Target’s Cashier Game – Is It Really a Game?

Note: To see how cashiers’ jobs could be enhanced to be more engaging using games, read the follow-up post, A Cashier Game Worth Playing

Is it really a game? The answer may depend on how old you are.

I’ve seen a number of references in gamification books and blogs about Target’s cashier game.

From Dennis Crowley’s Teendrama blog, here’s an image of the Target checkout screen showing ratings for the cashier’s performance.

They use a Green/Yellow/Red rating system. The big G for Green in the middle of the screen indicates that the cashier met her speed requirements for the most recent transaction. The string of G’s and R’s below indicate the ratings of her transactions since signing on.

The blogger talked with the cashier and she said “the whole thing ‘makes work feel like a game.’ ”

Tessa, a Target employee, responded to the post with the following message.

“I’m currently a Target employee. The big G is actually what you made on the last transaction, and the 88% is your average for the time you’ve currently been signed on to that register. When I was routinely cashiering it didn’t feel so much as a game as it did a constant test to see if you’re meeting up to their standards. Target keeps a running average of your scores for the week, month, and year. They expect over 88% of your transactions to make the speed cut, and your score reflects on possible raises, promotions, and sometimes even who remains as an employee. It’s a good system to keep the cashiers working, and should be a message to everyone else not to waste time while you’re checking out.”

So what’s going on here? Is this a game? Maybe it depends on who you talk to and when they grew up.

There’s nothing new about retailers setting standards and measuring employee performance against those work standards. In the early days of my career, I conducted time and motion studies so that we could develop work standards programs for activities at retail stores and DC’s. At the time, our feedback mechanisms were fairly crude and performance feedback would be processed in batch with employee notification being delivered days after the act.

However, what appears to be different from the early performance management systems and what Target is doing, is that Target has provided a layer of immediate and simplified feedback for the cashiers.

What’s interesting here, is that while I view the Target initiative as a standards program with immediate feedback, these young cashiers relate these timed and graded activities to the experiences they have while playing video games. Complete your tasks quickly and accurately and you’ll get more points; and after you gain enough points, you can level-up and get more status. What was once seen as an onerous, Big Brother overstepping of workers’ rights, is now seen by young adults as an incentive to perform faster – it’s almost as if they’ve been trained by their video game experiences.

This is going to have a huge impact on the (re)design of work over the next few years. Motivation and productivity opportunities are going to reflect the way this generation learned skills and collaboration in game based challenges. When that change starts to take hold, it’s likely to happen quickly.


Note: To see how cashiers’ jobs could be enhanced to be more engaging using games,read the follow-up post, A Cashier Game Worth Playing Contact us if you would like to know more about how to do this in your organization.

Stuart Silverman

About The Author

Stuart Silverman has designed, installed and marketed the full spectrum of systems used to provide competitive edge for retail organizations.

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