Recruitment, talent management, performance management — no matter how you or your company characterize these practices of HR, gamification is changing it. And often in a fundamental way.
Mickey Mantle, who is widely considered to have been one of the greatest baseball players of all time, once many years ago very aptly remarked, “It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.”
Now let’s press pause on our own lives for a moment and contemplate this statement. Every new employee seeks a challenging and fulfilling career — a game that that creates livelihoods. But what is this game, and how exactly must organizations play it, to assess how their practices meet this goal for the right person, at the right time, in the right place, at the right cost?
The Talent Game
Companies are recognizing the implications of competing intensely in “The Talent Game” to acquire, develop and retain talent. Playing the game requires you to understand the rules and the underlying constraints quickly, and then use them to your advantage. For instance, poker is based on rules of probability where the odds against a “straight” are 254 to 1, while a “flush” is 508 to 1. Similarly, in HR, the rules are simple: the odds to source and select the right talent, integrate and retain it while keeping them productive and happy can seem to be unpredictable.
A 2013 report by the Aberdeen Group noted that organizations face intense pressure to efficiently onboard more new talent to meet company growth objectives (49%), address the shortage of critical skills in the market place (44%) and innovate their new hire programs (29%). Traditionally, the purpose of the HR department has been seen by many line managers to find the candidates, qualify them based on an interview, train them using a standard curriculum, answer queries about the organization’s culture and leave it to them to find a way of working productively. After that, HR representatives cross their fingers in hopes the talent will stay and contribute to company growth.
This is where gamification can add value. Gamification, like the name suggests, selectively uses the mechanics that bring out people’s natural desires for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism and closure when faced with a real-life situation in the form of a game. The ways in which we play these games, and then demonstrate these characteristics, can help line and HR managers gain insight from information about us.
For instance, a software firm hosts an engaging contest, such as a coding challenge, to assess the candidates with their coding skills. Traditionally, traits such as entrepreneurial spirit, quick decision-making and problem-solving attitude are taken at face value based on answers to interview questions. A stock brokerage has people play ‘Ring the Bottle’ as you did possibly when you were a child to assess their achievement orientation. Gamification, on the other hand, offers the opportunity to simulate the working environment and create a selection technique that chooses the best talent. For example, Marriott Hotels launched a mobile app that makes candidates virtually perform hotel service industry tasks. This provides insight into how the candidate would approach real work and it helps eliminate those applicants lacking the patience or aptitude for the job.
Today, many companies provide ready-to-deploy gamification solutions. Often, they can go live in just a few weeks. These modules focus on creating an engaging experience by using badges, points and leaderboards, rather than just visual stimulation as seen in conventional games. Leaderboards specifically infuse the feeling of constructive competition, accomplishment and help assess if people network with their peers, which are stronger drivers of behavior than the proverbial “interview.”
Linking Behavior With Organizational Goals
Gamification offers new ways to align candidate behavior with organizational goals. So, instead of telling an employee that he “meets expectations,” it is better to say that he did not clear the second level of the game. Instead of creating performance ratings, HR representatives can create transparent leaderboards with badges attached to each level, so that an employee knows how he or she is doing in his business unit, region, country or globally. If an organization has an internal social media portal, the conversations and chatter around the game could be redirected to create employee engagement at this “virtual water cooler.”
Many companies have evolved from initially using these platforms as branding vehicles to leveraging them across the entire HR value chain — attracting, engaging, onboarding, training and retaining prospective candidates. Identifying and targeting talent pools differentiates the organizations that win from the ones that do not. Companies are starting to realize that HR practices based on the “one size fits all” principle prevent the business from improving quality of hire, institutionalize a culture, enhance employee productivity and eventually, grow customer satisfaction.
Gamification applications are most effective when they are customized to various industries and their specific needs. For example, some firms leverage their employee base by creating recruitment “ambassadors” and lead generators by conducting gamified events across campuses. This achieves all the benefits of crowdsourcing as well as creates an effective brand for the organization.
Gamified new hire programs are personalized, engaging and often convey a creativity within an organization. Instead of sitting through days of lectures or e-learning modules or videos, the new employee can play a game which also provides all the information he or she needs, connect them to their peers and even have fun on his first day of work.
The cases for using gamification are numerous and growing. SAP uses games to educate its employees on sustainability; Unilever applies them to training; Hays deploys them to hire recruiters and the Khan Academy uses it for online education. According to the Aberdeen survey, organizations with gamification in place improve engagement by 48%, as compared to 28% with those who do not, and improve turnover by 36% as compared to 25%.
Thanks to the advent of social media and increasing focus on analytics, gamification offers a plethora of possibilities. Gartner predicts that by 2014, more than 70% of global organizations will have at least one gamified application, which can range from mastering a specific skill to improving one’s health.
However, Gartner also says that 80% of gamified applications will fail if not designed correctly. A word of caution here: gamified modules, based on performance, work best for roles that are relatively repetitive in nature. It also works well for roles with clearly measurable outcomes and well-defined metrics. Locating the right talent pool and engaging specific segments by customized games promises to be a pragmatic solution to HR woes across industries.
Gamification is changing the very DNA of HR. One must know everything about the game one is playing and be the best at it to ensure one’s life is the best — now is the time to play.
Source: This article appeared on 1.29.14 on Wired.com