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Gamification enters talent war – or is it Game Over?

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by Maura Feddersen and Nina Kirsten, economists at PwC Strategy&.

Why recruiters should be serious about games

Gamification has emerged as the latest weapon in the war for talent. In the selection stage of the recruitment process, an increasing number of organisations are turning to game-style elements to improve candidate engagement and satisfaction, while still facilitating the collection of fundamental assessment information.

It is useful to make a distinction between gamified assessments and game-based assessments, where the former is predominantly a psychometric instrument that features game-style elements for better engagement, while the latter is a purpose-built game that assesses user behaviour while playing the game.

Ideally, gamification in candidate selection allows employer and candidate objectives to overlap:

When effectively deployed, gamification in recruitment assessments can:

  • raise candidates’ motivation to complete the assessment and improve the accuracy of results
  • provide immediate feedback to candidates and improve their satisfaction with the hiring process
  • convey a modern and attractive employer brand helping to attract top talent
  • reduce dropout rates helping to control recruitment costs.

However, when clumsily deployed, organisations risk that candidates do not feel taken seriously and exit the hiring process. When candidates find it difficult to detect the fairness and relevance of the game, the game will lack ‘face validity’ by not addressing the characteristics it purports to measure. In this situation, an organisation can risk reputational damage.

The challenge is to ensure that gamification in recruitment is truly fit-for-purpose and is experienced as such. Whether gamified or not, candidates experience assessments as pressured, high-stakes situations, which can limit the scope for ‘having fun’. It is crucial that the candidates’ time and effort are visibly valued. Thus, the process must be clearly justifiable and allow for an assessment of the key metrics required for the role.

Click here to read why gamification is not all fun and games, and about how to win at gamification.

It’s not all fun and games in gamification

The stakes in gamified recruitment are high for employers and candidates alike and, whether gamified or not, accuracy in the assessment of a candidate’s fit for a role remains a critical success factor for any organisation’s recruitment strategy.

It is important to consider that small cues within the gaming environment can influence participants’ responses and may sway an assessment’s validity. In fact, any environment, whether curated or not, will influence our behaviours in some way. With this in mind, behavioural economics, the science of decision-making that blends insights from economics, psychology and neuroscience, offers helpful insights into the optimisation of game-style elements in recruitment.

Below we outline the top five behavioural economics insights organisations should consider to avoid some of the most common pitfalls in gamified candidate selection

1. Avoid game situations viewed as irrelevant for the job

To ensure the assessment has face validity, candidates should be in a position to understand how the assessment is appropriate for the role. For retail jobs emphasising customer service, for example, a game-based assessment centred on operating an oil rig could lack face validity. In addition to carefully selecting the game context, organisations can consider framing the game through an introductory message that helps to explain its relevance to candidates, in particular, how it assesses their fit for the role and how the data will be used. Furthermore, candidates generally appreciate immediate feedback to gauge their results and understand their performance during the assessment.

2. Avoid overwhelming candidates with legal lingo

If the introductory description of the game presents lengthy terms and conditions, worded in complex legal language, candidates are likely to face information overload from the outset. Information overload exhausts candidates’ mental bandwidth and can lead to reduced engagement with the game, a decline in performance and greater dropout rates. Convoluted legal language can also trigger confusion and even unpleasant associations in candidates, tempering an otherwise positive assessment experience.

To avoid confusing candidates, or inducing negative associations before the game, consider the positioning and framing of the terms and conditions. If legal language is required, it should be written in plain language.

3. Avoid inundating players with cheesy game-style elements

In relation to the design and visual appeal of a gamified assessment, candidates may view anything that excessively poses as a ‘game’ as inappropriate and unprofessional. Candidates have a strong preference for assessments in which they feel that they are being taken seriously.

Gamification elements can improve the assessment experience up to a point, beyond which, the benefits not only tail off, but can also cause candidates to disassociate themselves from the experience. Fancy transitions, badges, tokens and inappropriate sounds could be over-the-top if not used organically within the broader context of the game. However, progression through challenges to new levels is a game element usually viewed positively by candidates.

4. Avoid anchoring candidates to an avatar and its personality traits

Some game-based assessments prompt candidates to select or pledge allegiance to an avatar at the start of the game, which reflects a set of personality traits, for example, bold and courageous, or cautious and measured. However, this can create a lasting connection between the candidate and the persona the avatar reflects. The candidate is primed to live up to the personality traits of the avatar, rather than to act according to his/her own preferences.

For example, if a candidate were to select an avatar known in the game for ‘negotiating’ behaviour, he/she would be more likely to choose the ‘negotiate’ or ‘retreat from battle’ options, instead of the ‘fight’ options, to live up to the association with the avatar.

It is worthwhile to consider the possible consequences for the validity of the assessment due to the priming effect of selecting or pledging allegiance to an avatar that reflects certain personality traits. By keeping the avatar a ‘blank canvas’, candidates will have greater freedom and flexibility to choose the options that best reflect their personalities.

5. Consider the impact of polarised choices and choice overload

During a game-based assessment, candidates may need to indicate, at various decision points, which action to choose given the situation encountered by their avatar. In games where candidates can choose between two polarised options only, candidates may experience difficulty expressing their preferred behaviours and may feel frustrated with the game as a result.

Candidates may feel more compelled than otherwise to choose the option that seems more socially acceptable, reflecting a social desirability bias. In a choice between two diametrically opposed actions, the game may thus bias female candidates to select more placating behaviours, while male candidates may opt for aggressive actions.

The design of response scalars can therefore cause the assessment results to be biased and prevent recruiters from selecting the candidates that are the best fit for the job. In this context, however, the impact of choice overload should also be considered. The advantages of diverse options can be cancelled out by the complexity of the options available. Excessive game complexity can reduce game enjoyment, reduce assessment accuracy and increase the dropout rate. Games must therefore strike a difficult balance between allowing sufficient nuance, while minimising biases and choice overload.

Through offering sufficient options from which to choose, candidates can engage more fully and realistically with the game, which will prevent them from selecting a similar option each time. In this way, game-based assessments can stimulate engagement, which ideally acts as a distraction from choosing an option that the candidate deems the most socially acceptable.

Click here to read about how to win at gamification.

How to win at gamification

Insights from behavioural economics, such as those outlined above, can enhance the effectiveness of gamification in recruitment assessments by highlighting how candidates react to contextual cues. Tweaking the game experience based on these insights can improve the way candidates experience the assessment, while allowing the employer access to more accurate information about the candidates’ suitability for the role.

To ensure that organisations effectively utilise gamification in their selection strategies, it is important to consider from the outset how these applications of gamification align to their recruitment objectives. Organisations may aim to differentiate the hiring process from competitors, engage candidates and boost their brand. However, the purpose of assessments remains to measure the relevant capabilities of candidates, and thus to hire the right people for the job.

It is essential for organisations to consider what applications of gamification in recruitment are right for them, if at all, and how these facilitate their ultimate recruitment objectives. At the same time, by ensuring that all game-style elements are candidate-centric, organisations can ensure an overlap of objectives between the employer and candidate – the sweet spot of effective gamification in recruitment.

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Hearables are the new wearables

Earworn devices were among the fastest growing categories of wearable in the last quarter, capturing almost half of the market

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Global wearable device shipments grew 85.2% in the second quarter of 2019 (2Q19) as shipments totaled 67.7 million units according to new data from the International Data Corporation (IDCWorldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. Earworn devices (hearables) were among the fastest growing categories, capturing 46.9% of the overall wearables market during the quarter, up from 24.8% a year ago. Driving that growth was a slew of new products and consumers who purchased their second wearable, a hearable, to use in parallel with existing watches or wrist bands.

“The growing popularity of the hearables segment is forcing existing brands to reconsider past designs when launching new products, as evident in Samsung’s popular Galaxy Buds, while also attracting new brands to market,” said Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “And though it’s still early days, the market is showing signs of emerging subsegments such as hearables dedicated to sports from the likes of Jabra, premium hearables from companies such as Bose, and ones dedicated to hearing loss such as those from Nuheara.”

“What has been driving the hearables market is the experience,” says Ramon T. Llamas, research director, Wearables. “Quality audio is still the hallmark of hearables, but additional features – ranging from adjusting audio to smart assistants and health and fitness – increase their value and utility. As prices come down and more features come on board, this next generation of hearables will become the new normal for earphones.”

Hearable Company Highlights 

Apple led the market for hearables by capturing 50.2% share during the quarter. New products such as the refreshed AirPods and the latest from the Beats lineup helped the company grow 218.2% compared to last year. With the iPhone business facing challenges, Apple’s wearables business, particularly the popularity of the AirPods, is helping the company once again become the de facto standard though this time it’s for hearables.

Samsung, thanks to its self-branded devices and the JBL brand, captured the second position during the quarter. The highly publicized Galaxy Buds were one of the company’s most popular pair of hearables as the pair was bundled with the purchase of Samsung’s latest smartphone. Additionally, the JBL Tune 500BT managed to capture a large share as the low price and wide availability helped move a lot of volume.

Xiaomi’s AirDots (amongst other models) helped the company capture the third position. Though the company primarily sells its hearables in China, Xiaomi has already started to make inroads in other markets such as Europe and the Middle East with its smartphones and wrist bands. IDC expects Xiaomi to follow suit with its hearables.

Bose, a company with a long history of headphones and other audio products, ranked fourth in this market. The company’s long lineage in audio and premium offering has helped set the company apart from the remainder of the pack. The QC35ii and the SoundSport Free were two of its most popular products during the quarter. The latest Headphones 700 and upcoming Earbuds 500 should help the company maintain momentum in the upcoming quarters.

ReSound, the parent company of Jabra, rounded out the top 5 with 5.1% share and 132.9% growth. Jabra’s Elite Active 65t have been extremely popular as an alternative to Apple’s AirPods and have also been promoted heavily on Amazon’s store, allowing the company to pitch itself as a strong consumer brand in addition to its preexisting headset business that is targeted at office workers. At IFA 2019, Jabra announced the next version of the Elite Active series, which helps modernize the hearables and should provide healthy competition for others on the list.

Top 5 Wearable Companies, Hearable Devices only, by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q2 2019 (shipments in millions)

Company2Q19 
Shipments
2Q19 Market 
Share
2Q18 
Shipments
2Q18 Market 
Share
Year-over- 
Year Growth
1. Apple15.950.2%5.055.2%218.2%
2. Samsung3.310.2%0.910.2%252.1%
3. Xiaomi2.16.5%0.32.8%714.8%
4. Bose1.85.7%0.55.1%288.1%
5. ReSound1.65.1%0.77.7%132.9%
Others7.122.3%1.719.0%310.5%
Total31.8100.0%9.1100.0%250.0%
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearables Tracker, September 9, 2019

Note: IDC defines Earwear/Hearables as the wearables that hang on or plug into the ear. The device must operate wirelessly and provide stereo sound while also including at least one of the following features:

  • Track health/fitness (e.g., Samsung Gear IconX).
  • Modify audio, and not just noise reduction (e.g., Nuheara IQbuds).
  • Provide language translation on the device (e.g., Waverly Labs).
  • Enable smart assistants at the touch of a button or through hotword detection even if the assistant is running on another device such as a smartphone (e.g., Apple’s AirPods and Google’s Pixel Buds).

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Phishing attacks hook into iOS

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The number of phishing attacks targeting users of Mac computers, iOS-based mobile devices, and the associated web services ecosystem to lure them into fraudulent schemes has reached 1.6 million in the first half of 2019 (H1-19) – proving that the growing number of users of popular digital devices is clearly attracting more and more cybercriminals!

While the volume of malicious software threatening users of macOS and the iOS mobile platform is much lower than those threating users of Windows and Android platforms, when it comes to phishing – a platform agnostic cyberthreat – things are quite different. 

Phishing attacks rely on social engineering, which means most have nothing to do with software. In fact,  Kaspersky’s recent Threats to Mac Users research highlighted that the number of cases where users faced fraudulent web pages utilising the Apple brand, as a decoy, has increased significantly in the first six-months of the year, reaching 1.6 million. This figure is around 9% greater than attacks experienced during the whole of 2018, when Kaspersky security solutions prevented more than 1.49 million attempts to access Apple-themed phishing pages.

What’s more, some regions had more macOS users hit by phishing than others, for instance, Brazil leads this list with 30.9% of users attacked, followed by India with 22.1% – and while not as prominent as other regions (and in proportion to the number of Apple device users), South Africa still sits at 17.5%.

The research is based on threat statistics voluntarily shared by users of Kaspersky Security Network – a global cloud infrastructure designed for immediate response to emerging cyberthreats.

Among the most frequent fraud schemes are those designed to resemble the iCloud service interface, aimed at stealing credentials to Apple ID accounts. Links to such services usually come from spam emails posed as emails from technical support. They often threaten to block user accounts should they not click the link. 

Another widespread scheme is the use of scaremongering pages that try to convince the user that their computer is under serious security threat and it will only take a couple of clicks and a few dollars to solve those issues. 

“While technically these fraud schemes are nothing new, we believe they pose an even greater danger to Apple users than similar schemes against users of other platforms – such as Windows or Android. This is because the ecosystem around Macs and other Apple devices is generally considered a far safer environment. Therefore, users might be less cautious when they encounter fake websites. Meanwhile the successful theft of iCloud account credentials could lead to serious consequences – an iPhone or iPad could be remotely blocked or wiped by a malicious user, for example. We urge users of Apple devices to pay more attention to any emails they receive, especially those claiming to be from technical support and requesting the user’s details or asking the user to visit a link,” said Tatyana Sidorina, security researcher at Kaspersky.

In addition to a rise in phishing, thereport also revealed other types of threats to users of macOS-based devices. The results have demonstrated some relatively positive tendencies: the most common threats for Mac users proved not to be critically dangerous malware, like banking Trojans, but instead AdWare threats, which are not-necessarily fatal and defined as ‘potentially unwanted programs’. Most are threatening users by overloading their devices with unrequested advertisements, yet some of these programs might, in fact, turn out to be a disguise for more serious threats.

Other findings of the report include:

To keep your devices safe, Kaspersky recommends:

  • Keeping macOS and all your apps and programs up to date
  • Using only legitimate software, downloaded from official webpages or installed from the Mac App Store
  • Starting to use a reliable security solution like Kaspersky Internet Security that delivers advanced protection on Mac, as well as on PC and mobile devices.

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