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A company is having trouble getting its employees to report time of their working hours. The time reporting is the source for invoicing the company's customers and it has to be done in time. To deal with late time reports, the company implemented an unsatisfying wall where the most late employees are present on the companies wall board together with the number of hours late.

This current system is something like a reversed high score list, which is far from motivating. As expected, there are always employees on this list and it is never empty.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Instead of the current method that relies on negative feedback, my idea is to do the opposite: implement gamification elements, where you get points for days the reports are registered correctly. On display would be a high score list with the one first to finish current day and all preceding days.

mockup

download bmml source

I'm also thinking of implementing badges for consecutive reports on time, helping a colleague report on time, edits and making copies, report expenses correct and on time and a few more. This would be more satisfying for the employer and lessen the stress of avoiding a hall of shame.

Question: Would this be enough to get rid of late time reports, or is there more that could be done? Any other feedback on this idea is also appreciated.


Related:
How does Gamification change User Behavior?
How can you make a user experience addictive?

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If you are gonna using gamification, focus on rewarding early reporters rather than a wall of shame. It's more effective. Something shown to be the case in influencing driving speeds: signs saying "95% of people observe the speed limit" are more effective than signs about speeding tickets. –  Marjan Venema Apr 14 '12 at 11:18
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@MarjanVenema The question posits the gamification exactly as an alternative, positive approach to the wall of shame, which the post quotes as "far from motivating" In fact, that seems to be the whole point: "My idea is to do the opposite and implement gamification elements" –  Ilari Kajaste Apr 17 '12 at 7:14
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@BennySkogberg Well, there you go then. :D –  Ilari Kajaste Apr 17 '12 at 14:51
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@BennySkogberg The question is a bit hard to read. Can't you redo the question a bit simpler. It's a great suggestion though. I would love to see how it worked out. –  Barfieldmv Apr 18 '12 at 7:38
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There is a company that gives you beer or soda if you hand yours in google.com/… –  Matt Rockwell Apr 23 '12 at 14:28

11 Answers 11

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Nice. I like your idea of rewarding the good ones much more instead of blaming the bad ones. Don't know what type of company it is but finger pointing feels like from the old days and doesn't support a great work environment.

For the 'Reporting time highscore' you might want to reward those who always report on time but also encourage everybody else to be shown on that list. Otherwise the motivation might not be high enough if you can't get on the list quickly (think: immediate feedback, realtime rewards). Every time they there report is on time, they receive points. I would show 3-4 lists:

  • on time last month (everybody can find himself immediately on this list to motivate the 'bottom', even if they've been late in previous month)
  • on time last 12 month (new employees will have a hard time to get on this list but it rewards regular on time reporters, on a rolling basis to get rid of the calendar year constraint)
  • on time last year
  • all time high score

You could also think about making employees lose some points every time they're late. And the leader(s) in last years list get an Amazon gift card to connect this with a tangible real world incentive.

For badges: I think this can also be a good idea as long as it's clear how to achieve them. Also for badges I would go only with positive ones and implement a few that are very easy to get.

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Great! A real world incentive enforce the power of competition. Great idea +1 –  Benny Skogberg Apr 15 '12 at 11:37
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Best answer, and the one i'd give. Think hard on badges, eventually you will run out of badges to give which can result in a drop to current behaviour. ps. don't be cheap in incentives, buy ipods/iphones/ipads. 2500$ a year on incentives is not going to kill you, plus you can probably deduct from taxes! –  Martijn_M Apr 17 '12 at 9:33
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You might want to take a look at @FrantisekKossuth's rather dour answer, which nonetheless makes an interesting counterpoint. How do you motivate the bottom? Esp. if their delays are out of their control? If all you end up doing is rewarding those who already are successful, you may not address the business problem - the people who are not. –  peteorpeter Apr 17 '12 at 15:15
    
@peteorpeter I thought about this and tried to address it with the monthly list. While one might not have the chance to be on all-time high or other lists he could still make it to the last month' list. –  greenforest Apr 17 '12 at 15:28
    
Good point. The emphasis on the most recent attempt is key - you've always got a chance. –  peteorpeter Apr 17 '12 at 15:42

In short, no. It will not help "to get rid of late time reports".

High scores will NOT motivate anybody at tail of highscore list - they "know" there is no chance to get on top. And if someone wanted to change it, the "price" of better score is not worth the price they get for being late (it means the punishment is too low). Maybe the reason for being at tail is out of their control. They may have troublesome customer, high count of small task (so the overhead - and demotivation - to make report is much higher), and so on.

But you can work on the idea. I do not recommend to work with highscore (total sum of past scores). The better way would be some weighted score to be fair to everyone.

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As grumpy as this answer seems, it's a really interesting point. How do you motivate the bottom? Perhaps rather than a single high-score list that compares all to all, you somehow make it relative to peers, or only compare yourself to yourself and encourage improvement. –  peteorpeter Apr 17 '12 at 15:11
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I agree with @peteorpeter it shows the tricky part of this question. How do I get the most employees to report on time; positive feedback only? negative feedback only? both positive and negative feedback? Still, I am a positive person in nature and a high-score junkie which in my biased view of things hope that positive feedback get more result. +1 for bringing attention on an imortant issue! –  Benny Skogberg Apr 17 '12 at 18:36
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This is an excellent point you are trying to solve the bottom which is the real issue. Rather than just straight reporting that week, you could also have a improvement chart so those that improve the most get clear praise. –  The Question Apr 18 '12 at 17:14
    
You get the bounty for addressing the real issue, which is still unsolved. –  Benny Skogberg Apr 22 '12 at 21:07
    
Thanks! I appreciate it. In my company we use timesheets and I feel your pain :-) –  Frantisek Kossuth Apr 23 '12 at 6:56

Gamification is way better than a wall of shame. Research shows that that punishment does not really work for changing behaviour while encouragement does(See for example "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Kahneman).

While the idea of gamification is probably effective(Looking at for example fitocrazy) Tt would probably be more effective trying to address the root cause of he problem. Why do people report late?

How does the process of reporting time look like? What annoyances are there? What do your user see as problems? Talk with the users, do interviews. How does you users feel about the whole process?

Make users studies, find some people who want to help and ask them to make a note in a time reporting diary every now and then. Look at the software you use, is it hard to use? And don't forget to look at the whole invoice process. Maybe something can change in how the company customers are invoiced to make the whole thing better.

Lastly, this could also be an HR issue. A wall of shame is not a good indication of a constructive company culture. I've hear many stories of employees showing dissatisfaction with their working situation by skipping on some things management deems as necessary.

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+1 for emphasizing "Why do people report late?" Yes, make sure you're solving the right problem. –  Ilari Kajaste Apr 17 '12 at 7:15
    
+1 for answering the question from a different angle. I'll take your advice into account! –  Benny Skogberg Apr 17 '12 at 10:55
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Oh and whatever solution you come up with bring down the wall of shame. As many has pointed out, shaming/punishment don't really work for changing peoples behaviour. If you go by gamification, make it social B J Fogg has a good paper on this –  Alvin Apr 18 '12 at 6:45

Be careful. Other factors can play into this game. I remember from my time reporting agency days we needed to have the appropriate job or time codes to report against. That relied on someone else in Sales, HR or Administrative to activate/input. It became nearly impossible to have accurate time in at the end of the week if someone further up the chain didn't do their part as well.

You wouldn't want to impact person A, when it was person B or C who was ultimately responsible. Nobody wants to play that game.

Perhaps you can focus on improvement across the board like a +X% at the end of set period of time and reward everyone equally. You might discover some of the issues and hurdles with the reporting system and workflow along the way which would be a bonus.

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+1 for good idea on +X% and rewarding everyone according to that percentatge. The reporting system itself needs improved usability, which most of them do in my opinion. –  Benny Skogberg Apr 18 '12 at 17:26

Leaderboards motivate top players only. Realistically, there is only one winner. I personally wouldn't bother work to reach or maintain 2nd or 3rd position.

Few people would feel compelled to collect mundane work related badges.

The following proposal works better with more employees:

I would hold a regular lottery. Each reporting-on-time employee bumps up the cash pool. A disproportionally large amount of cash should be unlocked with, say 80/90% of employees successfully reporting on time for the month. Double it with 100% of employees playing nice.

The I would give every single employee 1 ticket, regardless of how they report. Employees that were on time this month get 2 extra tickets. Employees that were on time for three consecutive months get an additional 3 tickets.

And the first lottery should start off with the full amount of cash to give everyone a taste.

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As a complete and utter counterpoint to this whole concept -- Should we really treat adults like teenage gamers?

Forget about scores, points, and badges.

Get some real money involved!

Late reports cost your company money. People that report on time save money.

Track who reports on time and reward them -- with cash.

If management won't go for cash rewards, how about gift certificates or entries to a monthly contest for an iPad or something.

Fake scores and shiny badges might work for some, but I know a lot of people who wouldn't give two craps unless something real was involved :)

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+1 for amusement factor :-) –  Benny Skogberg Apr 17 '12 at 19:24
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... and you post an answer to win the "useless" 50 points bounty. I'd say it works pretty well, doesn't it? :-) –  Benny Skogberg Apr 17 '12 at 20:30
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No, we definately shouldn't treat adults like teenage gamers! However, we should treat humans like creatures that enjoy accomplishment and interaction with such rule combinations and mechanics that are usually associated with games. –  Ilari Kajaste Apr 18 '12 at 5:55
    
... and as a sidenote, we might also try treating teenage gamers as these mythical "adult" creatures we're talking about here. –  Ilari Kajaste Apr 18 '12 at 5:56
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Getting real money on the table could give the opposite effect, since you're basically putting a price on not reporting on time. See this for an example. –  Alvin Apr 18 '12 at 6:41

Go Positive
Shaming is counterproductive; here's an article on shaming as a bad motivator to losing weight. So, positive rewards for good behavior are the way to go.

Three Goals To This Game
That leaves you with a few goals and many strategies. For goals, you want 1) top performers to push the ceiling up and set new standards, 2) worst performers to do better and move the floor up, and 3) the center mass to move into better performance.

The priority of these goals depends on their impact. Do top performers outweigh bottom performers? Do bottom performers drag everyone down disproportionately? Whichever will have the most impact as a bottleneck, make that your top priority, but keep the other two as your next priorities. Eli Goldratt talks about this with his Theory of Contstraints, and in his book The Goal.

Strategies
In the book Gamification by Design (pg. 20), Zichermann & Cunningham identify four motivations for gameplay: for mastery, to de-stress, to have fun, and to socialize. Consider these elements and how you might use them to motivate.

Badges and points are a good start. Badges give good qualitative, feel-good rewards. In my experience, they incite "collector" behavior. You will need to come out with bigger and bigger badges, but can set the goals on a geometric scale (rather than linear), so that the difficulty in leveling up is commensurate with the skills people have gained. The administrative commitment for badges is time to come up with new badges.

Point Systems and Rewards offer more tangible incentives. Give redeemable points for certain behaviors and create a "redemption catalog" of things people can use their points toward. Gift cards are a typical incentive. Redeemable points accrue until they are spent, or "burned" off. Give experience points for overall levels of achievement, and mabye bigger prizes. Experience points only grow. (Zichermann & Cunningham pp. 38–39)

In order to motivate your worst players, put bottom performers on teams with higher performers. Obviously, these employees may have no social or functional connections whatsoever, so you'll want to engineer a virtual connection within the game. Teams get points for overall performance, so better performers have an incentive to help out their less-skilled peers. (It's just like group projects in school where you get points for individual contribution and points for the overall group output).

As for other specific strategies, look at using different types of leaderboards. The overall leaderboard is only interesting if you're at the top. Local optima give people achievable goals, so go for monthly and weekly leaders. That way, recent improvement becomes just as visible. (And g)Give badges for staying on the top of a leaderboard for a run.)

Cash Rewards are a straightforward approach borrowed from the loyalty program industry (Safeway and Tesco cards, Capital One Rewards, that sort of thing). Consider cash rewards given for advancing in any of the metrics above (badges, experience, team performance).

Metadata in a dashboard or on profiles can add depth and more options for personal bests. Since this game is about time reporting, you might include data showing how people's performance contributes to the bottom line. If billable rates are known internally (and not secret to protect salary information), use them to calculate real dollar value of performance. Consider the interest earned on billed hours that comes in 30 days sooner than otherwise. You might also show accuracy by percentage for each person, and even use these as a qualifier for points earned (with 100% accuracy, you get more points than with 85% accuracy).

Just the Beginning
There are plenty of other strategies and tactics, but this should give you more than enough to get started.

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+1 for an excellent answer! Especially the team part, which I didn't think of at all, but is very obvious. Over all a thought thruogh answer, with references to creadible sources. Great work @tajmo –  Benny Skogberg Apr 17 '12 at 18:51
    
@BennySkogberg, is it missing anything to adequately answer your question? I can address further concerns if needed. –  tajmo Apr 18 '12 at 16:10
    
+1 for the concept of redeemable points. That would be a great way to motivate low performers. Just getting on a leaderboard isn't going to get the bottom folks motivated to move to the top. –  Josh Apr 19 '12 at 0:33
    
I added a couple more strategies, @BennySkogberg. Hope they help. –  tajmo Apr 19 '12 at 15:55
    
Thanks @tajmo, I really appreciate your effort! –  Benny Skogberg Apr 19 '12 at 17:27

I agree with the more negative voices here; the people that are likely to compete to get the highest score are not likely to be your problem anyway. The way we usually approach this problem (and it is a common problem) is to send out reminder mails to those who have not yet reported their time on monday mornings, maybe with a short paragraph about why its important, followed a couple of hours later by a mail to their manager if the timesheet is still not done. Then it's up to the manager to have a chat with the person involved.

In my experience nobody wants to do timesheets, but most people do, if reminded. The hardcore timesheet refuseniks will need more than a gold star to get them moving, but a manager breathing down their necks every monday usually does the trick.

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Sure, it gets the job done, but nothing else. With this method you will have to do the same on every other given task. Employees will learn that it is only important when the manager gives you a hard time, and you'll soon have an entire staff just doing exactly what the manager wants, but nothing more. This is my experience from seven years of managing employees and their time reports. –  Benny Skogberg Apr 17 '12 at 18:43
    
You really think? The problem with time reporting is that it is a necessary evil, its never a part of anybody's actual job description. I am a developer, that is what I do for a living, I like to think I am good at it. I also have to track time, but it has nothing to do with my usual job, that is why I appreciate a reminder once a week that it needs to be done. And some people will always resist things they think are unnecessary more than others. –  Mark Tombs Apr 18 '12 at 10:23
    
Not think, I know from experience. I'm a developer too, but still I think it's an important part of my job to do time reports in such a way that (1) the customer understans what I'm doing with their money, (2) to be able to let the company I'm working on survive, (3) enable me to contiue to develop features for my customers and (4) enable me to have a decent living with food on the table every day. But I think it can be combined having both reminders and a gamification element of the time reporting activity. –  Benny Skogberg Apr 18 '12 at 17:22
    
I think you mis-understood what I meant. I don't mean its not important to time track or that it shouldn't be a part of my daily work, but its really got nothing to do with what I do, developing. If anything it is a distraction and a nuisance. I am also a consultant so the connection between the hours I track and the money I earn are obvious to me. For employees, time tracking is a pain in the arse that takes time from their real jobs to no obvious benefit to themselves. –  Mark Tombs Apr 18 '12 at 18:47
    
But this is getting a bit too far away from the question and has little to do with UX... –  Mark Tombs Apr 18 '12 at 18:48

Would this be enough to get rid of late time reports, or is there more that could be done?

I think that the only real solution is to make reporting easier and to enable doing report continually and not only at the end of the month.

Of course, this is only possible if (partial list):

  • The system has all the report codes available in advance
  • The report codes are easy to find
  • The reporting can easily be done from anywhere (e.g. mobile + desktop + home)
  • The reporting can be done in advance (i.e. "I am starting to work on project X now")
  • The report is easy to modify (e.g. I worked for half an hour on project Y instead of X)
  • The report can automatically divide shared time (e.g. working on infrastructure for both X and Y)
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Nice! So the real solution would be to use a system that is more intuitive, than current systems (remark: opinion). Maybe one can use both techniques to emphasize time reporting? +1 –  Benny Skogberg Apr 18 '12 at 17:16
    
I think that most employees wouldn't change their time billing habits much due to either positive or negative feedback since they prioritize completing their actual assignments over the surrounding stuff. If the surrounding stuff can be done immediately with almost no thought and barely take up any time, employees will postpone it less. –  Danny Varod Apr 19 '12 at 1:09

If my goal was to "get rid of late time reports" I would first work to make time reporting as easy and automatic as possible first. Next I would give the person some feedback which compares their previous performance with their current performance, showing their improvement or loss of performance over time. This can be accomplished with a graphic that clearly shows their progress over time. I would also give positive feedback for "winning streaks" as well ( completing the correct action multiple instances in a row).

I cannot think of any reason to make this information public or make comparisons between people. As peteorpeter says, if you want a person to care about improving their own performance, comparing their performance to others is not necessarily helpful and could be discouraging.

Points could be granted to persons with good performance to count toward an extrinsic reward. This reward would be granted independent of competition with others.

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I would suggest that you can't expect to "fix" this problem, by which I mean there isn't a magic bullet which will suddenly result in 100% compliance. These are people after all and people get sick, have other priorities and are generally subject to the natural ebb and flow of life in ways machines aren't. This is a symptom of social complexity.

Have you thought about asking people why their submissions are late? There will be a number who blame "pressure of work" and "other priorities", but there may be some outliers which can give you useful insights into the process from their point of view. For instance, if people regularly "forget", sending a private reminder to those who've yet to submit might help.

Educate people. Many may not have a picture of the process of which their submissions are part. Instead of compelling them to comply with their own specific responsibility, show them how that fits into the wider scheme and highlight the effect that late submission has.

Make the process more transparent and increase the amount of feedback, but instead of targeting individuals, focus on a team or area's achievement: "this week we had 96% on time". Increase context by plotting results over time to so everyone can see how their current situation relates to the past and whether the organisation or unit is improving as a whole. This also helps management see whether blips occur due to shifts in organisational priorities or unforeseen events.

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