Gamification in recruitment: are firms missing an opportunity?

Gamification is increasingly touted as a way for big firms to improve recruitment programmes, staff training and retention, but if the results of a recent survey are to be believed (and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t) wholesale uptake isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

The report – commissioned by people management firm Penna – found that far from rushing to bring gamification technologies in to their recruitment programmes, many companies have no interest in adopting its techniques.

In addition, the survey found, despite gamification currently being bang on-trend in the HR and recruitment sectors, 89 per cent of employees had never actually heard the term.

Gamification may be in vogue, but when Penna asked leading HR directors about its use in the workplace, and 70 per cent said it had never been used at their organisation.

The survey found that HR directors believe gamification could be a powerful tool, but cost, lack of organisational support, and a culture of apathy towards gamification were significant barriers to adoption.

Survey respondents cited industry culture (36 per cent) as the top barrier to adoption, followed by the perceived capital cost (27 per cent) of implementing new programmes or adopting new technology.

The survey also suggest that executives had misgivings about investing in gamification as it was new area without any real proof or guarantee that using it could deliver results.

So far, not so great.

So what is gamification? Put simply, it’s a way of making recruitment more appealing by shaping the process around elements found in games that fire our natural tenancies – namely, reward and competition.

As long ago as 2011, information technology firm Gartner predicted by the end of 2014 more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organisations would have at least one ‘gamified’ application. It came to this conclusion driven by the broad trend (mainly in marketing and advertising at that time) of applying game mechanics to non-game environments to motivate people and change behaviour.

While take-up of gamification might not have been strong in the four years since those predictions were made, that wasn’t sufficient to stop many observers predicting in recent months that 2015 might herald the belated take-up of gamification in recruitment – as some firms had at last started to look more seriously at the proposition.

While the Penna study results appear to pour cold water on those predictions in the short-term, it doesn’t rule out how important some feel gamification could be to the HR and recruitment sector in the longer term.

Even though 44 per cent HR directors said their organisation wasn’t interested in exploring the uses of gamification, more than half of the same respondents (52 per cent) said they were “massively interested” in using gamification to improve the performance of employees.

Commenting on the findings of the study, Gary Browning, chief executive of Penna, said organisations that had no interest in gamification were “missing out”.

HR Magazine reported Browning saying: “Whether it’s creating a game to aid with recruitment, highlighting a typical day in the office for prospective candidates, or supporting employees with bite-sized learning technology that utilises reward systems, there is huge potential for gamification to give businesses significant competitive advantage.”