Retention Secret #6: Gamification

Realizing that 70% of American employees are disengaged from their work (source) is one thing. Actually doing something about it is another thing entirely. Of the many different ideas out there for boosting retention, one that has yet to receive much attention is gamification, which means using game design elements in a non-game context. Obviously, this works extremely well among generations raised in the relatively recent gaming culture, which might explain why it’s been slow to catch on. Most senior HR leaders simply haven’t put gamification on their radar screens, but that’s beginning to change.


Remember how when you were a kid your parents and maybe even your teachers made chores and schoolwork or practicing an instrument fun by turning them into games? Although the whole notion of play often gets socialized out of us, it’s still in there. People want to have fun, and that’s the overall simple aim of gamification when applied to the workplace – making work more fun. But talent management professionals can use it as well to both measure and pre-filter candidates, speed up the onboarding process, and boost the effectiveness of training efforts. In short, gamification is the new frontier in talent management, allowing the savvy HR leader to better engage, teach, entertain and measure employees for the benefit of all stakeholders.

The undisputed guru of gamification in the workplace is Mario Herger, the CEO, founder and partner of Enterprise Gamification Consultancy LLC, a strategic consulting group focused on gamification, innovation, social business, and intrapreneurship in the enterprise. Of the five books Herger has written about gamification in the workplace, one is entirely focused on applying it to talent management: Gamification in Human Resources. In addition to writing and consulting, Herger also speaks regularly about gamification in the workplace, so it’s worth checking his speaking schedule to see if you can attend one of his upcoming presentations.

One of Herger’s most interesting ideas for gamifying HR is what he calls the venture capital model of talent management. Many managers fall prey to the “too much work, too little time” mindset that prevents them from giving employees the room and training they need to really develop into their full potential. In this innovative approach, each manager begins with a starting value for each direct report working for them. If one of their employees gets promoted, or is sent to a training, the manager’s “talent portfolio” increases in value. This can then be further incentivized by a direct tie-in to year-end bonuses, with the greater the increase in the manager’s talent portfolio, the greater the bonus. This simple idea of making a game of talent management can do wonders for any organization.

This can also be structured to carry-over when an employee switches departments, and how they progress in their new department. The first manager still benefits from increases to their talent portfolio even after the employee has moved to another department, and hopefully experiences success and promotion there as well. What this does is take the focus off of the fact that the manager is losing an employee who must also be replaced. Instead, the focus is on where will that employee be able to do their best – with the original manager still benefiting as the employee continues to develop wherever they may be in the company. Both the old and new managers will benefit from the employee’s successful development.

The reason Herger calls it the venture capital model is because it’s more like the venture capital (VC) process. You know how a VC company asks all kinds of incredibly detailed questions about a company before making a substantial commitment of funding. Bringing that level of detail into the recruiting and hiring process shifts the focus from short-terms needs to longer-term analysis of what potential value a new hire can bring over time. And isn’t that what we all really want from our talent management efforts?

November 10, 2014   Updated :March 25, 2015   gamification, human resources, retention, talent management   

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