Gamification in HR: Need of the day

Gamification is the process of using game design techniques in a business context or in a non-game context. Using IT, games are created based on everyday routines and tasks which are used in everything from employee training and recruiting to product testing and sales force management. This exposure helps organizations to avoid any real time disaster and at the same time enhancing work experiences to be more engaging, fulfilling, fun and productive.

Gamification has often been used interchangeably with the concepts of serious games*. Here it is important to make a distinction. Serious games are simulations of real-world events or processes designed for the purpose of solving a problem. Although serious games can be entertaining, their main purpose is to train or educate users, though it may have other purposes, such as marketing or advertisement, whereas “gamification” is the use of game elements and mechanics in non-game contexts. In HR, it is the non-game context and not meant to specify entertainment. Yes, of late there are instances wherein organizations have brought in entertainment aspect too to impart knowledge about various policies and practices to their employees.

Why Organizations need gamification ?

Organisations are moving onto grab situations and interventions which can help them build their timbers to be successful in this cutthroat competitive world. Today business world has understood the importance of right attitude of people is more important than their technical skills and hence every other organization is looking for ways and means to develop their people having the right attitude, befitting their individual culture. This boundary-less world given many new opportunities for people to grow but has also simultaneously put across enormous challenges to face. These challenges are not to be tackled by having simple some functional or technical knowledge but by their application. Application of knowledge is an outcome of one’s attitude. Therefore, it has become imperative for organizations to mould their human resources into talent seamlessly by possible simulations and games. Behavior is shaped by continuous interactions with certain beliefs and absorbing them. This can be very well seen among today’s children, by their interacting with the artificial climate of games. This medium can very well utilized by organizations to groom and build their people.

Emergence of gamification

Gamification has taken a very serious turn after 2009-10 in the modern business environment. In 2013 gamification was described as the “hottest business buzz-word”. In the last 2-3 years, the buzz-word has turned out to be a reality. The gamification market is forecast to be worth $5.5 billion annually by 2018, according to Markets and Markets. Gamification has today entered into various diverse contexts as retail, education, health and well being. Already SAP uses games to educate its employees on sustainability, Unilever uses games for training, Hays uses it for hiring recruiters and the Khan Academy uses it for online education. Organisations that use gamification see better outcomes such as performance, engagement and retention. We consider that gamification is a concept that offers significant opportunities for HR professionals to demonstrate added value to businesses in numerous ways.

Gamification Theories

The whole idea of gamification is to utilize a range of theories including those of behavioural economics, human psychology, learning and development, motivation, fun, performance, communication, team-working, problem-solving, risk-taking, decision-making, job design, trust and flow.  Gamification does allow the virtual creation of an immersive experience. It uses various game elements and mechanics to help an organization to achieve employee engagement and other organizational objectives. It is about designing HR and other processes utilizing ideas of best practice from a range of fields like fun and motivation in particular.

My takes on HR gamification

In my view, for HR professionals, having skill in the field of gamification is very critical. Organizations want such HR people who can visualize future needs and can start developing such skills and needs in advance. With VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, I am sure this skill is going to take a very critical shape in coming years for HR professionals.

Gamification can very well resolve issues and challenges associated with recruitment and selection process in an organization. Induction which has become very tedious and routine activity in most of the organizations can be taken care of very well through gamification. Games can be very effective for getting people on board quickly with what they need to be doing by giving early guidance and feedback. So is the case with learning and development. The use of games can encourage learning among employees and can effectively help in achieving development of competencies.

The real success organizations can achieve, using gamification is to architect behaviour change “primarily with intrinsic rewards rather than extrinsic rewards. Likewise, gamification could be used for transparent career development process with virtual mentoring and badges for activity completion and progression.

With all these benefits on the horizon, a word of caution. Games used should be tailored to the need of an organization. What fits for an organization, may not fit others. For sure, gamification is the solution to many organizational challenges. It is the ‘emerging learning methods’, one cannot overlook. HR professionals in particular and organizations, in general, have to adopt this new age tool as quickly as possible to meet their future professional and business needs.

Rajesh Tripathi

Vice President & Head - Human Resources - GHCL Limited