candidates feeling ‘on the spot’. In terms of neurochemistry, as much as adrenaline will put us on edge - which can be a good thing to drive performance - ultimately, it will wear us out and render us less able to concentrate. The goal in recruitment and talent management is to accurately assess talent - it shouldn’t feel like a character assassination - its purpose is to ascertain what people are truly good at.

Accessibility and potential reach are crucial elements of recruitment, development and talent management, and it’s one where gamification brings substantial benefits. For a start, it can be deployed remotely - there’s no reason why someone couldn’t complete gamified assessments from a remote location. This broadens the talent pool by allowing people who might not be able to attend a face-to- face assessment due to location, travel or personal mobility restrictions, to take part and show their true potential. When correct, gamification also breaks down cultural barriers, because by forgoing spoken or written language in assessment, we strip out language difference difficulties - be they in translation, validation or reliability, or culturally- specific triggers - potentially improving diversity and inclusion. Candidates can actually enjoy their gamified assessments. Some even go back and ‘play’ them over and over. This may seem a nice-to-have, or a pleasing side consequence, but it’s actually crucial to business. A positive, rewarding and engaging experience can change how HR is perceived. People see that their own unique talent is being recognised, and is the predominant factor a business is using to recruit. That is hugely powerful both in terms of personal and professional engagement, and for brand values and brand persona. A great experience with meaningful, engaging assessment through gaming is extremely valuable.

The first note of caution we must strike, however, is that gamification is very easy to do badly. We can take two anecdotes from strikingly different settings, to illustrate how unexpectedly, and easily, well-intentioned game design can backfire - even for experts. The first is from clinical testing, where researchers adapted a test to make it suitable for children. They ploughed resources into creating a gamified version of the assessment, which was very visually engaging and introduced characters in an attempt to appeal to children. Unfortunately, this kind of interest and excitement in a game brings about the worst-case scenario; the children’s interest in the characters completely distracted them from working through the tasks the game had been designed to test their ability to perform. The results were close to random. In another example; when developers launched the hotly-anticipated console game Half-Life 2, the gaming mechanisms they employed - and the physics behind the outstanding graphics - were phenomenal, as was the associated financial investment. The developers noticed that players became stuck in a particular section - why? Was there a bug? Were players unclear about the game at that




Are there plans to increase gamification in your firm?

56% No 44% Yes

point? To their surprise, the developers eventually identified the glitch; a truck tyre suspended from a tree in the gaming environment. This tyre swing was so realistic and so engaging, that people stopped in the game and spent ten-to-15 minutes just pushing that tyre to see what would happen. It completely broke the game paradigm, in terms of focus. The second note of caution is that two fundamentals to any visual design are deep pitfalls for gamified assessment. Even as we start thinking about what we might gamify. Even the fundamental visual functions of shape and colour have cultural connotations and unexpected associations that run deep and can easily play havoc with the objectivity and accuracy of gamified assessment. As a general rule, abstraction tends to be beneficial. The more ‘real’ a game appears, the further you move from people exhibiting real behaviour as they play it. The more the game appeals visually, the less people focus on the actual task in hand. Gamification is similar to many other technology and software processes; the simpler it looks, the more time and resource it took to develop. It’s easy to assume that younger people are happier taking part in gamified assessments and even have an advantage over older applications. Not so, when it’s properly set up, gamification is truly age-blind. Game mechanics being applied to test professionals will not use game visualisations to make the process ‘look fun’, for example. The driver must come from the accuracy and accessibility of the result. A follow-up to this question shines a light on other preconceptions of game-playing and gamers; do recreational gamers have an advantage in this type of assessment? The short answer is, that they probably do. It’s to be expected, hours of computer gaming will have trained their information processing skills, their reaction speeds, and their ability to multitask. Whatever preconceptions you, or your business, may have about the stereotype of gamers, there is ever- accumulating evidence to confound these. Put simply, they have an advantage because they’ve put in the work to become better, and they will bring exactly those sharpened skills to the workplace. Clearly, it’s time to reframe our thinking around gaming and assess gamification in for its enormous potential for HR and the wider business. Undoubtedly, there are deep-seated misgivings about giving over control of recruitment and selection to “the robots”, but we must come to accept that the humanity of HR is better employed - and valued, by business and by employees - in other places. As with any powerful tool, particularly the attractive ones that seem easy-to-use, it comes with a user warning. As we’ve seen, it can be a fine line between success and failure.


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MAY 2019 | thehrdirector | 21

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