Employee Engagement Contest Ideas for Healthy Workplace Competition
Contests are a great way to drive engagement in any company, but they’re also susceptible to mismanagement. A good contest can boost engagement; Prodoscore found that more than 50% of U.S. employees believe competition in the workplace motivates them to work harder. However, a poorly run contest can do just the opposite.
Amazon recently received backlash after holding an Easter 2022 workplace contest where employees put in hours of backbreaking work for the chance of winning $2 prizes. While the initiative may have started off as well-meaning, it fell apart because the effort required didn’t match the reward gained. To help you avoid these same mistakes and ensure rewards actually resonate with your team members, we’ve laid out three employee engagement contest ideas below.
3 Healthy Employee Engagement Contest Ideas
It’s tempting to center all employee engagement contest ideas on a profit driver like productivity. The problem with that approach is that you’re working backwards and rewarding the results of engagement without actively doing anything to encourage it.
Gallup reports that only 32% of workers are actively engaged in the workplace. That means when you tie a contest to productivity, you immediately leave out the 68% of your workforce that is not engaged. It’s much easier and more cost-effective to create smaller contests that will actively engage employees in their everyday tasks. There are a few different types of contests to consider outside of traditional productivity and sales-focused ones. Here are three contest ideas that focus on employee well-being, upskilling, and workplace culture.
Step challenges are popular workplace health and wellness initiatives. Companies may encourage workers to use apps that track their daily steps, or to set individual, team, department, and company-wide goals for solidarity. Companies can reward the individuals or groups who record the highest amount of steps, making it a fun activity that also spurs friendly competition.
Wellness is an incredibly important component of employee engagement. Risk factors like low physical activity and obesity contributed to an annual $36.4 billion loss from employees missing work days, according to the CDC. Stress and burnout are also major problems, with the combined costs of absenteeism, poor productivity, and turnover costing American companies $300 billion per year.
Step challenges and other wellness initiatives can improve employee health, encourage team building, and boost engagement in the long run. They’re also relatively easy to manage as many popular apps, like Limeade and Aduro work well in managing company fitness initiatives.
Workplace trivia is often used to set up games where the questions relate to the founder’s story, the brand’s ideals, or very specific company details. While it’s a good way to share your brand’s story with your workers, it doesn’t necessarily pique their curiosity in their everyday jobs.
Consider trivia questions that are specific to the employee’s industry or field instead. A development firm, for example, might choose to focus its trivia around technology, or even create riddles for workers to solve using their specific skill sets.
The goal is to get individuals interested in learning more about their roles. Only 24% of employees report feeling curiosity in their jobs on a daily basis, according to HBR. Meanwhile, 72% of managers see it as a valuable trait to have. Trivia allows workers to show off the knowledge they do have while also learning more about the things they don’t.
Contests don’t have to center on work-specific tasks entirely. Instead, they can be an excellent opportunity for team members to get to know each other and share information about their lives outside of work. It’s a method of humanizing workers and helping them connect, which drives culture. And that’s important—47% of active job seekers say poor culture is the primary reason why they’re seeking new employment.
Photo captioning contests are a fun choice because there’s no barrier to entry. All employees can participate with an equal chance of winning. These contests are also a good way to get people talking about things besides work. And they’re pretty easy to pull off, too:
First, select an image. If you’re uncertain of which type to use, Reader’s Digest runs contests like these regularly, so you can look to them for some workplace-appropriate inspiration.
Next, share the image in a company chat or by email and ask team members to submit their captions.
Finally, share the top submissions so everyone can vote on a winner.
This is a great way to get people to communicate with each other and across departments. Of course, with this employee engagement contest idea (and others), it’s important to provide rewards that are worth competing over.
Making Contests Engaging With Thoughtful Rewards
Recognition is an important part of employee engagement. When companies make employee recognition a priority, employees are 73% less likely to feel burnout and 56% less likely to seek new employment, according to Gallup/Workhuman. However, this same study also notes that employees can tell when rewards aren’t genuine.
So, how does an enterprise offer genuine rewards for participation in these contests? Flexibility is key. Gift cards are a common go-to, but there’s a lot of room for error here. One common approach is to buy gift cards in bulk and then distribute them as needed. However, this strategy binds the employee to a single brand—and it may not be a brand they enjoy.
A flexible solution like Reward Link® can eliminate this problem. It allows reward recipients to easily choose from more than 100 popular brands. Meanwhile, businesses have the option of providing both digital and physical cards—offering the best of both worlds to every contest winner.
Even the best employee engagement contest ideas won’t spur competition if there’s not an equitable reward attached to them. By providing employees with a flexible digital gift card option, you can hold fun contests and give hardworking employees the recognition they deserve.
Cindy is passionate about the incentive industry. In addition to her role as Director of Channel Marketing here at Tango Card, she is a Certified Professional of Incentive Management who proudly serves on two industry boards. When she’s not working, Cindy enjoys spending time with her family—including three cats, two dogs, and a horse—and sharing her love of nature as a Nebraska Master Naturalist.