September 24, 2013

HR Gamification: Alive, but not Kicking

Virtual screen and human hand touching itJust in case you hadn’t heard about it, HR Gamification involves the use of game design to attract talent and/or encourage employees and candidates to learn new skills, change or improve behavior or become more innovative and productive. Players are given a goal, and they gain points as they move towards that goal, having to obey rules along the way, with there being a prize for the winner. It was meant to be the next big thing in talent management, but it has hardly come to that.

Despite early promise, gamification has not taken hold.

Despite various mentions of the successful fusion of gamification and HR in industry press, it has not really gripped the HR profession and taken a hold in the same way that both social media and mobile have influenced HR. Gamification is kind of waiting around in the wings as an understudy, waiting to be called up to the big stage, should one of the main players fail.

But, despite the intermittent high profile HR gamification successes reported in the press from companies like Hilton, Marriot, Facebook, Target, etc., HR gamification has not quite hit the big time. Sure, there was early promise, as research from Wanted Analytics showed that there was a 293 percent increase in demand for gamification skills between 2011 and 2012, yet I don’t feel there was a 293 percent increase in high profile gamification success stories. And, predictably, demand for gamification has stalled and there has been a slight 1 percent decrease in demand for gamification since July 2012.

HR Gamification in crisis?

On top of this, Gartner has joined the debate, highlighting that gamification may be approaching crisis point as their research shows that by 2014, 80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives, basically due to poor game design game. Companies are struggling to find the appropriate game design talent, which is not surprising because the process of gamifying HR requires that boundaries be pushed, which means that everyone is a beginner to some degree.

HR Gamification still has a part to play.

The future for HR gamification looks bleak; but is it time to write it off? Not at all, gamification is a powerful concept, which has the capacity to motivate teams to achieve great things if implemented well. It just needs to be implemented well.

However, while I do not think that HR gamification is dead—there is life left in the old dog yet—gamification may have to take a back seat in 2013, as 2013 is set to be an especially disruptive year for HR as social recruitment, mobile recruitment and big data really begins to weave their way into the HR processes and bed themselves in.

So, while I think that gamification may not be the primary focus of HR professionals in 2013, (I think this may come a little later in 2014), there are still opportunities for HR professionals to bring gamification in to play, by using it to enhance existing primary HR initiatives mentioned above. If HR professionals adopt this approach to gamification justification, that is, as a means of developing the core HR strategies of mobile engagement, social and big-data, then HR principals and senior managers may show some interest in investing in gamification.

Playing games can help win the talent war.

One core HR imperative that gamification can enhance is crowdsourcing and employee referrals recruitment. We know there is a big move towards turning employees and social connections into talent scouts and an excellent way to make crowdsourcing more effective is to introduce gamification principles, e.g. badges, points, league tables and rewards for the best talent scouts.

The beauty of this approach to HR gamification is by linking in to a core strategy, like social recruitment, it is working in synergy with the core HR strategy and is able to demonstrate immediate and tangible value and show to the business that it is more than just a game.

Read more in Talent Management

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.