Gamification: Big Data Is Watching

Apr 15, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.19.13 PMRecently, ERE asked me to conduct a webinar on The Impact of Gamification on Generational Talent. It’s an exciting topicworthy of exploration by forward-thinking talent acquisition executives, and in larger context calls for examination of the role of Big Data in business and in our overall culture.

The excitement surrounding Big Data is that web-browsing, location tracking, and social networks can help deliver automated, meaningful measurement of people and predict their behaviors. With our e-mails, social network interactions and mouse clicks able to be mined for insights, and personality-based assessment tests and games that study worker behavior, the ability to measure on a grand scale promises to transform organizational management.

Can Big Data make for a smarter working world, with more efficiently run companies guided by data and analysis? Are there dependable processes for predicting behaviors, skills, and preferences? Welcome to the relatively new field of workforce science, which adds predictive analytics to a hiring and career development playing field that’s long been dominated by gut intuition.

Gamification delivers an engaging front-end format for immersing participants in order to gather their back-end data. For example, New York-based Persona Games attracts players through a value-added game experience that takes them on a journey about their aspirations and interests in different job roles and provokes thought around career paths. Integrating employer-specific competency-based assessments by identifying those with skills and characteristics worth further exploration builds a talent pipeline for the sponsor.

Experiential sales simulations from Selleration Games deliver “learning by doing” to next generation salespeople, underpinned by an assessment system providing an immediate, real-time view into the players’ selling competencies.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.27.06 PMSilicon Valley start-up firm Knack is pilot-testing computer games to test emotional intelligence and cognitive skills. Knack’s website promises to “help people discover what makes them unique: their talents, their traits, their true potential,” while sharing the data their games glean with employers.

Gamification efforts that showcase and measure applicant skills and passions actually serve applicants as much as the companies that deploy them. Now neither party has to solely rely on a resume to prove their worthiness when a game can assess a candidate’s skills. To allay privacy concerns, engaging software like these that track behavior while serving corporate interests must be used carefully and transparently.

Besides being data-accurate, the game experience has to be worthwhile. Like other recruiting collateral and employer brand messaging, a game is a reflection on the company that provides it. One recent ineffective effort in this regard is Marriott’s “MyMarriottHotel” game, found on Facebook, which delivers a Farmville-like experience in a hotel setting. The game campaign did not catch on enough to attract candidates, falling short as a realistic job preview before it ever had the chance to provide data about participant job fit.

Automating the hiring process, if done successfully, offers huge benefits. As the industry explores applying Big Data’s predictive analytics to talent acquisition, one thing to remember is that the results are is only as good as the measurement tools created by psychometricians, who are hopefully guided by as much by human experience as by data.

Perhaps the best role for these tools may be in parsing and prioritizing possible hires rather than specifying them. For now, humans still trump computers at identifying soft skills, which are ultimately the differentiators in organizational performance.


Some of the Related Conference Sessions at the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego:

  • Incorporating Business Games Into Your Recruitment Approach, Wednesday, April 23, 11:15 a.m.
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