Charles “Chuck” Coonradt is a consultant, CEO, and 5x best-selling author. His 1984 book The Game of Work has sold over 150,000 copies and remains on Amazon’s best-selling business book list. At Blue Margin, the book’s principles have anchored our methodology for helping businesses grow and develop healthy cultures through data.
Game of Work Inc. has built a legacy of transforming Fortune 500 companies’ operations through applying the psychology of sports to the workplace to increase productivity, profitability, and employee engagement. Chuck’s team of management consultants has coached thousands of executives and managers, working with Pepsi, Boeing, the U.S. Air Force, Coca-Cola, Nordstrom, Coors, Wendy's, Sherwin Williams, and Sysco, among others (Game of Work, 2022a). He is a founding member of the School of Entrepreneurship, Brigham Young University, and the Marriott School of Management. Jon Thompson, co-founder and CSO of Blue Margin, had the distinct pleasure of hosting Chuck to discuss how gamifying work transforms the workplace by increasing employee engagement and job ownership. We hope that his ideas inspire and revolutionize your workplace as they have ours. Watch the video, listen to the podcast, or read the highlights below.
4 Key Takeaways:
- If your employees don't know if they're winning or how to win, you’re the one who will lose.
- Want to be a great coach? Use data and dashboards for optimal impact.
- To overcome problems, increase frequency of feedback. The bigger the problem, the greater the frequency.
- Data visibility engages your workforce and prevents workplace "viruses".
Gamify Work to Drive Employee Motivation
“We are attracted to that which motivates us, that which identifies our goals and that which gives us a clear indication of how we’re progressing.” - Chuck Coonradt, Scorekeeping for Success (Coonradt, 1999)
It all started at a construction site. Chuck likes to tell the story of observing eight young construction workers apathetically drudging through their work until the lunch bell rang. Miraculously, the group instantly transformed, throwing off their vests and racing to the basketball court. They become focused, enthusiastic, and hardworking because they knew the score and knew how to win.
Why were these young men complacent in their work, but zealous in their recreation? As Chuck observes, “the problem obviously wasn’t the raw materials.” There was nothing wrong with the men, but something was clearly missing from their work. From this observation, Chuck started The Game of Work consultancy in 1973 and authored a bestselling book by the same name in 1984. Nicknamed by Forbes as “The Grandfather of Gamification (Forbes, 2012),” he is considered by many scholars to be the original gamification theory creator (Growth Engineering, 2019). Chuck's philosophy comes down to this question, “Why do people pay for the privilege of working harder (at recreation) than they will work when they are paid?" He answers this question by postulating 5 Principles of the Motivation of Recreation:
- Clearly defined goals
- Better scorekeeping and scorecards
- More frequent feedback
- Personal choice of methods
- Consistent coaching
The Benefits of Scorekeeping
In Scorekeeping for Success, Chuck writes, “Only when we successfully transform our measuring into something tangible, relevant, and meaningful do we allow management by measurement to really take off. That transformation is called scorekeeping” (Coonradt, 1999).
The main purpose of scorekeeping is to facilitate meaningful, productive, and consistent conversations between a coach and a player. With appropriate feedback guardrails (such as the type, frequency, and method of feedback), even employees working under subpar managers can improve their contributions and advance the company’s goals.
(Read insights from industrial psychologist, Dain Johnson, on the importance of selecting KPI metrics that support organizational key results in this Expert Insight Series interview.)
Even if employees are not asking for feedback, they need it to feel engaged. Only 19% of millennials report receiving regular feedback from their managers, though this generation comprises the largest segment of the American workforce and desires more feedback than others (Gallup, 2016). Furthermore, Gallup data from March 2021 shows that when employees strongly agree that they have received meaningful feedback in the past week, they are almost 4x more likely to be engaged than their peers (Gallup, 2022).
We know that meaningful feedback correlates with heightened employee engagement, and Gallup describes meaningful feedback as “ongoing, focused, future-oriented, and individualized (Gallup, 2022).” By their very nature, scorecards create that feedback.
(Jill Belconis discusses additional benefits of the job scorecard in this Expert Insight Series interview.)
Scorecards Enable Grounded, Consistent Feedback
To gamify work for your employees, feedback cannot be based on a manager's mood, recent data point, or faulty observations, but must instead rely on empirical data - the scorecard. Without an accurate score, employees interpret manager feedback as a vague and constant pressure to “do better” because they cannot see a concrete path to success. “We need a scorecard that accurately measures our performance against our predetermined goals and destinations,” Coonradt writes in Scorekeeping for Success.
With business intelligence (BI) dashboards, scorekeeping does not have to be a Herculean task to add to your pile. Dashboards keep score for managers and employees, provide insights into how to improve performance, and allow employees to self-manage.
Increase Frequency of Feedback to Decrease the Size of Problems
“One of the things we know about feedback is that if you increase the frequency of feedback, you reduce the size of the problem.” - Chuck Coonradt
The manufacturing and distribution industries are particularly prone to taking a retrospective view into data. While point-in-time snapshots are useful, they're often too late to make meaningful adjustments. Instead, Chuck recommends breaking down problems with real-time data analytics, then providing more frequent feedback to employees based on this data. Refreshing your dashboards daily or weekly is much more effective than a monthly or yearly retrospective. Doing so reduces the complexity of problems, and makes employees more likely to respond with, “Oh, we can fix that.” Gallup workplace data supports Chuck’s recommendation, citing that employees are 3.6 times more likely to strongly agree that they are motivated to do outstanding work when their manager provides daily vs. annual coaching (Gallup, 2022).
In the past, the tools needed to provide real-time data to employees was only accessible to companies with large IT teams and budgets. But today, business intelligence software is readily accessible to companies of all sizes. Data visibility is a superpower for driving business transformation, and the newer, low-latency BI tools improve strategic, not just operational, decisions (Gartner, 2016). Hear our founders discuss their experience as PE-backed executives without sufficient visibility in this podcast episode.
Use Data Insights to Engage Your Workforce and Prevent the Quiet Quitting Virus
In August 2021, PwC’s Pulse Survey found that 65% of U.S. employees were looking for new jobs. US labor data supports PwC's findings and substantiates the phenomenon of The Great Resignation. Over the past decade, the U.S. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey reports that non-farm employee quit rates have doubled, from 1.5% of employees quitting/month in 2012 to 3% in 2022.
An Alternate Diagnosis
PwC cites the primary reasons for employee turnover as wages, benefits, career advancements, and flexibility (PwC, 2022), and while those each play a significant role in job satisfaction, Chuck suggests an alternate diagnosis for high turnover rates. He hypothesizes that humans are designed to figure out how to win at the game of work, and when an employee can't see how to win at their job, they conclude there must be no way to win. As a result, they quit in search of satisfaction elsewhere.
Quiet Quitting – The Virus Infecting the Workplace
If these employees do not quit and leave, they may do something worse – disengage. We have heard about the Great Resignation and the Great Reengagement, but Harvard Business Review reflects on “quiet quitting,” an increasingly common alternative to leaving a job. These unhappy employees choose to stay employed but are uninvested in their work and are not willing to go the extra mile. They become a workplace virus that infects those around them (HBR, 2022).
Use Data Insights to Promote Conversations and Healthy Company Culture
Per Chuck, the best action company leaders can take to prevent the quiet quitting virus (and keep it from spreading) is to keep score, using individual KPIs that support overarching business goals. Then, they should use scorecards to facilitate frequent, meaningful feedback with employees. Business intelligence tools such as Power BI dashboards don't require a heavy lift and are ideally suited for this task.
Contact The Game of Work
Looking to continue the conversation with Chuck? Interested in reading his books? Find him on LinkedIn or through his consulting firm, The Game of Work.
Blue Margin helps private equity and mid-market companies quickly convert data into automated dashboards, the most efficient way to create company-wide accountability to the growth plan. We call it The Dashboard Effect, the title of our book and podcast. Our mission is to deliver breakthroughs early and often - within clients' timeline and budget.
If you would like to explore how the Blue Margin team can help automate your data feedback to create a culture of growth and accountability, contact us below.
For Further Reading
- Tenex Capital: How PE Uses Data to Improve Portfolio Operations
- Change Management and the Power of Data for Distributed Decision Making
- Tecum Capital: Using Data for Higher Returns in Manufacturing, Services, and Distribution
Coonradt, Chuck. (2022a). The Game of Work. Home - The Game of Work
Coonradt, Chuck. (2022b). The Game of Work. Chuck’s Books - The Game of Work
Coonradt, Chuck. (1999). Scorekeeping for Success. https://www.amazon.com/Scorekeeping-Success-Charles-A-Coonradt/dp/1883004055
Gallup. (2022, January 1). How Fast Feedback Fuels Performance. How Fast Feedback Fuels Performance (gallup.com)
Gallup. (2016, June 2). Managers: Millennials Want Feedback but Won’t Ask for It. Gallup. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/192038/managers-millennials-feedback-won-ask.aspx
Gartner. (2016, March 15). 6 Best Practices for Real-Time Analytics. Six Best Practices For Real Time Analytics (gartner.com)
Growth Engineering. (2019, August 29). The History of Gamification (From the Very Beginning to Now). The History of Gamification: From the Beginning to Right Now (growthengineering.co.uk)
Harvard Business Review. (2022, September 15). When Quiet Quitting is Worse Than the Real Thing. When Quiet Quitting Is Worse Than the Real Thing (hbr.org)
Krogue, Ken. (2012, September 8). 5 Gamification Rules from the Grandfather of Gamification. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenkrogue/2012/09/18/5-gamification-rules-from-the-grandfather-of-gamification/?sh=3167481939f2
Paul J Meyer. Success Motivation Institute. https://www.lmi-world.com/smi/
PwC. (2022, August). PwC Pulse Survey – Next in Work. Future of work: PwC
US (Unknown Stacey). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey: 2012-2022. https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/JTS000000000000000QUR