Written by Cynthia Jenkins is Co-Founder and CMO of skillsgapp
Gaming and recruitment may seem like an unlikely duo for filling our talent pipelines, but chocolate and peanut butter were once siloed too, only to emerge as one of history’s most powerful pairings. Gamified recruitment is arguably the #1 platform in workforce development, but few companies have yet to adopt it in their hiring process. Read on for my take on today’s most strategic one-two punch on our key industries’ hiring woes.
Table of Contents
- What is Gamification in Recruitment Process?
- How Gamified Recruitment is Changing Hiring Process
- Why You Need Gamification in Recruitment Process
- How to Enhance Candidate Engagement with Game Elements
- Innovative Recruiting Process for Modern Challenges
- Benefits of Gamification in Recruitment Process
- Case Studies and Examples of Gamification in Recruitment Process
- How to Navigate Recruitment Challenges by Incorporating Gamification
- Future of AI Gamification in the Recruitment Process
- Integrating Gamification into Other HR Functions
- Incorporating Gamification with Onboarding and Training
- How Gamification Transforms Company Culture and Improves Employee Retention
- Summarizing the Impact of Gamification in Recruitment
- Future Outlook and Continuous Innovation
What is Gamification in Recruitment Process?
In the ever-evolving landscape of talent recruitment, companies are constantly seeking innovative methods to fill their talent pipelines. It should come as no surprise that those who are successful are the ones leaning into behavioral intel gleaned directly from the 70 million talent pool they’re trying to recruit: Gen Z. According to a media trend report by Deloitte, playing video games is the favorite entertainment activity among Gen Z respondents in five different countries: the US, UK, Germany, Brazil, and Japan. In fact, 96% of this group plays video games, accounting for more time spent than any other medium, including music, videos and social media.
In my opinion, this makes Gamification Hiring a pretty compelling recruitment strategy, as it integrates the most engaging elements of game design into the hiring process, by creating an interactive, digital experience for both employers and job seekers. Through leveraging the gaming principles of competition, skill-building, and rewards to assess candidates’ abilities and cultural fit, gamified hiring process offers a fresh perspective on talent acquisition without ever having to leave your seat.
How Gamified Recruitment is Changing Hiring Process
Integrating Gamification into hiring process isn’t merely about turning recruitment practices into a video game, but also leveraging key game strategies to elicit genuine and revealing behavioral traits from prospective employees. This innovative recruiting approach has disrupted traditional recruitment strategies like job fairs, websites and career videos, which are, as I’ve witnessed firsthand, typically one-and-done experiences with little to no access to a candidate’s career-relevant skill set or talents.
Gaming platforms also expand a company’s reach through mobile technology. With the number of active mobile gamers worldwide hitting over 2.2 billion today, budget-laden job fairs are being eclipsed, as they can only reach a fraction of that wider audience, and are typically held once or twice a year. Mobile technology, however, allows for location-specific targeting, 24/7. Companies can target an entire region or state with a mobile video game using geo-location technology, instead of just the handful of students right in front of them.
What’s more, gamification and the game theory introduce dynamic simulations, interactive game based assessments, and real-time challenges that allow companies and recruiters to observe and evaluate candidates’ problem-solving and communication skills in a more authentic and private manner than in a public setting. This departure from conventional methods not only adds an element of fun to the traditional recruitment process but also provides a more holistic view of a candidate’s abilities, fostering a more informed and insightful decision-making process for the hiring team.
Gamification in recruitment and hiring also addresses the evolving expectations of the modern workforce. “Companies using mobile career games for recruitment is a fish-where-the-fish-are strategy,” says Erin Ford, executive vice president and chief operating officer for SCBIO, South Carolina’s life sciences industry organization. “By engaging this next workforce generation where they are – on their phones – via their preferred form of entertainment, we now have the ability to scale both awareness and recruitment for our entire state’s life sciences industry.” Smart woman. In an era where job seekers are looking for employers who prioritize innovation, engagement, and employee satisfaction, gamified recruitment aligns with the preferences of tech-savvy candidates who are accustomed to interactive and immersive experiences.
Furthermore, the data-driven nature of gamified recruitment adds a layer of objectivity to the hiring process. Gamification allows for the collection of quantifiable data on a candidate’s performance, not appearance. This data-driven approach to recruiting process enables recruiters to make more informed hiring decisions based on concrete evidence of a candidate’s skills, capabilities and personality traits, reducing the risk of bias and promoting a fair evaluation process. It also captures the attention of potential hires seeking a commitment to a dynamic and inclusive company culture.
Why You Need Gamification in Recruitment Process
According to the Korn Ferry Institute, an overall global talent shortage could leave more than 85.2 million unfilled jobs in multiple sectors by 2030, costing companies trillions of dollars in lost economic opportunity. The United States alone could miss out on $1.748 trillion in revenue due to skilled labor shortages, predominantly in advanced manufacturing. Left unchecked, the financial impact of this talent shortage could reach $8.452 trillion in unrealized annual revenue by 2030, equivalent to the combined GDP of Germany and Japan. Ouch.
But our talent shortage isn’t because we don’t have enough people to fill these jobs. Sixty-five million youth are graduating high school over these same six years; half of them, however – mostly minorities – will graduate and end up in low wage jobs due to lack of opportunity. Nope, our talent deficit is due to lack of awareness of these careers, many of which require less than a four-year degree to start. Potential promoters – high school curricula, career counselors, and parents – aren’t presenting them as viable pathways, despite starting salaries of $60k+ a year with the promise of upward economic mobility for our most marginalized populations.
Using gamification in HR for career awareness and recruitment process not only eliminates the middleman, or lack of one, but takes advantage of the shift in the company culture. The Entertainment Software Association reports that Americans spend an average of seven hours a week playing online games, and according to the Pew Research Center, 95% of 13- to 17-year-olds have access to a smartphone. This means companies using gamification in recruiting and in their hiring process can go wherever their prospective candidates go: Anywhere, at any time, on their own volition.
How to Enhance Candidate Engagement with Game Elements
One of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century, Abraham Maslow, established “the hierarchy of motivation,” theorizing that in any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth, or to step back into safety. Both are immersive actions but inspired by disparate levels of engagement. Mobile gaming, by design, commands a step-forward posture. Phone in hand with eyes on the screen, a player must be alert and engaged. The late film and music editor Norman Hollyn calls this the “Lean Forward Moment,” where the audience has an emotional reaction that causes him or her to lean forward and pay more attention.
Four in-game mechanics that enhance candidate experience and engagement during the hiring process, explained:
Self-determination theory identifies three primary psychological needs that drive most behaviors:
These basic needs promote engagement in a candidate, independent of extrinsic reward. Video games, by design, check each of these boxes via in-game mentorship and challenges that can increase in difficulty, directly improving desired skills development. “Career” games also make career readiness a lot more fun than traditional methods during the recruitment process.
In contrast to the intrinsic motivation from above, video games can also use extrinsic rewards to reinforce desired behaviors, including task-noncontingent rewards, and rewards of glory. The former can consist of kudos and likes from other players in the game, or by in-game mentorship from companies or postsecondary institutions, all of which promote feelings of relatedness and autonomy. Rewards of glory consist of points, achievements, badges, or animations, and can support competence needs by providing feedback and shareable bragging rights over game elements.
Gen Z is more likely to devote cognitive effort and attention toward an activity they perceive to be personally relevant. By tailoring game narrative to align with their values, companies can persuade talent in a way other forms of persuasion may not. Creating game characters a player identifies with, or by casting the player themselves as the main character are both powerful tools of engagement.
4. Proteus Effect.
The Proteus Effect represents the experience of embodying an avatar in a virtual environment, which affects multiple aspects of cognition and behavior of the player. Being in a virtual experience allows players to control many aspects of their appearance they cannot easily change in the real world, allowing a player to “try careers on” in an arena void of stereotypes. This is especially powerful in breaking down biases within trade-specific careers.
Innovative Recruiting Process for Modern Challenges
A student’s proficiency in tech and their familiarity with video games can actually prepare them to command the technology found in many industries looking for talent, specifically advanced manufacturing. Working robotics or operating machinery are tasks that tend to come naturally to Gen Z, who, as we’ve all witnessed, have had some kind of device in their hand for over a decade.
Barbara Humpton, President and CEO of Siemens Corporation, spoke to the benefits of gaming and career readiness at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Forward event: “The tools of engineering are becoming very interactive, so the skills we develop as we play games today translate directly into the kind of work that needs to be done in the engineering framework of the future.” Debbie Dickinson of Crane Industry Services concurs, noting that “people who are comfortable with video games are very comfortable with simulation technology,” according to an article by Construction Dive.
Benefits of Gamification in Recruitment Process
Traditional recruitment process through job banks and boards isn’t effective at reaching students who are not yet on the job market, but poised to choose a career path that could lead them to one post-secondary. This hiring process is also ineffective in reaching those who are already employed, but may not naturally think of switching careers into one of the many available in, you guessed it, advanced manufacturing. Which is why today’s tight labor markets require more innovative and broad-reaching strategies that can both influence perception of these careers early on, as well as provide access to skills development that will make a future candidate employable, and interested.
1. Gamification in Recruiting Lowers Costly Attrition.
The manufacturing industry is plagued with one of the highest turnover rates of any U.S. industry. Misalignment of expectations accounts for 60% of turnover, which is why many employers offer Realistic Job Previews, or RJPs, that offer a realistic look into what a job is actually like – no sugar coating – showing both the positives and negatives. This provides a candidate a feel for what a typical day would look and feel like, the depth of knowledge and skills required, boundaries of their specific responsibilities, work schedule requirements, and the quality of work you’re looking for. While a trusted qualifier in candidacy, logistically and operationally, this is very expensive. Allowing potential future candidates to “try on careers” in a game, by contrast, provides a more vetted pipeline.
2. Gamification Elements Help Scale Recruitment Efforts.
While it’s been said before, it’s worth repeating. We don’t have a people problem when it comes to filling our talent pipeline, we have an awareness problem. Therefore, scaling our outreach efforts requires the same kind of digital transformation advanced manufacturers have already operationalized. They’ve already proven that converting manual and analog processes into digitized recruitment processes creates better outcomes by connecting people, places, and things. Similarly, gamification in recruitment process on a mobile platform widens a recruiter’s net through:
3. Gamification in HR Allows to Reach Talent Earlier in the Recruitment Process.
Giving middle-and high-schoolers access to the lexicon, pathways and skills needed for them to decide career interests for themselves, void of parent or teacher influence, provides them with the agency to intentionally pursue that career, earlier, before they’ve chosen another path. According to The Fabricator, one welder states that earlier exposure to what skilled-based trades entail is key. “Let them discover the joy of running a bead or fabricating a catwalk or milling a hub as a kid. Or let them find out they hate it. Either way, you’re going to attract people who want to be where they are, instead of being everyone’s Plan B.”
Case Studies and Examples of Gamification in Recruitment Process
Let’s explore some practical examples and applications of gamification in HR that can provide actionable insights.
America’s Army Proving Grounds
The U.S. Army, one of the most revered workforces in the world, began using gaming to inform, educate, and recruit prospective soldiers in 2002. For the next two decades, “America’s Army Proving Grounds” was the official game for the U.S. Army that let players try out virtual missions and maneuvers that echo true-to-life Army scenarios. The game garnered millions of downloads and attracted a substantial player base. Its realistic depiction of military scenarios, coupled with the use of actual Army training procedures, gave players a glimpse into the Army experience and served as a cost-effective and technologically modern method for the Army to engage with the younger demographic where they spent a significant amount of their leisure time.
HACK OUT BL4CKOUT
San Bernardino, the largest geographical county in the country, was hosting its annual STEM event virtually in 2021 due to COVID-19. With two counties’ students expected to attend, engagement was a concern, along with meaningful career awareness and pathways to support Southern California’s key industry sector, cybersecurity/IT. To support this initiative, our team at skillsgapp developed HACK OUT BL4CKOUT, a mobile-friendly video game designed to simulate real-world cybersecurity scenarios with corresponding career pathways at the end of each challenge. Over 10,000 sessions were recorded with a career recall of 89%. The game is now deployed nationally on American Student Assistance’s Evolve Me(™) platform, where teens are rewarded for career exploration and experimentation.
Life Sciences is the fastest growing industry in South Carolina, with over 1,000 companies that employ over 87,000 people. To proactively fill this growing sector’s talent pipeline, the state’s life science industry organization, SC Bio, offers “Rad Lab,” skillsgapp’s free-to-play mobile game to all of South Carolina’s middle-and high schoolers. Three life sciences clusters are represented in the game including R&D & Clinical Trials, Manufacturing & Production, and Logistics & Distribution. Potential recruits acquire essential and marketable skills development, along with corresponding career awareness, local pathways and employment opportunities from surrounding companies.
How to Navigate Recruitment Challenges by Incorporating Gamification
According to a recent survey, the most common recruitment challenges are both costly and painful. Good news! Gamified recruitment can alleviate both.
76% percent of hiring managers report attracting the quality candidates with the right skills is their greatest challenge. This is because the recruitment – candidate relationship has flipped. Instead of potential candidates actively approaching companies, now extra effort is needed from recruitment teams to grab a candidate’s attention, any candidate, to fill an immediate hole. The problem is that the cost of one bad hire is nearly $15,000. The Undercover Recruiter reports that it can even cost companies up to $240,000 in expenses related to hiring, pay, and retention.
Gamified recruitment through mobile video games checks the following hiring boxes:
Future of AI Gamification in the Recruitment Process
Generative AI is poised to revolutionize gamified recruitment, in my estimation, offering a dynamic and adaptive learning experience for candidates. By leveraging the power of generative algorithms, AI allows recruitment games to adapt to the user’s proficiency level, interests, and progress, presenting challenges and content that align with hiring team’s specific needs.
This level of customization not only keeps players engaged but also promotes a deeper understanding of the candidate’s hireability and personality traits. By breaking away from one-size-fits-all hiring approaches, utilizing generative AI in gamified recruitment is ushering in a new era of vetted talent.
Integrating Gamification into Other HR Functions
Forward-thinking companies are already successfully incorporating gamification with HR functions beyond recruitment, reshaping traditional processes and enhancing employee engagement and retention. By infusing elements of game design into onboarding, training and assessments, hiring managers are not only making routine tasks less boring but also fostering a company culture based on motivation, collaboration, improvement, and, well, fun.
Incorporating Gamification with Onboarding and Training
Gamification in recruiting can seamlessly transition into gamified onboarding and strengthen training processes. Here’s my take on how:
Gamification elements allow future employees to better control their learning experiences.
It’s essential to keep recruits engaged throughout the entire onboarding process, beyond just getting them in the door. Sitting down to watch a series of videos during skills training actively gets someone’s attention. However, by giving them some control over the progression of their training, you can make them an integral part of the process rather than just having them passively observe.
Gamification in HR offers faster feedback to improve training procedures in real time.
Continu notes, “With more traditional training, you learn your score, or are given advice once your session is completed. With gamification in training, employees are given feedback as they progress throughout the training.” This allows for real-time adjustments to be made as the training continues, making the process more efficient and attractive to a newer, digitally-minded generation.
Game-like elements allow perspective employees to retain more information.
Making training interesting is key for new recruits to stay with you throughout the process. If it’s a bore, they won’t retain as much or be excited about it. Gamification allows employees to enjoy the process, retain more, and ultimately use these newfound skills to strengthen your company. Their success can also inspire loyalty, mitigating costly attrition.
The U.S. Department of Defense uses gamification in recruitment to safely train soldiers and reports:
How Gamification Transforms Company Culture and Improves Employee Retention
Gamification has become an integral component across the entire employee lifecycle. Tenured employees often encounter gamified training modules, turning learning into a dynamic and engaging experience.
Virtual reality (VR) has emerged as a cutting-edge tool for upskilling, with companies like Walmar implementing simulations of realistic scenarios, where employees can practice skills in a safe virtual environment, enhancing their proficiency and procedural compliance.
As employees progress in their careers, gamified performance reviews and recognition programs can also contribute to a positive company culture, motivating individuals to excel and fostering healthy competition.
Summarizing the Impact of Gamification in Recruitment
Utilizing gamification for recruitment is transforming the talent development landscape for all of the reasons above, but the high-hard ones, in my opinion, are as follows:
Future Outlook and Continuous Innovation
In my extensive research, understanding how to optimize the job recruitment process can shorten the hiring cycle by 60% while improving quality. And a whopping 68% of recruiters said that investing in new recruitment tech is the best way to improve hiring performance. So as the job market continues to evolve, talent engagement and recruitment strategies must evolve too. Career gaming isn’t just a trend; it represents the future of workforce development. Companies that embrace this innovative approach are not only better positioned to attract and retain Gen Z talent but also to foster a diverse workforce that is more informed, engaged, and capable.
About the Author
Cynthia Jenkins is Co-Founder and CMO of skillsgapp and Skillionaire Games, a first-of-its kind workforce initiative that connects youth to life-changing careers through game-changing play. Cynthia helps industries, sectors, agencies, individual corporations, and states creatively tap into different talent markets that often go overlooked.