How do you motivate disengaged employees to become more engaged? In this episode, we find out about corporate challenges and how these are becoming a great way to start motivating employees. Ben Baker interviews the COO and co-founder of InJoy Global, Jeff Baietto. Jeff talks about how he got into creating gamified corporate challenges, first by studying spiritual psychology and getting into the video game industry. Jeff discusses positive psychology, moving our minds into a positive mindset and using gamified challenges to engage employees. Learn more about creating challenges that lead to positive change by tuning in.
I have Jeff Baietto coming from InJoy Global. We are going to have a great conversation about corporate challenges because the world and businesses changed, how leaders engage with people have changed and we will need a new way to be able to engage people, make sure that they're listening, understanding and seeing the value in what we're doing. Jeff, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Ben. It's great to be here.
I love what you guys are doing. I love the app and it's getting better. I love the fact that you guys are sitting there going, “How do we gamify business in a non-judgemental way, in a way that makes sense and allows people to succeed?” It's sitting there allowing people to learn in a fun way without them realizing that they're learning. Give me a little bit of history about who you are, where you came from, how you started enjoying then we'll go from there.
The quick story is basically when I was in eighth grade I had what they clinically diagnosed as a bad attitude. I was butting heads especially with my dad. To his credit, instead of writing it off to those terrible preteen years, he gave me Earl Nightingale's Strangest Secret in the World cassette tape back then. I reluctantly listened to it then I listened to it again. I had never heard anyone talked about the power of our mind, our thoughts, setting goals and how to do that. It put me on a trajectory. I ended up listening to everything I could get my hands on and reading everything I could. I became the most positive kid in my hometown.
There’s not a lot of kids in my hometown. I grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin but I was the most positive by far. I always dreamed of being in that kind of personal professional development space somehow. Fast forward a bunch of years, I took a windy road. I was in the video game industry for a while. I got my Master’s in Spiritual Psychology. I started coaching and I wrote a book. At one point I was still struggling to get clients. I did all this work and then I wrote a book. I thought those are the things you need to do. I'll put out my shingle and people will line up and they didn't.
It then hit me that if people could get a small taste of transformation. If they could actually experience the content then they'd probably want more. We created our first challenge and it was a huge success. People got to taste it, got engaged and there was a community. I had people lining up to be coaching clients because they wanted more of that. Then I had some companies say, “Can you use that method for training, our employees and us creating culture?”
We got into corporate and it was a game-changer. We've had a chance now. Fast forward nine years, we've worked with some of the biggest companies on the planet, Toyota, Bloomingdale’s, Thomson Reuters and NASA. All using challenges to help create, either strengthen their culture, solidify their core values, work on emotional intelligence, leadership behaviors. Anything that they wanted to do that had to do with their people. It's been an amazing ride. It's been a long way to get here but something I'm passionate about and grateful to be a part of.If people could get a small taste of transformation, then they'd probably want more. Click To Tweet
I want to dive into a whole bunch of those things. My first question to you is where do we go from Spiritual Psychology, working in the game industry to getting into the challenge? Walk me through that because it seems to be a dichotomy between gamification and Spiritual Psychology. I'd like to know how you brought those two things together and how that led you towards the corporate challenges?
Steve Jobs gave a great talk at Stanford years ago. The theme was Connecting The Dots. When you look backward, it's easy to connect the dots but when you're going forward, it seems like, “This has nothing to do with anything.” I had this idea of I wanted to travel when I was young. I was an entrepreneur and I was trying to figure out my place in the world. I wasn't sure what that was. I also wanted a certain lifestyle. My best friend from college had started a video game publishing company with his brother-in-law. I got to join that as a partner in Austin, Texas in the late ‘90s. It was one of those things were working with people I liked in a fun industry but I wasn't a video game guy. I played the traditional ones growing up.
It had changed a lot and technology was pushing forward. It was a super fun industry but I'd wake up every six months and realized, “This isn't where I was destined to be.” It would cause this little crisis like, “I'm not doing what I was supposed to be doing”. Yet it was fun, I was making a good living and I enjoyed a lot of it but it still wasn't heartfelt and purposeful. There I was like, “What would be heartfelt and purposeful?” Therefore I got it and I always enjoyed the Psychology aspect, the spiritual side of things was something I was drawn to. I found this program and it was like a two-year program where we used ourselves as guinea pigs. We looked at all of our beliefs and all the different areas of our life, what was working, what was not working. I loved it. That started to become much closer to my ultimate purpose of being able to help people in this self-help personal development world.
Fast forward a little bit, when we started our first challenge, we gamified it. What happened in the video game industry is they studied billions of points of data. This was the time when all this was coming online. They were able to see when people stop playing and they would test things. They found the seven elements of a game that trigger certain parts of our brain to want more. There then were a lot of people who were starting to say, “What if we apply those elements of games to real-world activities?” What would that do to our experience?
Basically, it changes how we interface with different activities. We can take something as hard as forming a new habit or creating something like a new change in our lives and turn it from something we have to do or we don't want to do to something we look forward to. It feels different because of the different areas of our brain and the way it's set up contextually. The gamification, using elements of a game in our challenges became a powerful way to create engagement and make people enjoy. People are busy. We're vying for attention. This became a very cool and powerful way to help engagement and help people enjoy the process of creating change in their lives.
When you talk about Connecting The Dots, going back to Steve Jobs, it was his love of calligraphy that led to the Mac. It's those thousand points of light that seem random and at any point in time but when you're able to look back, you're able to connect them. I see that connection from video game creation to Psychology to the fact that you're looking to help people become better versions of themselves can automatically lead to the challenge. The challenge is giving people the incentive to be better. It's gamifying the ability to allow people to be better versions of themselves.
When you think about anything but certainly in Corporate America, there are four things that all people want to be fully engaged in what they're doing. First of all, they want to be valued and feel connected to others. There's a communal aspect. They want to feel like what they're doing is playing a role in bigger goals like that they're part of something bigger than themselves. Finally, we all want to feel like we're growing personally and professionally, that we can take a look back and see that we are a better version of ourselves this year than we were last year. The degree that we can create an environment where people feel valued, feel connected, feel like what they're doing is contributing on a bigger scale and that they're learning and growing. They will give their very best and the companies that are on the top places to work every year, focus on that.
Challenges have been a real integral part of helping create the kinds of culture or the types of growth, connection or even appreciation and the value structure. We're trying to help companies create that environment so that people can feel those core needs and then they can bring their best selves forward. No matter whether they're an engineer, banker, maintenance person, it doesn't matter. We all want those same things as humans.
Let's bring this down to reality. We're a mid-sized manufacturing company. We've come out of COVID and it's been hell on wheels. The growth has been astounding. We haven't been able to get a lot of raw products. We've been behind a lot of stress, a lot of frustration within the company and done a lot of understanding about where we are, where we're going and how we're going to get there. How would you suggest using a challenge to help people get beyond the fact that all that frustration, anxiety and allow them to understand that the long-term goal is to be able to go from being a regional player to more of a national player? Let’s say the company has a clearer understanding of how they're going to get there. How would you use a challenge to be able to bring people on board and get them to understand that they are integral parts of long-term success?
In order to answer that, I'm going to give you just one more foundational pillar and it's Positive Psychology. With all those things that you mentioned, coming out of COVID and it's been a weird year. A lot of people have been through tremendous challenges in their personal and professional lives. The anxiety is at an all-time high like we're disconnected in ways we haven't been forever. There are a lot of that stuff that's just very real for a lot of us. Positive Psychology is the Science that studies how good we are when we're in a positive state of mind versus a negative state. We all know we're better. We're more patient, make better decisions, are better leaders, are more communicative and take feedback better when we're in a positive state versus negative. It’s how much better is what the science shows us and it's not a little bit then.
We are exponentially better at everything when we are in a positive state of mind. We all have an intuitive sense, “When I'm in a good mood and a good place, I'm better.” The cool thing is working with neuroscientists, they've found that there are some simple exercises that no matter where we fall in the continuum, even coming right out of a ridiculous time like COVID, trying to reintegrate and figure out things, we can all learn to move into a positive state more frequently and stay there longer with practice.
That's powerful because if we get that as an organization then one of our goals should be, “How can we create, give the tools, exercises, support to help as many of our team members be in a positive state as much of the time as possible or build that muscle?” Resilience is there. It's a mindset. Success comes down in a lot of ways for an organization or an individual. It comes down to our mindset. If we could do some work there, that would be powerful no matter if it's manufacturing or whether it's accounting or legal, it doesn't matter.The gamification of corporate challenges is a powerful way to create engagement and make people enjoy. Click To Tweet
Understanding that, we built our platform to incorporate some of the simple but powerful exercises that build those muscles. The other thing that we got frustrated with too is people are, “Run a challenge and here are some things you could do.” That's a lot of work. All of a sudden, you've got to put these pieces together. You got to figure it out. You're not a challenge expert. People are busy. What we did is we created a platform that literally makes it plug and play. You put the theme you want, the training content or the reinforcement content that you want in there and out on the other side comes this beautiful app that is customized but takes the system.
It's like a franchise, you know you're going to get a great challenge because we've been doing this for many years. We've been refining it and it works every single time in every industry. We use some of those exercises. It’s seen. There's a handful of things in a very short period of time that if we can get people to do, change happens. The first thing is we want to get people in a positive state so there's little inspiration. It's as simple as the app sending you a little morning text that says, “Ben, happy Monday. Click here for your morning dose of inspiration.”
Five days a week I would get an aspirational something within the app and I can customize that.
All of that gets customized around whatever the theme is your emotional intelligence, leadership, core values. We've had a lot of customer service challenges that have been done. In manufacturing, we've sometimes done like 5S with Toyota. It was around excellence and this manufacturing process. It can be completely customized to whatever it is that's relevant and important to your company but it starts there. The important thing is, that's nice but it gets people to their dashboard and it reminds them what they're working on for the day. That's the key. We work with a lot of companies around their culture, which is a very big challenge to have people feel connected or to feel like they're even clear on what the mission is or how to do that. Part of that is it's not top of mind.
If you can come to a place and say, “Here's what we're working on as a group because this is important for all of us personally and professionally,” now it's going to influence behavior. If someone does a big launch and say, “For the next 30 days, we're going to do this,” and then no one sees anything again, the chance of any behaviors being changed or any real impact is pretty much zero. We're using every technique we can to drip out content and give people a way to be present on what they're working on. This is the key. We found out that if we asked people to do ten things each day, they did zero but if we ask people to do one thing a day, they tend to do 3 or 4 in that arena. That’s the example we always use is like getting in shape. If someone said, “Jeff, tomorrow go run 5 miles, you'll feel great.” I haven't run in a long time. That's not going to happen. I already know I'm not doing that.
If someone says, “I challenge you, go walk around your block. That'd be it, just do that.” Once I'm out there, it’s like, “I can do that. It doesn't take too long, it's pretty easy.” I’d walk a block and then it’s like, “It feels pretty good. Maybe I'll walk 1 or 2 blocks more.” Before I know it, I've done a lot more exercise than I planned out. The same thing happens when we're creating change in our organization. If we can get people to do one thing focused, they tend to do another thing. All of a sudden, we start to build this momentum and real change can happen in a short period of time.
Change is happening incrementally over a period of time. It's building habits. It's like building muscles. You don't expect the person to lift 100 pounds on their first day but if they lift 5, 6, 10, 15 then 25 pounds, they're eventually going to get to 100 pounds. Basically, the philosophy is that you're trying to get people to break old habits and build new ones.
We all get this when we wanted to get in physical shape. When we want to change our bod. You can't go to the gym one time in January and think you're going to be in shape all year. We get that and yet we still do the same thing when we're thinking about helping our employees or our team members do something as big as changing their focus on a new goal or mission, “Here's one training.” Even if it's great inspirational talk from the CEO, C-Suite or training day, then we don't talk about it for a while or there's no way for them to practice the things they need to do to move to that. This is turning that and saying, “We all understand this. Let's make it available for the changes we want in our organization.” Challenges are great for that.
How do we get this to be beyond being lipstick on a pig? It's a new initiative and employees have seen 1,000 new initiatives. Most of them quite honestly fail because they're not followed up, followed through or don't have a brand champion. There're a lot of things that cause initiatives to fail. How do we get people to realize that this is going to be different? First of all, how do you get buy-in from leadership? How do you get leadership to get the buy-in from employees to be able to at least give this a chance? Change is scary for people. People hate change and are scared of change. How do we go about that in a way that's going to allow this to be successful?
The first part is leadership getting on board and giving this. Leadership must buy in. The two groups that are easy yeses for us and get this right away, one is the group they’ve been doing stuff for a long time. They know that there's a competitive advantage for them to stay ahead of the curve in terms of supporting their team members and creating vision, clarity and growth. Those groups are always on the lookout and they're very open.
The other group tends to be those who are in a world of hurt. Something's very wrong, there's a lot of pain and they have to do something. The ones in the middle, there is a lot of people that are like, “I don't know. Let me talk to someone else.” That's unfortunate but there’s a little bit of human psychology there. Once they decide because the reality is, if you don't do anything, nothing's going to change and that's guaranteed. We get a 100% guarantee that if you don't do anything different and you're going to have the same results.
If you can do the same things, you're going to get the same results. If you've been doing initiatives in a certain way and you don't change something, you're going to get the same. Most of them are very much like what you described, that maybe they have a big start but then they fizzle out quick. Maybe they don't even get back. The way that this is positioned is first there has to be buy-in from the seat. It has to come in from a high level. They have to be supportive. We are doing this and then they have to position it as not another thing that you have to do as our employee, “We've been listening. COVID is horrible. These have been problems everyone's been talking about. Here's what we're going to try. If you like this, if this is supportive, we're going to try it for a quarter. If this is a value add, we're going to keep it. If not, we're going to get rid of it. This is going to be up to you. You got to try it and give us your feedback.” It's all about them.We are exponentially better at everything when we are in a positive state of mind. Click To Tweet
It's making sure you're getting buy-ins from the teams and that they're active participants in championing this within their organization.
Once they feel that this is because the company cares, not another thing to get to squeeze a little bit more productivity out of them, that's a big change. You do that not just by saying it but then you position the challenge as a challenge where they can win stuff. There are prizes. It's going to be fun. It's this team versus this team. Those are just done psychologically so that we're not feeling like, “This is another initiative and another thing on my plate.”
Accounting versus this, maintenance versus this, the warehouse versus this and whoever wins is going to get one extra day of paid time off or there's going to be tchotchke. We've realized in ten years of doing this that as long as there are prizes, it shifts. We've had some that have done Apple Watches and very cool prizes, some that have certificates, they get honored and recognized in front of their group. It doesn't matter. The fact that there's some sort of prize and then recognition at the end, frames this as a game or something worth playing. Not, “Another thing that I have to do to check the box.” When you do that, it can be a difference. That's the pretty thing.
It's got to be important that whatever the prize is, it has to be relevant to the people that are receiving the prizes. If it's barbecues and everybody owns their own barbecue then there's no incentive to doing it. If it's a $0.39 pen and nobody cares about it, nobody's going to be having an incentive to be able to participate in the challenge. Whatever you're going to do as using incentive whether it's paid time off, you have extra days pay or a rafting trip for your team down the river. It's got to be something that is relevant to the teams and motivates them to compete with each other.
If it's just about the prize, the prize always has to get sweeter. It's the problem with the carrot. First, you need to get a bite of the carrot every now and then. The carrot needs to be sweeter every time. That's not a good incentive plan long-term. This is to get people in so it does have to be relevant or exciting. We have a simple template. You do this for 30 minutes after a challenge. You have a real recognition ceremony. We do them virtually all the time. It doesn't have to be in person. You can be all over the country or all over the world. People get a chance to share their growth or the biggest takeaway they had. Then there's a little drawing for the prizes. When they get recognized in front of their peers and leaders, that recognition is something we crave and it's the best reward anyone can get by far.
The number one reason every single year, 68% to 72% of our US population rates themselves disengaged from their career is because they don't feel valued or appreciated by their direct supervisor or the company overall. This changes that. If they start to feel recognized, that's the best reward. They don't even need the thing. Whether it is like the rafting trip is cool, they love the memory but if they felt rewarded and we've seen companies that give a heartfelt recognition with a certificate, there are tears. That’s not what they are expecting to do that day.
It means a lot and that just takes 30 minutes, once a quarter focused on recognition. That's not about sales but about growth and commitment to the corporate mission or the corporate values, like showing up for your team members. Those kinds of things do make a great company. If people get recognized for those, it changes things. When the next challenge comes around, not only do I have those people become ambassadors but the word of mouth gets the people who didn't participate in the first one. It's like, “That's different from anything we've been a part of. I'm going to join this one now.” We tend to see that you get a good burst of people in the beginning but it grows. You get more people in the 2nd quarter, the 3rd quarter and then it starts to level out at some point but it doesn't do this typical they try it and then within 48 hours it figures out.
That's where it comes down to being relevant. It's not whether how big, wonderful or snazzy the prize is. It's how relevant it is. I know a lot of larger organizations where the prize is that a certain amount of money is donated on their behalf to a charity of their choice. They as individuals may not get anything but they get the gratification of realizing, “My team won. The money that's being donated to the charity that we decide is coming from the company on our behalf.”
In intrinsic value, they can feel that one of those core needs. That's contribution. When we talked about those three things that we all want, contribution to something bigger than ourselves. If that's the prize, they can feel that in a very real way and that's a huge motivator. You're spot on and we do that through the challenges as well. If we can create a place where they start to get acknowledged and appreciated by team members and from their leadership during a challenge, that's what the conversation is you post some of your wins. This is one of those exercises but when you share something that you consider a win, that's the challenge. You're getting points for doing it. It's trying to trick the brain, just do it and people aren't used to that. We're used to only celebrating the big stuff, which only happens once in a while. We're being incentivized to start sharing the smaller daily things that we are doing. We normally do not give ourselves credit for but we never get recognized for it from anyone else either.
When we start sharing those and people high-five them or they comment and say, “Ben, that was amazing. Thanks for doing that,” it changes the level of intrinsic value, “I'm feeling valued,” which is the best prize as well. When other people are doing that, “I'm feeling connected to my team. I'm not siloed, even though I'm on the floor, on this line. I'm connected to the night shift.” Toyota's problem is they're very good with the process but the night shift didn't feel any connection to the day shift. They weren't feeling like a team and they started to think about that. All of a sudden, they were achieving results that they gave us the very worst line in their manufacturing plants to test it. They increased by 30% or 40% on their internal audit in one quarter. They're like, “This is the game-changer that we were looking for.”
It's interesting because the more diverse and diversified workforce you have, the more disenfranchised that can be. I remember working with a client. I walked into their head office and there was this gorgeous, huge cake in the lunchroom. I said, “Who gives?” They say, “This is the September cake for everybody who's got a birthday in September.” I said, “That's cool. How many employees you've got?” We got about 400 employees at head office and then we've got about 30 different offices across the country.We can all learn to move ourselves into a positive state more frequently and stay there longer with practice. Click To Tweet
I said, “What do you do monthly for the people in the branch offices?” We don't do anything. I started saying, “Guys, you have half as many employees in 30 different offices that are hearing on a monthly basis about these incredible cakes and bringing people together at head office and they're getting nothing. Are you wondering why the people in your branch offices feel disenfranchised? They don't feel listened to or valued?” For $20 or $25 a month to have cakes sent out from a local bakery to those offices. The money would pale in comparison to them, they started doing it and they were in it. It's exactly what happened. All of a sudden people feel listened to, valued and part of the team. I can see how the challenge brings people together. People from different offices and departments competing with each other in a way that's a friendly competition.
It's friendly but they're seeing each other. I don't think it was malicious that they weren't thinking like, “The 400 people here, we can do this. This is easy.” It does have a ripple effect negatively. You can for $20 and that's basically like using technology. It's not that much more to be running something that is bringing people together on a platform. All of a sudden, now those people that aren't usually connected to headquarters all feel like they're part of the bigger team. They're not just this isolated, siloed group.
The night versus day shift. All of a sudden, these people never see the owner of the company because the owner of the company is never there from 10:00 at night until 6:00 in the morning. They've never met these people. They have no idea who they are, what they're about or how do we engage with them. This has been a fascinating conversation. I've got two more questions and then I'm going to let you go. The first question is how do you help people start? Where do people start? That's an important thing for people to sit there and say, “This is overwhelming. There's so much to do. I don't know how I may be going to be able to start this thing.” How can people start easily to be able to have small successes and then build on those?
Over the years, we've realized that some companies have very clear objectives like they're working on customer success and that's great. Then they know what they want to work on but a lot of us are in the same boat. It feels overwhelming. There are so many things to do. Over the years, we've put together a library of topics. After a little bit of an intake, it's fascinating because there are some simple places to start.
We always call it the Subway method like you know you want a sandwich but you do want to choose a few different things. In this case, here are some great places to start, which one of these resonates most if you want to talk, you want to do a little survey and to do things? Let's find out what resonates most. At the end of the day, one little meeting or a couple of emails to get people's feedback, they can get very clear, “This would be a good place to start. This is what our people are wanting. This is what's topical.”
We then can go from there and we start to customize the plan around the voices that they're asking or it'll start to reveal itself in the challenge itself we start seeing. That's the great thing about technology. You're watching all these comments. You can start to get data. What else would be valuable to these people? They're feeling still a little disconnected. Let's do a challenge that's about team and appreciating the team. Then they start talking, “Our customers would be great.” All of a sudden, there's just a whole library of challenges that they can choose from and they're very simple. You can literally turn them on. They plug and play. In corporate, most people are very busy and there are lots of stuff on their plate already. We found that this has to be an easy thing to add, to run and it is. It's a light lift to fully customize it or you can choose from our tried and true library.
I'll make sure that everybody can get in touch with you. It's at InJoyGlobal.com. Here's the last question and I ask every single person this before I let them go. When you leave a meeting, get in your car and drive away, what's the one thing you want people to think about you or your company when you're not in the room?
What I want them to feel is I want them to feel like I saw them. If I'm in a meeting with them, I want them to feel like they were seen and heard and that was the best meeting they had all day because they feel better, more energized, connected, valued that I was grateful to have had their time, that I know they're busy. They feel that when they go away and have a little bit of lightness in their step, they have a better day because of the interaction whether we ended up working together or not. That’s my real goal. I know the value of having someone appreciate me. I know what it feels like when that doesn't happen. That's the one thing that no matter what we're talking about or what we're doing with people if we can just appreciate something about them, whether it's their time or one of the ideas they have if they can go away feeling that I genuinely saw them, heard them and they were appreciated, that would be a huge compliment.
Jeff, this has been valuable. Thank you very much. Thanks for adding real value to our clients and our readers. It's all about making sure people are listened to, understood and valued. I appreciate everything that you've done.
Ben, thanks so much for having me. This has been great.
Jeff is the COO and Co-Founder of InJoy Global, Host of the InJoy Success Podcast, and Co-Creator of the revolutionary My Challenge Creator.
What started decades ago with a childhood passion in discovering the most successful ways to live was materialized almost a decade ago when Jeff co-founded InJoy Global - a company aligned with his personal mission to help as many people as possible live life of their dreams. As COO he brings a unique combination of skills to the corporate culture-shaping and personal development arena.
Jeff has a Masters in Spiritual Psychology, and a background in the video game industry, along with years of experience in executive coaching and personal development. With this cocktail of gamification and positive psychology, Jeff is on the cutting edge of what makes changing for the better, easier and faster than ever before.
Jeff’s most recent project is a software platform called the Challenge Creator. This platform turns your content into a gamified challenge. Jeff and his team have designed a scientifically proven format that allows you to run an amazing challenge basically on autopilot. Using the latest in gamification and positive psychology the Challenge Creator is a true gamechanger, no pun intended. After working with hundreds of coaches, authors, trainers, speakers and more to turn their content into interactive experiences, Jeff believes that Challenges are the single greatest way to grow your business and maximize your impact. #WhatsYourChallenge
What you’ll find is Jeff’s experience, stories and overall energy will make it clearer than ever that no matter where you are in your life or what change you want to create for yourself… YOU CAN DO IT.
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