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Gamification: Disrupting the HR Game

A recent research paper by Accenture entitled, Trends Reshaping the Future of HR: Digital Radically Disrupts HR, predicted that Talent Management processes would become more and more ingrained into the everyday work lives of managers and employees in the future. Through the use of digital technologies, Talent Management will become the responsibility of the leaders and the individuals, as opposed to remaining the domain of specialist HR professionals. Gamification is one key digital technology that will facilitate this shift.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the use of ‘game thinking’ and the typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition against others, rules of play), to engage users in an activity or behaviour and increase users’ self-contributions. In an HR context, gamified software and applications are already used in areas of Talent Management such as recruiting, performance measurement and recognition, learning and development, as well as culture and behavioural change.

Young people entering the workforce right now are the first generation to have grown up surrounded by computer games and technology. For many, their lives revolve around games, such as the socially connected Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). These young people socialise through computer games, and gaming terminology such as ‘levelling up’, ‘epic win’, and ‘GG (good game)’ have pervaded their everyday language.

“With gaming concepts and terminology gaining prominence among young employees, it’s probably not surprising that companies eager to attract, engage, incentivize and retain members of this generation have been taking games seriously. Gaming concepts have begun working their way into key HR processes in two distinct forms, often called serious games and gamification. Whereas serious games are actual games used in the workplace whose purpose is beyond merely providing entertainment, gamification is the weaving of game mechanics such as virtual currency, leaderboards (boards that display leaders in a competition), badges, or levelling up (progression to the next level in a game) into existing work activities or processes without the development of a full-fledged actual game.”1.

The use of elements of gaming in the workforce is not a new concept, but the use of gaming technology as an enabler is. For years sales teams have used leaderboards, sales competitions, special events and campaigns to track activity levels and performance. The difference now is that most employees are familiar with gaming, and cloud-based gaming technologies have become available, making enterprise-wide use affordable.

What are the Benefits of Gamification?

Gamification is particularly relevant for sales teams, in and outbound call centres, customer service, service technicians, shared services processing functions and virtual teams. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ian Burns, Director of iActionable AsiaPacific, who outlined the following five key {nolink}benefits{/nolink} that can be derived from this trend.

  1. Driving Performance and Culture – Gamification works particularly well when organisations need employees to focus on a particular set of KPI’s that are important at a certain time in the business cycle. It encourages people to interact with systems in a certain way i.e. input and record their activities on the system. Mobile-enabled games can help the message to reach the ‘shop floor’ and can drive behaviours and performance without the manager having to constantly push. It doesn’t make a big difference to super top performers, because they will always perform well. It does however, foster performance uplift in the other 80% of the business — the concept can have an enormous impact here.
  2. Better Predictive Capability — Gamification enables managers to be much more accurate with sales forecasting and anticipating problems with employee performance.
  3. Increases Employee Engagement and Reinforces Culture – The key purpose of gamification is to help employees to be more successful whilst engaging in friendly competition and having fun. Keeping the workforce focused on what is important helps individuals to achieve their personal goals, and companies to become regarded as best in their industry. Seeing one’s own results in real-time, and respect and recognition from peers is a far more powerful tool than the boss pushing.
  4. Great for Virtual Teams – Gamified Applications give Managers access to a dashboard, so they can see what is happening in a timely way and can respond accordingly.
  5. Managers Become Better Coaches — This is key when time or accuracy is important and there is benefit for the organisation in fine-tuning the goals and targeting a change of behaviour. With gamification, managers can pinpoint the quantity and quality of the activity, rather than simply beating the activity drum.

Examples of Gaming Applications in the WorkPlace

  • America’s Army® (AA) – simulation-based game used by the U.S. Army showing the challenges involved in common Army missions; used for recruiting and has training modules.
  • Stone City – a serious game commissioned by Cold Stone Creamery Inc. The purpose of the game is to help employees learn correct ‘portioning behaviour’ for ice cream and to understand its effect on profitability and customer satisfaction. A viscosity model simulates the way in which various flavours ‘scoop’ differently. Success in the game requires speed and skill, which makes the simulation fun and effective.
  • TopCoder® – an IT programming community site that uses programming competitions to identify top programmers for contract work or permanent hire.
  • Work.comTM (from Inc) – uses gamification mechanisms to provide timely feedback to employees and to recognise high performers.
  • ContestBuilder (by LevelEleven LLC) — contests can be created around specific sales metrics tracked in’s customer relationship management (CRM) system.
  • Achievers – social recognition portal whereby staff can recognise each other with endorsements and virtual currency points. 2
  • iActionable — tracks individual performance versus targets, uses peer recognition to drive performance and culture. Unlocks ROI from the world’s leading CRM system and has a sidebar that contains a leaderboard and individual KPI achievement, which is displayed on your desktop or mobile phone.

Are Many Organisations Using Gamification in HR Today?

Although in its infancy, gamification is part of the overall digital disruption that will see HR professionals focusing more on culture and Talent Management levers to achieve competitive advantage. A recent example of this in Talent Acquisition is KPMG’s Australian graduate programme. “The 10,000 applicants will have to traverse an online game overlaid with psychometric tests and submit a four-minute ‘selfie’ video to prove they have enough ‘personal impact’ for the fast changing world of professional services”.3. Like KPMG, some large organisations have been early adopters of gamification, but overall penetration is not high — yet. As the uptake inevitably increases, organisations will benefit from improved employee insights, and consequently increased workforce capability and performance.

  1. Accenture Strategy Research Paper 2015 titled “Trends Reshaping the Future of HR: Digital Radically Disrupts HR” by Tim Good, Catherine Farley, Himanshu Tambe and Susan Cantrell, page 8.
  2. ibid, page 9.
  3. The Australian Financial Review, “KPMG Hiring by Selfie” by Agnes Kind and Edmund Tadros, Wednesday 25th March 2015, page 39.


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