4 Underestimated Dangers of Gamification in HR

For the last couple of years, gamification in HR applications has been every pundit’s favorite top tip; to the extent that some are predicting that the global market for gamified apps and services will be a $2.8 billion industry by 2016. Predictably, however, as with any ‘next-big-thing’ there are plenty of Cassandras and naysayers wagging their figures at those willing to jump on the bandwagon. And, of course, like any tool, it must be used effectively to be of any use. These are a few of the risks facing those gearing up to gamify…

It Becomes “Just a Game”

Firstly, ironically your people (either your employees or those you’re hoping to attract to become employees) may view it as just a game. Applications that seek to simulate real-world situations to assess existing skills or enable the learning of new ones are classified as ‘serious games’ but the ideal scenario is that the app is designed so well that people are simply engaged and immersed in it and don’t think of it as “a game”; as soon as they do, they stop taking it seriously. Gamification is the incorporation and use of game elements and strategies; it is not about playing games.

Employee Buy-in Drops Because of Inefficient Change Management

Sometimes, it’s not the app’s fault (or the designer’s) it’s all in how it is sold. If the achievement of rewards through striving for goals is not part of your corporate culture then the app won’t be understood. As with any new initiative or product, awareness is everything and you need to introduce gamification to HR in a way that helps your people understand its purpose. If they appreciate the end goal, they’ll see the bigger picture and not judge it purely on the superficial features such as levels and badges.

The Bandwagon Carries You Away from the Facts

Gamification in HR is new and new is often seen automatically as good. But new is also unproven. Sure, even if you dig down past the vendor hype, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest how effective gamification can be – better quality candidates when hiring, more efficient talent grooming, faster skills learning – but there are few if any studies available showing hard facts and figures. That’s not a reason not to join the party, but you will want to ask some hard questions before signing on the dotted line.

Addiction Distracts from Business Critical Tasks

Finally, let’s be honest, games are addictive. That’s actually the quality we’re trying to achieve through gamification in HR – the rush of achievement, the burning desire to go one better than the time before – we want to get people hooked on work. But if it’s successful then your people are going to want to return again and again to your gamified app, and it better be something you want them to obsess about, otherwise their time and attention and effort may be distracted from something more business critical.

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall