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Gamification enters talent war – or is it Game Over?



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.


TikTok looks for SA talent

The fast-rising short-video platform has launched a #PickMe campaign to discover local stars.



TikTok, which claims to be the world’s leading destination for short-form videos, launches its first PickMe campaign, an effort to discover creative talents and provide a stage to express themselves in South Africa. Starting March 1, TikTok kicked off a month-long search through participants’ 15-second videos under hashtag #PickMe.

TikTok says it is committed to investing in South Africa and discovering the local talents. The PickMe campaign is supported by its local partners like Huawei, MTV Base and Digify Africa.

Local stars, including comedian and singer Lasizwe and singer Nadia Jaftha, have joined the campaign and called for users to show their talents on TikTok.

There are 5 categories of video shooting in the campaign, namely dance, acting, comedy, singing and cosmetics. Participants need to shoot a 15-second video using TikTok using #PickMe and tag @tiktok_africa to participate in the challenge. The finalists will be selected based on their video performance. The most popular and talented participants will have the chance to win prizes like Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphones, a day at MTV Base, and a once-off-presenter opportunity and attendance at an intensive video production workshop delivered by Digify Africa.

“TikTok has definitely evolved into something that everyone loves and uses. It’s given creators a space to create more unique content and also help the creator gain a whole new kind of fan base, ” says Preven Reddy, Imbewu The Seed TV-star and Megazone radio host who is also a TikTok user.

Says TikTok video creator Mihlali Nxanga: “As a young South African working towards being in the entertainment industry, TikTok has given me the platform to grow my following tremendously. Within 6 months, my fan base has grown by a whopping 90 000, and not only from South Africa, but the whole world. For me, TikTok is not just a content platform, it is a global community.”

The campaign will wrap up on March 31. The list of the finalist will be announced in the app and on official Instagram @tiktok_southafrica. For more information, please visit the TikTok app.

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Rugby fan experience transformed by digital platform



The South African Rugby Federation has embraced digitalisation as a key enabler of its strategic aspirations. It has worked with Accenture to transform fan engagement for Springbok supporters with the launch of a digital fan platform.

“Digital technology and social media have transformed how modern fans watch, support and engage with their favourite teams,” says SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “To maintain our relevance amid this new market dynamic, and grow our fan base, we’ve acknowledged the vital need to digitally transform our organisation.”

Wayne Hull, managing director for Accenture Digital in Africa, says: “SA Rugby’s ambition to pivot to a more fan-centric strategy requires digital design, content, platforms and insights because modern consumers, including loyal Springbok supporters, engage predominantly via mobile digital channels and expect hyper-personalised experiences.”

Accenture Digital’s development process started with quantitative and qualitative research, which informed the user experience (UX) design guidelines and content strategy for the digital fan engagement platform.

“To know what fans want, we needed to understand the fans themselves,” says Hull. “The Accenture Digital team mined the research data and identified multiple fan ‘personas’, which all have different content consumption, platform functionality and engagement preferences.”

The platform development team focused on three critical elements to meet these requirements – the customer experience (CX), the engagement engine and cloud-based deployment.

“To deliver a memorable and engaging CX, Accenture Digital leveraged leading digital experience software,” says Hull. “The result is a fully integrated and responsive platform that creates seamless, personalised digital fan experiences across SA Rugby’s content, commerce and digital marketing initiatives in a manner that makes fans feel recognised and connected to the players and the game.”

The new platform will serve as the first point of call for any rugby fan who wants to get their data fix with exclusive statistics, analytics and insights. The platform’s content style will include more visual elements – videos and images – with more concise articles that are easier to digest, in accordance with evolving content consumption preferences on mobile screens. This will complement long-form thought leadership and insight pieces. 

In addition, fans will enjoy exclusive access to player-related content, such as behind-the-scenes footage and game and training performance stats. SA Rugby will also benefit from the ability to track comments and mentions via the Sitecore analytics platform Accenture Digital implemented, to respond and engage in the conversations Springbok fans are having on social media about the game, the teams or the players.

To do this, SA Rugby required a consolidated view of the customer. However, data resided in disparate sites across ticketing providers and SA Rugby’s e-commerce and online magazine databases. This information will be consolidated into the CRM system, with multiple integration points available to leverage this data.

The CRM system’s functionality will help to reveal insights such as fan communication preferences and their likes and dislikes, which will place hyper-relevance at the core of SA Rugby’s fan experience and engagement strategy.

 The final element in the platform development was cloud deployment, which allows fans to access the platform from any device that has an internet connection. The platform is hosted within the Microsoft Azure environment, which is stable, secure and fully redundant. It gives SA Rugby the flexibility to manage the platform themselves, with the option to integrate or scale additional functionality down the line.

Based on the outcome, Hull believes that Accenture Digital has successfully reimagined, built and delivered a world-class, modern and mobile-friendly digital fan platform that creates a fun, immersive and engaging experience for fans.

“It’s a major step towards helping SA Rugby realise its ambition to become a fan-centric, forward-looking and nimble organisation, and we look forward to building and developing the platform further with the team as their digital fan engagement requirements evolve,” says Hull

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