When I was in kindergarten, our teacher used to have us play a game called ‘Feed the Pelican’. She would distribute little cardboard fish featuring basic math problems or reading challenges. Students who correctly answered the question written on their fish were afforded the opportunity to walk to the front of the class and deposit their fish into the hungry mouth of a large cardboard pelican. It was a walk of glory that obscured the awful truth: she had just tricked us into learning!
Today, gamification is used in HR to incentivize training, interaction, collaboration and other desired behaviours. The set up may be more technical, but the premise is the same; we love our games! Disengagement amongst employees is a real problem and any way to increase compliance provides great benefit, particularly when the framework of the ‘game’ provides a useful method of gathering or sharing data. While employees are likely to be a bit hipper to the ruse than a classroom of five year olds, gamification still serves as a powerful motivator. Humans are competitive creatures and if we’re going to learn, or do, something – especially something mundane – why not have some fun while we’re at it?
What is Gamification?
The Gartner Group defines gamification as “the usage of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game scenarios such as business environment and processes, specifically in recruitment, training and development, and motivation; in order to engage users and solve problems.”
HR departments are using gamification to attract, screen and educate recruits, to on-board new hires, to train employees, to recognize achievement and to incentivize desired behaviours such as idea generation, internal collaboration and paperwork completion. If all of this sounds a little ‘fishy’ (pun intended), perhaps some real-world examples would prove useful.
Real World Examples of Gamification in HR
PWC Hungary, an audit and advisory firm, wanted a way to screen potential job applicants while also better developing them for their possible role. To this end they created ‘Multipoly’, a game that puts candidates into teams and tests them with pertinent real world problems. The challenges are designed to utilize skills and aptitudes that PWC finds desirable. The result was more applicants, increased engagement and new hires that were better prepared for the job on day one.
Qualcomm wanted more employee engagement with an internal question and answer app, so they instituted a system where the best answers were voted to the top. Those who frequently utilized the system were rewarded with points and proficient answer-providers were given marks of distinction on their employee profile. Those who dug deep to answer long-dormant questions were even given an ‘archeology badge’. The old Hollywood Western phrase ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ badges’ seems not to apply, as it actually proved to increase engagement.
Siemens UK tested current employees through the ‘Cosmic Cadets’ platform. They used the results to develop a model, codifying the attributes that were most likely to predict future success, which was then used to screen future applicants.
Google created a game to incentivize the proper filing of work related expenses, even providing employees options for retaining or donating unused funds while MHS homes dangled some Easter eggs in an effort to steer employees toward a new directory. The possibilities are endless.
Effective Utilization of Gamification
Of course, effectively using gamification requires forethought, planning and execution. The most effective applications will be convenient and will function across various platforms, providing an intuitive design and positive user experience.
The platform should be tailored to the culture of the organization and prove enticing to employees. Doing this involves creating fun (and possibly addictive) gameplay as well as providing relevant data. Is quality information available? Does it serve a purpose? Are the artificial incentives (recognition, points, rewards) appealing? Is the game designed to motivate the desired action? After all, the real purpose is not simply to create a compelling game, but to drive a certain behaviour.
Whether creating complex predictive performance models or simply encouraging the timely completion of expense reports, gamification can increase compliance significantly. As an added bonus, the data gathered during gamification can serve as a road map to success. New employees wishing to follow in the career footsteps of a more senior co-worker can consult their gaming profile to embark upon a similar path. The applications of gamification are as wide and diverse as the companies implementing them, so think strategically and let the fun begin!