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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.


Cape Town not so calm – if you’re a driver

Cape Town drivers lose on average 162 hours a year to traffic jams, so will need some tech and a few tips to stay calm



Cape Town drivers lose, on average, 162 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, and the city is ranked 95th out of around 200 cities, across 38 countries surveyed globally, in terms of congestion issues.

That’s according to the latest INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard, which is an annual analysis of mobility and congestion trends. The study provides a data-rich evaluation of information collected during peak (slowest) travel times, and inter peak (fastest point between morning and afternoon commutes) travel times. Together they provide a holistic account of congestion throughout the day, delivering in-depth insights for vehicle drivers and policy-makers to make better decisions regarding urban travel and traffic health.

Of the further five South African cities surveyed:

  • Pretoria drivers lose, on average, 143 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, ranking as the 64thmost congested city
  • Johannesburg drivers lose an average of 119 hours annually, ranking 61st
  • Durban drivers lose 72 hours, ranking 141st
  • Port Elizabeth drivers lose 71 hours, ranking 75th
  • And Bloemfontein drivers lose 62 hours, ranking 165th

If these hours sound horrific, spare a thought for the poor drivers in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá who lose, on average, a whopping 272 hours a year stuck in traffic jams!

On average, drivers’ commutes increase by roughly 30% during peak versus inter-peak hours. And the reality is that congestion issues aren’t going away anytime soon. Not here in SA, or anywhere else in the world. So what can we, as drivers, do to make the situation easier to cope with on our daily commute?

Change of mindset

Stressing about the unavoidable, the inevitable, and all the things that are out of our control – like congestion caused by accidents, faulty street lights, or bad weather – is a waste of energy. We should try finding ways of using that time in our cars more productively, to create a less tense, more positive experience. Learning to change our perspective about this challenging time, and associating it with something enjoyable, can drastically alter our reaction to and engagement with it. Rather than expending all our energy on futile anger and frustration, we can channel our focus on things that relax or energise us instead.

Just one more chapter

Being stuck in traffic usually aggravates us because it feels like a huge waste of valuable time. But like a wise man once said, time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Listening to a podcast or audiobook can not only be entertaining, but also educational, which is a brilliant use of your time. Ifyou think of your car as a ‘learning lab’, a mobile university of sorts, and your time spent inside as away to exercise your brain and grow intellectually, you may even find yourself wishing for bad traffic so you have an excuse to carry on listening to your podcast or audiobook.

Tame your inner Hulk

Pulling up a playlist of your favourite, feel-good songs can do wonders to combat stress levels. Downbeat music has been proven to have a mellowing effect on drivers. Making a quick switch to downbeat music shows measurable physiological improvements, with drivers calming down much sooner, and making fewer driving mistakes. So the next time you feel your inner Hulk emerging, crank up the volume on your favourite tunes.

The power of ‘caromatherapy’

There are numerous studies on aromas and their impact on human emotion, behaviour, and performance. Researchers have found that peppermint can enhance mental and athletic performance and cognitive functioning, while cinnamon may improve tasks related to attentional processes and visual-motor response speed. A study from Kyoto University in Japan revealed that participants reported significantly lower hostility and depression scores, and felt more relaxed after awalk through a pine forest. It makes sense then, to incorporate some ‘caromatherapy’ into our lives. There are plenty of off-the-shelf car diffusers available, or you could add a few drops of essential oil to DIY felt air fresheners. Citrus scents like orange or lemon can provide a boost of energy, while rosemary can relieve stress and anxiety. Take care not to hang anything that might obstruct your field of vision though, and always make sure to test out essential oils at home first, in case a scent makes you dizzy or overly relaxed, which could affect driving focus.

Contemplate your navel

The mind is a powerful thing, and simply willing yourself to relax might be the most effective method of all. While we don’t recommend meditating while driving due to safety reasons, breathing exercises can help you stay focused and feeling calm. One useful practice is the one-to-one technique – breathing in and out for the same count with the same intensity. Deep, measured breaths facilitate full oxygen exchange, helping to slow down the rate of your heartbeat and stabilise blood pressure, as opposed to shallow breathing, which doesn’t send enough air to the lowest part of your lungs, causing you to feel anxious and short of breath. Just always keep your eyes on the road, and take care to ensure you’re not so busy counting breaths that your concentration is compromised.

Not all those who wander are lost

Some of our best ideas come in those moments where we’re alone with our own thoughts, able to really reflect on the ideas we have without having something immediate that needs our attention. Allow your mind to wander, and do a little brainstorming. Alternatively, use the time to simply day dream. Remember, downtime is not dead time. It is both necessary, and important for your mental health. Use this time as an opportunity to take care of yourself.

In-built vehicle tech

“As we spend more and more time commuting, cars are being designed to accommodate longer periods behind the wheel,” says Kuda Takura, smart mobility specialist at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “Ford uses human-centric design to deliver vehicles that are inviting, accommodating, and intuitive. For example, our SYNCT infotainment system offers nifty, hands-free functions, like allowing drivers to listen to their texts, change music or climate settings, and make phone calls easily with voice control. Our range of driver-assist technologies, like Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Semi-Auto Active Park Assist, are also designed to take some of the stress off city driving. If our lifestyle means that we might be spending more time in our cars than we do on holiday, then we should make sure we make the most of that time.”

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Vodacom exits Africa biz services



Vodacom Group has sold Vodacom Business Africa’s operations in Nigeria, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire to Andile Ngcaba’s Synergy Communications. The two entities are in the process of concluding the acquisitions, which are subject to the approval of the regulatory authorities within these markets.

Vodacom says the transaction supports the Group’s enterprise strategy in Africa, which has been refocused to grow and strengthen its core business. It will no longer directly service global enterprise customers in these three markets but will rather continue to operate as a pan African telecommunications networks provider through local relationships, like the one with Synergy Communications. 

This acquisition represents a significant milestone in Synergy Communication’s quest to be a leading provider of cloud and digitally based services in key markets across sub-Saharan Africa and provides key additional assets in its build out of a regional footprint. Synergy Communications currently has operations in Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.

Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Synergy Communications said: “This is an exciting landmark transaction for Synergy Communications, providing us with additional momentum in the delivery of our strategy as a pan-African enterprise digital Services Provider. Synergy Communications will partner with major global cloud providers and deliver platform-based services to both multi-nationals and local enterprises.”

Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group, said: “Vodacom has a clear vision for strengthening our position as a leading pan-African business and will work with local service providers like Synergy Communications to grow in these markets. Crucially, Vodacom is not exiting any of the territories related to this transaction and remains focused on continuing to deliver exceptional service to our global and multinational clients in these markets through long-term commercial agreements. 

“To support the sustainable growth of pan African digital economies and building connected societies, Vodacom will, via local service providers, continue to service clients in each market. We seek to leverage the collective strengths of Vodacom and Synergy Communications to meet the changing requirements of clients across each of these markets.”

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