Signs that your workplace turning into Pokémon Go

Pokemon Go

When I read this article on Forbes, ‘Pokémon GO’ Has Had The Same Problem For Six Months: No Endgame, I thought about a conversation with a client recently about motivation and employee engagement.

He was lamenting about how difficult it is to keep his team motivated at work. Even though his staff was showing up for work everyday and producing “acceptable” results, he can’t help feel that his team had somehow lost the “excitement of work” and things were becoming “mechanical” (words in parentheses were his). That’s when I asked the question, “What do you think their purpose is?”.

Fact is a lot of employees have felt a loss of the sense of purpose in their work. Much like Pokémon Go, the game that became a global phenomenon when it was launched in July 2016 with its never-before-use of location based, augmented reality technology, the game has quickly faded away while players wait for a game update that never came. In the days when it was launched, you could practically see Pokémon Phone Zombies (or players) roaming everywhere and rushing in herds to catch a rare Pokémon, to the what we see today, barely 6 months later, hardly anyone is seen playing the game with the same enthusiasm.

It is a question of purpose and the creation of the “end game”that players and employees can aim for. Leveling up or catching another new Pokémon were what kept players hooked on their phones and going out of their way to places they would not normally go to just to catch the rare Pokémon. Wouldn’t that be amazing if you can “game-mify” your workplace? Imagine the ability to get your team “hooked onto their tasks” and going above and beyond what is required of their role and to do something that fits into the PURPOSE of the organisation.

Three signs that your workplace could be becoming Pokémon Go, with taking reference to the Forbes article:

1. “Player interest is fading because after a certain point in the game, there simply isn’t that much to do.”

Yes, there is work to be done, but is there challenging work to be done? There is always a balance of challenge versus competence in assigning tasks to a worker. An overly challenging task way beyond his level competence will find the worker demoralised and giving up. On the other hand, if the task is unchallenging and well within the worker’s competence, boredom quickly sets it and motivation is lost.

Much like Pokémon Go, players were initially excited running about finding the next Pokemon and gaining enough XP to level up, this challenge quickly faded when players have caught nearly 90% of all available type of Pokémons and the remaining 10% were so rare (or region based) that there was no feasible means of catching them.

2. “…fans are hoping that it’s nearly time for Gen 2 to arrive…., and yet, no news, no release of new Pokémon yet.”

Like many times when corporate plans, strategies are unveiled, months later, employees still see no change or worse no communication or update on how these plans are being implemented.

I am not saying that it is easy to implement major corporate strategies. In fact implementation is what our clients and us spend most time on in planning sessions. But it is always useful to communicate timelines to stakeholders and what are the steps being taken. No shame in not meeting previously announced timelines, good transparent organisations fear not in explaining things are still in progress and timelines will be shifted. This sure beats keeping everyone in the dark.

3. “Leveling up your character and Pokémon isn’t really an endgame activity either. It’s nearly impossible for the vast, vast majority of players to reach the highest levels in the game because of a huge XP wall that’s insurmountable for any “normal” player to breach. “

You may begin to see how the above observation of Pokémon Go starts to offer a glimpse to how a demotivated employee feels when he/she see not career development plan.

We have heard feedback from our clients’ employees that they feel KPIs and goals are not set, ambiguous or not properly set. And when they are achieved, the next targets are set further and further away but yet the rewards of achieving each level of KPIs are not celebrated or recognised.

Career progression planning should be something considered for each and every employee and not just the ones that make the grade of being in the (say) top 10% of performance.

So next time you look at your workplace and think about motivating people, might be helpful to spend a minute thinking about Pokémons and Purpose.