Why Public Recognition Motivates Us

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Pat on the back for doing a great jobWhen we do things really well, we like to be noticed and acknowledged. It reaffirms that our hard work is worth it – we’re not doing something for nothing and our efforts aren’t being overlooked.

Of course, there is a limit – too strong a desire for recognition means we have a narcissistic personality. Gulp. But within limits, our desire for acknowledgement is healthy and leads to increased productivity. We just love getting a pat on the back for a job well done! So why is this?

The better we do, the more we are – or should be, anyway – acknowledged for it. We’re praised when we improve ourselves, achieve more than we could previously and make advances that positively impact on the lives of other people.

Recognition is related to status; a feeling of belonging and acceptance. No one likes to feel like a dunce, or feel out of place. We don’t like struggling to achieve what our peers seem to effortlessly pull off with no-sweat, cool-as-a-cucumber grace.

When our achievements are recognised, we are afforded some special status – when we’re talking about gamification in learning, this means we might be awarded the ‘Safety-Conscious Sultan’ badge for smashing the health and safety module pass mark, or ‘Learning Superhero’ for completing all available eLearning modules in a development programme.

Judges holding up score cardsWhen we’re awarded points for taking part in activities, we’re likely to work super hard to gain more in future – that’s the ‘point’ of points, after all: to gain as many as possible and beat the competition. We all want to do the best we can in order to say, “I’m the best!”

However, recognition alone won’t help to motivate us to continually improve, learn more, spend more time on our development and undertake more online learning modules. What we need for this is public recognition. Locking learners’ badges and achievements away on pages only visible to them won’t boost their motivation and get them engaged – but if the same badges are displayed in a company-wide virtual trophy cabinet on their Learning Management System, they suddenly find the strength and will to carry on, work harder and earn more rewards!

When our achievements become visible to others, not only are we ourselves motivated to work harder to secure more recognition, but our competitors are, too. If we see that Barbara in the North East division has become the first learner in the company to gain the ‘Cool Contributor’ badge for sharing 10 links in the Telesales category of the ‘My Insights’ area, we’ll be eager to do the same ourselves – not only do we think, “If she can do it, so can I,” but we also say to ourselves, “I can’t let her beat me!” Ahh, competition is alive and well! Thanks gamification, you’re a star.

Stick men on winner's podium hands upIn the same way, we’re more motivated when we can compare our standing on leaderboards to our peers. If you’re second in the fight to the top, your motivation to gain those extra 100 points by sharing content or completing an extra eLearning module will be boosted one helluva lot.

People whose hard work is recognised publicly are more positive, productive and innovative – they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work in order to gain more recognition; more badges, more points and to climb higher up the leaderboard. This is why gamification of Learning Management Systems really works to secure learner engagement and send motivation levels soaring: gamification involves publicly recognising the efforts, achievements and successes of learners.

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