and we can discuss strategies to transform your business.


business systemisation, office organisation, organisation, productivity

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