Why Hasn’t Gamification Taken Off in Talent Acquisition?

It’s been a few years since the concept of gamification first came on my radar. At the time, I was still relatively new to the world of HCM technology, and everything was bright and shiny. The Millennial in me was intrigued by the idea of using game mechanics to make tired old HR processes a little less drab. I was so intrigued that I briefly considered joining the Bunchball team.

I wasn’t the only one intrigued. Industry pundits and bloggers alike flocked to the idea of gamification and its application across various HCM processes. Gamification became a leading topic of conversation at industry events around the world. Use cases were myriad, and solution providers big and small asked themselves how gamification could be leveraged in their existing products.

Fast-forward to the present day, and it’s still a pretty novel idea. The use cases for gamification in HCM are still plentiful – especially in talent acquisition. But for some reason, gamification has become something of a HR tech faux pas. Even I – a lover of the idea of a gamified enterprise – find myself writing off a new player in talent acquisition technology who says they’re gamifying such-and-such process.

So what happened? Why hasn’t gamification swept the industry like we thought it would?

As I see it, there are a few things that led us here:

  1. HR Isn’t a Game. While gamification may have positive impact in consumer marketing, its potential in the HR process is a harder sell. Work isn’t supposed to be fun – and HR isn’t a game. Even the power of social in talent acquisition is still difficult for many HR leaders to wrap their heads around. A collection of feel-good case studies alone isn’t enough to change that.
  2. Buzzword Bingo. I mentioned gamification was a leading topic of conversation among bloggers and industry pundits. While some immediately grasped the true value of gamification and its place in the greater context of consumerization of IT, they were few and far between. Too much talk was about games – turning assessments into games, turning training into games, turning everything into games. While there are some select examples where a game can be a useful tool in HCM, the real opportunity in gamification isn’t about playing games.
  3. Cost of Entry. Social was originally a hard sell in HR – and continues to be in some organizations. Lacking established best practices for social recruiting (i.e. HR’s lack of direct control over what was said and where), the risk was just too high. But the cost to dabble in social was low, even free.  For gamification, which often depends on the overhaul of an existing process – or at least the implementation of new technology to support a more engaging experience – cost is much higher. For organizations on the fence, erring on the side of caution is just too tempting. Gamification can wait another year.

There are still a number of strong use cases for gamification in talent acquisition.

My favorite example is employee referral programs. Rewarding referrers with points, spotlighting the best and most active referrers on a leaderboard – there are lots of ways to leverage gaming concepts to foster engagement, drive program participation, and ultimately improve talent acquisition performance. Today’s leading employee referral programs are doing just that.

I also met with the founding members of a cool new social tool for talent acquisition, QUEsocial, this week. The company has game mechanics built into the platform to establish best practices and drive adoption. It’s not a bad idea – especially the way they’ve layered it into the UX – but it could require them to do some extra educating as they take the product to market.

Or I could be wrong. Maybe 2015 will be the year gamification finally takes off in talent acquisition. What do you think?

Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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