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Engagement Recruiting Technology Trends

Why Gamification (Conceptually) Should be Attractive to HR Vendors (& Buyers)

On my 9th Birthday, I got an original Nintendo Entertainment System.  While they had been on the market a few years, I was the first kid on our block to actually have one.  After beating Mario Bros, I set my sights on Q*Bert – a game where you have to be able to create logical patterns to change colors of cubes faster than the animals chasing you. After beating that a few times, my sites were set on Tetris – a game that required you to have decision making skills, make things fit together and take calculated risks to achieve a “Tetris”

In Odyssy of the Mind, we even held tournaments of each game, with the winner & 2nd place person taking the captain & co captain role.  (Yes, I was a gigantic nerd – but I did theater as well if that makes it any better…wait, that may make it worse…I meant I was a cheerleader too…ugh…anyway)

Even then, as nerdy little kids, we realized that games could be used for identification of friends that were…well, more in tune with duck hunt than things that needed brain power.

One of the early games developed with the purpose of being used in recruitment & HR was America’s Army – first launched in 2002 as a PC game, it has had 26 re-releases and has evolved from just recruiting to now being used for screening/selection as well as ongoing learning and development among more gov’t agencies than just military.    Its success reached farther than they ever expected and now has versions in Xbox and Xbox 360.    How successful is it?  More than 9 million copies have been downloaded.

Yet corporate human resource executives and HCM product management still didn’t really accept gamification as something real.  Could it be the generation in charge of HR and HCM Product Development are the same group that told us we were “rotting our brains” in front of the screen and should be outside playing something productive,  like dodge ball?  There has been a number of attempts to bring technology into the picture with talent management software. Though they have had success in their functionality they have not been able to match the immerse qualities of gamification.

Earlier this year, while still Principal Analyst at Bersin & Associates,  I wrote a research bulletin (FREE DOWNLOAD HERE) about Talent Assessment Vendors – which had a section on Gamification as a major part in the next generation of assessment.  I highlighted companies like US Army and Marriott for the success they were having in making relevance out of gaming.  Companies like SHL and PeopleFluent (DOWNLOAD THEIR NEW APP HERE) have already responded to the notion creating games for their clients to use.

And their clients are jumping on board quickly.  And with 300 million ACTIVE (not just registered) users on facebook games alone in Oct 2011, its easy to see why.

Are you a HCM product manager or VP of HR that still doesn’t buy in to the 15.9 billion dollar gaming industry – Check out these stats:

37 – Average age of Video Gamer
12 – Average # of years gamers have been playing
29% are over 50 (my 82 year old Nana included), only 18% are under 18


By college, most of us born in the 70’s/early 80’s had Super Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox and handhelds all in our dorm room.  The games had evolved, gotten more in depth & advanced.  They became a part of the generational culture – much like mobile has for the kids born in the late 90’s/00’s – for many of us that are now in our 30’s and taking leadership roles in organizations.

Still unsure? That’s ok.  Feel free to wait until your competition does it.

PS.  Want more analyst opinions on Gamification in HR check out – Josh Bersin’s new report, Naomi Bloom’s post on it, and analyst firm Brandon Hall’s inclusion in their HR Tech Conference wrap up,
Sarah Brennan

Sarah Brennan is a recognized HCM industry analyst and advisor focused on improving the impact of technology on people, business and the future of work.  Sarah Brennan has been named a top global influencer in HR Technology by more than 50 publications and shared her insights at speaking engagements around the world. As Chief Advisor at Accelir, she partners with HR Technology vendors and investors as an advisor, interim CxO role and on engagements focused on growth strategies, product roadmap & market education/evangelism. She also works with corporate teams enhancing talent strategies.

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