HR Trends. No.4: Gamification

While spending some time at HR conferences and listening to presentations about recruitment trends (including my own :-D) it was obvious that gamification is another major driver everyone is looking into. If you look for best practice examples in the market, most of them are built for recruitment. And they are games (not necessarily synonymously for ‘gamified’), e.g My Marriott Hotel:

Great integration of learning about possible job contents as well as potential assessment. I also like fliplife, as it offers corporations the chance to present themselves in a ‘relaxed’ third party environment.

The use of games for employer branding and recruitment seems logical, considering the developments in demography and technology. And it is also the most intentional one in the HR toolbox. But there should be more applications, corporate learning might be next to be gamified.

But let’s have a look into what gamification is at all to better understand where it will add value.

I talked to Roman Rackwitz, founder and CEO of engaginglab – I would also call him my personal gamification guru… Because I am lazy by nature I asked Roman to introduce engaginglab himself: “Engaginglab enriches ‘user behavior’ by implementing fun into activites. How? By using what is build into our DNA –> ‘Play’. Play is nature’s learning engine and so it touches our innerst habits. Engaginglab achieves that by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by combining behavior psychology with game-design-thinking. We are reverse-engineering what makes games effective and graft it into a business environment.” Well, he is clearly not a friend of binary answers :-) Need more proof of that? Enjoy his answers below:

1. We know corporate games like L’Oréal’s Reveal or MyMarriott. Is that what gamification looks like?

Let’s look at the official definition of gamification: “…the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts.” So, from this point of view it is gamification because they use these games for a non-game-context, as to say: Recruitment.

2. How would you define gamification?

Taking your first question into consideration I distinguish between two conditions:
If you take a problem related to real life and put it into a classic game like MyMarriott or Reveal, than I call it “serious game”. And the more social the problem, the more related to a huge community or even society, the more serious it is.

On the other side, if you want to get people engaged in real life activities and you think about games as a role model – because games can really be engaging, right? – than you use game design thinking and put game elements at these real life activities. It is the other way round than serious games. And in my opinion this is gamification.

If gamification is done well you never think about playing a game. Yes, you feel challenged, engaged, focused and involved into your activity the same way you feel it when playing a game. But you would never characterize it as one.

3. Most people think of gamification in recruiting. Where else could gamification be applied in an HR context?

For HR I believe that gamification can be applied for the whole employee-life cycle.

  • Attraction: For example by using gamified crowdsourcing activities, open-source projects or – like mentioned above – even serious games to increase the brand awareness and so also its attractivity as an interesting potential employer.
  • Recruitment: For example by using game-elements to get people to solve different problems and challenges that help the HR-department to find the right people for the right job.
  • Expectancy: For example, by using a game-like environment like simulations that let new employees learn the company’s processes without the risk of failure. At the same time the employer could use these simulations to get some new approaches to solve an old problem.
  • Development/Education: For example by using game-elements like clear goals, rules, missions and challenges that help old and new employees to find their own ‘path to mastery’. This way people know better what is being expected from them , what are possible ways to do so and where to start.
  • Knowledgemanagement/Collaboration: For example by using (almost) real-time feedback as we know it from board- and onlinegames to provide fast and individual guidance through complex and abstract work processes. Such a ‘feedback-loop’ combined with goals, rules, missions and challenges enhances people to collaborate and to share knowledge in order to achieve a common goal.

Looking at gamification for the HR-Department from a meta level experienced that it supports also to create a transformational leadership inside a company rather than a transactional leadership. We still have to wait for longterm results (Gamification is a young discipline) but this already indicates a more effective way to hire the right people, to benefit employee satisfaction and to decrease workforce fluctuation.

4. What would you call best practices?

Great examples for different sectors are:

  • Serious games: Fold.it In 2011, players of Foldit helped to decipher the crystal structure of an AIDS-causing monkey virus. While the puzzle was available to play for a period of three weeks, players produced an accurate 3D model of the enzyme in just ten days. The problem of how to configure the structure of the enzyme had stumped scientists for 15 years.
  • Gamification in CRM: Nitro for salesforce. It engages and motivates sales teams by adding challenges, points, levels, status, achievements, and rewards.
  • Gamification in Education: Duolingo  & Codecadamy
  • Gamification in Finance: Playmoolah (for kids), Payoff , SaveUp, Mint
  • Gamification in  Health: Contrex, Piano stairs, Sex for health, HealthMonth, S2H
  • Gamification in Innovation: Starbucks, Innocentive 
  • Gamification in Production: Siemens (simulation)
  • Marketing&Branding: SAP
  • Gamification in Projectmanagement: Propstoyou , RedCritter

5. Which cool stuff will we see in 2013?

Gamifcation needs the possibility to interact with its users to provide real-time data & feedback within the activities. The development of new technologies like ‘augmented reality’ and gadgets will enhance agencies and providers to create more intuitive and individual programs. Tools like Google glasses will create huge opportunities for gamification companies to develop new applications. This video “Sight” shows its possibilities. Even if the movie focuses rather on the risks of bad gamification than its positive potentials, it is a good insight of what could be possible in the future.

I think that in 2013 we will have an increased awareness and some great examples of how to build processes that take human behavior more into consideration. The number of companies implementing gamified processes in Europe will double and by 2015 more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes.

6. Some businesses think that gamification means to let their employees play games at work. What do you tell them?

Unfortunately the term gamification is a little bit misleading but now we have to stick to it. Gamification is not about creating games but about reverse-engineering what makes games so effective and graft it into a business environment. Games are awesome at creating engagement, focus, and involvement for its users. While playing a game we are more concentrated, open to changes, more open to solve problems, and to tackle challenges. We are more collaborative, goal orientated, less risk-averse and it is not demotivating if we fail. Imagine you would have a workforce like this within your company.
So, gamification uses game-design-thinking combined with the upcoming science of behavior- and motivational psychology to re-design work processes to engage employees in a deeper way.

7. Why is Gamification especially for HR such a ‘hot’ subject?

The last century proved that services and products that are implementing social aspects are often better prepared than those without. And it is obvious, right? We are social and so products/services should adopt this fact to become more intuitive for us. And of course we use new technologies to make this happen. Od do you say: “Hey, we humans should adjust ourselves to technology.”? No. It doesn’t make sense this way.

And I think that we are experiencing something similar with Gamification and HR. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution we thought about how to make everything more efficient. How to make everything faster and bigger or even smaller. It was a question about technology. A question about equipment and units. It was about technical-design and no one thought about the consequences for the employees. They just had to get comfortable with that or leave.

But time changed and now and globalisation and other developments created an unbelievable demand for tasks that depend totally just on human performance. Research, creativity, innovation, complex problem solving, and so on. It changed from a question about pure technology to a question about human-centred-activities. So, after decades of technical improvements we are looking for ways how we can create an environment that enhances us humans. And it makes sense to look at Evolution and how it manged to get us this far. And I think that one of its secret was the possibility to let us perform on a higher level of engagement while playing around. But of course we can’t say: “Ok, let’s play some games at work.” And here starts the idea behind Gamification: “Reverse-engineering what makes games effective and graft it into a business environment.”

HR (at its best) is the development department for the most valuable asset of a company, and Gamification their instrument for fine tuning.

So way to go for HR. Let the games begin!

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