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The concept of gamification takes its roots from the early 20th century, particularly from the pioneering work of American psychologist B.F. Skinner. Skinner’s research in behavioral conditioning delved deep into understanding what motivates people and how their behaviors can be influenced.
He conducted an experiment with animals, where a simple action like pressing a lever would result in a food reward. In one version of this experiment, the animal received a treat every time it pressed the lever. While this method effectively conditioned the animals to press the lever, Skinner noted that as soon as the treats were depleted, the animals lost interest in the task.
In another variation, Skinner introduced a variable reward system. Here, pressing the lever would only sometimes result in a treat. This approach led to a significant increase in lever pressing, as the animals continued to press the lever multiple times in hope of a reward. Intriguingly, even after the treats ran out, the animals persisted with the task for a longer period, indicating a deeper ingrained behavior.
This phenomenon, however, is not limited to animals. In the mid-20th century, gambling institutions began incorporating these behavioral insights into their operations, most notably in casinos.
But how is this relevant to employee referral programs?
The principles of Skinner’s experiments can be effectively applied to encourage participation in employee referral programs. It’s not always about offering the highest possible bonus. Instead, running sporadic, unexpected, and engaging campaigns can prove to be more motivating for employees.
For instance, many companies meticulously plan their referral programs and set precise bonus structures. However, we have observed that a slightly lower base-level bonus, complemented by occasional, exciting campaigns, can yield better engagement and participation.
Let’s explore some successful campaign examples: