Dr. Brooks Mitchell, right,
a professor at the University of Wyoming, has invented a new type
of incentive program that incorporates people’s love of playing
games of chance. His company, Snowfly, based in Laramie, Wyo.,
reinforces good behavior of all types by giving employees the
chance to gamble for cash and prizes.
Here’s an example of how it might work:
An employee who demonstrates a desired behavior (e.g., productivity
or resolving a customer’s inquiry on first contact) receives a
number of tokens, which are used to play a computer game. A single
token can win up to $500, and all winnings are transferred to a
Visa gift card.
“The idea comes from gambling, but it’s
not legally gambling, because nothing is at risk for the employee,”
said Mitchell, who noted that the concept, called “intermittent
scheduled reinforcement,” derives from behavioral psychology and
shows that people will be motivated if given a chance of winning a
One recent client is the Portland,
Ore.-based Regence Group, a licensee of Blue Cross Blue Shield,
which implemented a 1,400-employee pilot of Snowfly in October.
The rewards not only provide real-time
reinforcement, they also eliminate any surprises when it comes time
for the employee review.
“Before, you really didn’t understand
what you were being evaluated on,” said Ryan Kenney, Regence’s
director of human resources. “This encourages greater alignment
with how employees think they’re doing and how the manager
According to Mitchell, the program has
earned a 95 percent acceptance rate among employees.