Gamification in HR: Going Beyond the Buzzword


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In the recruiting world, it seems there is a lot of discussion about gamification even though gamification is something that’s been around for years. Let’s get this out of the way up front – for almost all companies or organizations, gamification should not be viewed as a solution for attracting candidates (America's Army is one of a few exceptions). However, gamification can be an effective method of encouraging behavior once you are already interacting with a candidate. 

At JWT INSIDE, gamification is one of many problem-solving tools we consider when approaching a challenge. As a general rule of thumb, any discussion about gamification should first start with questions versus answers – it is only through careful questioning that you can then determine if gamification offers an answer. The first question to ask is not "What should our gamification strategy be," but instead, "What are our primary challenges from a recruiting standpoint? Are there aspects of gamification that could offer potential benefits that address these challenges?"  

Marriott hotel-themed online game for recruitment, via WSJ

For example, many of you have likely read articles on, or even tested out, Marriott's use of gamification that launched a few years back. Their tactic included the development of an interactive game within their Facebook page allowing players to manage all the behind-the-scenes aspects of running a kitchen within a virtual hotel. [While this game is not currently live, you can view a trailer for it here.] Without knowing the strategic foundation and problem the game aimed to address, it may likely have appeared somewhat elementary. Yet understanding that the target audience was young, international (many having recently moved from a rural environment to an urban one), and lacking the basic knowledge of what happens within a hotel – the simplicity of the game was by design. Marriott needed a way to educate an audience on what working in the hotel kitchen environment was like, and research showed the audience members were using social media channels to discover job opportunities and were also were heavy online gamers. This strategy addressed the questions noted above and was not put into place just to have gamification tactics.

Ultimately, to be successful gamification should never be based on a  "wouldn't it be cool if" idea a client or agency has. Always put your audience first; understand their needs, their behaviors, and their motivations. Then, understand your brand’s recruitment and employee challenges. By doing so you can have the best chance of developing a recruitment strategy that meets your objectives and offers an experience that resonates with your target audience. If this strategy includes some form of gamification, then great! 

With that said, while it is critical to first understand your problem before considering gamification techniques, there are certain areas that gamification is often a potentially great strategy for. Because gamification is best used to encourage behavior with an existing audience, the following types of efforts offer great place to focus your initial consideration:

• Internal Employee Engagement
• Onboarding Processes
• Performance/Recognition
• Employee Referral Programs (ERPs)

Interested in talking more? Contact us at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JWTINSIDE if you’d like to discuss your recruitment challenges and to determine if gamification might be a good strategy for your company.

Written by Pete Price, Experience Planner at JWT INSIDE

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