Plantville: Gaming as a Recruiting Tool

Apr 14, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Of course you know about the rapid growth of the series of Facebook-based games Farmville, CityVille, and the like. Some estimates indicate as many as 250 million people play one of the ‘Ville’-style social games.

With so many people, across all demographic groups, engaging in these massively popular games online, it only makes sense for organizations that are facing recruiting challenges to look for opportunities to use these gaming concepts in their recruiting and candidate engagement efforts.

The Germany-based industrial company Siemens is one such company that is experimenting with games, at least in part as a recruiting vehicle. Specifically, Siemens has developed an online interactive game called ‘Plantville’, that gives players the opportunity and challenge of running a virtual factory, complete with evaluation of key performance indicators, allocation of scarce capital funds, and the ability to improve process efficiency with the purchase and installation of (naturally) more Siemens equipment. Factory managers in Plantville have to hire and deploy workers, balance worker safety and satisfaction against production delivery schedules, and continuously adapt strategies to changing external conditions.

It actually sounds like a fun game, in a geeky kind of way.

While the game serves as a kind of marketing tool to help educate the public, current employees, and potential customers about Siemens products, the executives at Siemens also see the Plantville game as a part of their employee recruiting strategy.

In a recent Business Week article about the increasing use of games in various business scenarios, Siemens Tom Varney, head of marketing communications, observes, “With Plantville, we think there’s a big educational play with colleges and high schools.” Varney also indicates he hopes the game can help make manufacturing more attractive to young people. “We have about 3,000 jobs posted in the U.S. at Siemens, many in technology or manufacturing,” he says. “We’re hoping to inspire a new generation of plant managers.”

It is an interesting approach, and one that makes sense in what by many accounts seems to be a tightening labor market for high-skilled and high-tech candidates. It has to be difficult for more traditional manufacturing companies that are facing mounting pressures to groom the next generation of technical and managerial talent to compete for the most desirable candidates with the likes of Google, Facebook, and ironically, Zynga, the makers of many of the popular ‘Ville’ games.

Could online interactive games like ‘Plantville’ capture the energy, attention, and fascination of enough young people to help make manufacturing exciting again?

Are you seeing more companies looking to leverage the insane popularity of these kinds of games for recruiting purposes?

Meanwhile, I need to run – I am thinking of installing some high-tech security cameras in my ‘Plantville’ factory.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.