The Gamification of Talent Acquisition

In the talent acquisition industry techniques and trends rise quickly, but can fall just as fast. Within the past year the term ‘gamification’ has become a buzzword and there is debate as to whether it is embedded into the world of talent acquisition to stay or if it is a flashy tech-trend with little staying power. The term ‘gamification’ was first introduced in 2010 when it was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary and defined as, “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.” This concept has been applied to corporate strategies for identifying talent, selecting qualified candidates and retaining employees.

While the concept of gamification seems simple, if it is not executed correctly, it may produce minimal results. LinkedIn’s Talent Blog investigated five different companies that are successfully using gamification as a talent strategy. These five companies all utilize gamification for three specific reasons: to identify talent, to select talent and to improve talent retention.
LinkedIn cites the use of gamification to identify talent by Google and Dominos. As referenced in the blog, Google hosts ‘Google Code Jam,’ a software-writing competition, and invites developers and engineers to compete for monetary prizes. Google uses a social setting and prizes to attract talent, assemble them and then tests their skills via competition with their peers. Genius? No, just gamification of recruitment. Similarly, Dominos uses gamification to identify talent early in the job search process via an application. They utilize an application where users can create and sell their pizza creations. Dominos wants to attract fun, creative and innovate candidates and a ‘game’ does just that. Google and Dominos, while very different in their business models, both utilize a gamification strategy to attract and identify their specific talent pools.

Other companies, such as U.K Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British Intelligence and Security Agency, and Umbel, a big-data start-up, are utilizing gamification as a way to select candidates and promote self-select out of the process. GCHQ created a website where candidates are directed to crack an encrypted message. Cracking the code allows them to advance in the interviewing process. Not only does this allow GCHQ to test candidate’s skills, but also allows candidates to self-select out of the process if they realize their skills do not match the desired skills of the employer. Umbel created a gaming challenge in which amateur and professional coders fight in a first-person face-off where they code each of their physical movements. As they ‘fight’ within the game they are winning points, which factor into how far they advance in the interviewing process. Being able to see how coding skills match up against other professionals allows candidates to highlight their skill-set and self-select out if they feel they are not the right fit for the company.

Gamification also has been used for employee retention. Formapost, the French postal service, was struggling with new hire retention. When retention numbers are low for recent hires, it may allude to problems within the hiring process. To combat this, Formapost decided to utilize gamification and create a game where candidates could simulate a Formapost employee to gain a deeper understanding of that employee’s day-to-day responsibilities and duties. Creating this simulation allowed candidates to better grasp the position so if they were offered the position and assumed the role, their expectations were met and, in turn, they stayed with the company longer, meaning increasing new hire retention for Formapost.

While some argue that gamification may just be a trend within the talent acquisition industry, over the last five years its popularity as a strategy has spread to high-profile organizations, such as Google, as well as the start-up community. Utilizing gamification correctly has helped organizations identify talent, select candidates, and retain employees with proven results. The Aberdeen Group notes gamification impact in a survey stating “…organizations with gamification in place improve engagement by 48%, as compared to 28% with those who do not, and improve turnover by 36% as compared to 25%.” What gamification techniques has your company deployed to identify, attract or retain talent?