This is a very common question amongst managers. Call centers deal with this all the time because they are always battling high turnover.  Even if your business offers commissions you still need to do more each month for your employees. Every manager training program should have a section on how to effectively handle this issue because contests are a very effective way to increase performance.

There are a few rules I use as a guide when running contests.

1.    Make sure everyone feels he has a shot at winning.

If employees feel they have no chance to win, they will give up on the contest. For example: If you always reward the person who delivers the most sales by the end of a shift or day, after a few contests, most employees will know that only a few agents will be in the mix to win and they will not even worry about the contest. A better way is to give out tickets for each sale, collect those tickets in a jug, and then pick one out at the end of the shift or time period to announce the winner.

2.    Use time to your advantage.

Remember when we had all semester to write our term papers? Yet how many of us waited until the night before to write them? The more time we feel we have can be detrimental to a contest. Keep the contest time frame short.  For example: If you work in a dealership’s Internet department or BDC team, reward the person who gets the most people to come into the dealership during a certain week. With a short time frame, people will never lose sight of the finish line and will stay focused on performing because they know they could win.

3.    Participants will only be as excited as management is.

Management is always very excited about a contest in the beginning. It was their idea to drive production, and off the contest goes! However, over the course of the contest, management must make sure they update the contest at all times to encourage people to come in and see how they’re doing and “sell” the contest to drive the competition of those close to winning.  It keeps everyone involved.

4.   Participants will focus on whatever parameters you set up.

Contest parameters must be aligned with what is best for the business. Don’t put your company in a position where winning will negatively impact the business. For example: In a dealership, let’s say your contest is to get people to post positive reviews on your web site. Pushing this parameter could lead your team members to pester customers and this could create a feeling of pressure or ill will among customers. The risk is that you will end up having customers post negative reviews instead.

Contests are a great way to keep your employees’ energy levels up, especially in a customer-oriented business if you follow these simple rules. There are many other great ways to reward your employees and many companies that are available to help on this front. One I recommend is Motivated Incentives. Ask for Laurie Alm. Tell them I mentioned you should call.

Let me know your thoughts.

Glenn Pasch is the President of Improved Performance Solutions, found at

Improved Performance Solutions is a management consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations improve their profits through streamlining processes and increasing production from their employees.