Gamified Assessments burst onto the scene in the mid 2000’s, and immediately captured the imagination and attention of many within the recruitment industry. It has since evolved into an enormous technology-centric industry worldwide, with companies built specially around the concept and billions being generated (and invested) annually. It is projected that this market alone will be worth over $5 billion by the end of 2018. So, this must mean that it is the future of the recruitment industry right? Well, let’s get more of an understanding first.

What are Gamified Assessments?

Gamified assessments are in essence, the application of typical elements of games (e.g. points, leader boards, competition, rules etc.) in non-game settings. This basically means that it is the addition of these game elements into scenarios where they do not usually apply. Over the last several years this has entered our workplace, with many organisations using this to help with employee engagement, staff development and most notably, staff recruitment. These can take various forms including personality assessments, ability tests, to more complex aptitude tests looking at decision making and reaction times.

Gamified Assessments in Practice.

Due to the ever-changing market, and the emergence of the ‘millennial’ generation, this idea of ’gaming for work’, has really garnered traction and has become a powerhouse in several countries, such as America and the UK. Some very prominent examples of this are as follows;

Gamified Assessments US ArmyU.S. Army.

For years, the U.S. Army has done a great job using games for training purposes, but now it’s using gamification to attract new recruits and promote awareness for the U.S. Armed Forces. America’s Army has attracted millions of potential new recruits. This effort dates all the way back to 1999. In 2008, four transportable “Virtual Army Experience” units made appearances at public events. For over a decade, the U.S. Army has used its expertise in creating training games as a powerful recruiting tool.

Gamified Assessment - French PostFormaposte (French Government and Postal Service).

The French postal service Formapost struggled with employee retention. After a short trial period, around one-quarter of new hires left the company—which cost Formapost extensively in recruiting and hiring budgets. So, to achieve this clear singular goal of increasing employee retention rates, the company turned to gamification. Formaposte launched Jeu Facteur Academy, which allowed players (and potential candidates) to “live” a week in a life of a new hire postal carrier. It had situations of getting them up early in the morning, learning about postal work, and even elements of ethics on the job as a way of managing realistic expectations. The gamification effort succeeded immensely. Drop-out rate went from 25% to 8% after the game was introduced in the hiring process.  According to Enterprise Gamification Consultancy, the company found candidates were better prepared and asked better questions.

Gamified Assessment - GCHQU.K. Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ.

British intelligence and security agency, the GCHQ created an encrypted message on a website and used it as part of their application process for all wannabe spies! Candidates had to literally crack the code and decipher what the hidden message was in order to advance in the process. So, not only did applicants get a sense if they were up for the challenge of the job, GCHQ was able to quickly weed out unsuitable candidates. Although this looks like a game it is probably best described as a Situational Judgement Test.

Are Gamified Assessments Reliable and Valid?

This is the very question that most people ask themselves (and definitely us!) when hearing about gamified assessments for the first time.  Is there empirical research supporting its usage for recruitment? Well the short answer is yes.

Since it has emerged on the scene, there have been countless studies looking at all manner of aspects of gamified assessments. These range from applicant reactions to its use, to the traits and abilities it measures, as well as what particular job/industry/person it benefits most. The results for the most part have indicated that it can be very reliable and valid when used correctly.  It can have potential befits such as; increased employee engagement, increased workplace happiness, better job fit (for client and organisation) and better employee retention.

What do applicants think of Gamified Assessments?

Although, it has to be mentioned, that with any research area, there has been some rebuttal. Specifically around the applicants perceptions of it and its valid use for recruitment. A study conducted in the UK in 2017, found that nearly 80% of candidates would be put off by the organisation and potential job because of gamification in the recruitment phase.  So, you could find that people will not proceed with their application.  You could be losing valuable talent.

Are Gamified Assessments right for your organisation?

As a recruitment professional are gamified assessments an acceptable selection method? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer for this, only volumes and volumes of research for you to pour through in order to be swayed one direction or another. One thing for sure, is that gamified assessments will continue to grow and develop.  Perhaps the biggest concern is will they be reliable and valid?

However, I don’t believe that recruiters should dispense just yet with many of the very well-developed tests, with proven research conducted over 100 years.  Click here to see our previous article Personnel Selection on this.  Situational Judgement Tests (SJT’s) whilst lacking some of the visual impact of gamified assessments offer a real alternative.

I often hear managers say that they believe the standards in English and Numeracy are falling.  Who would you like to recruit?  Someone good at successfully navigating through a game-based assessment or someone who can understand and interpret complex documents and ensure that the finances stack up for your business.

Jointly written by Dominic McCanny and Ciaran O’Boyle (MSc Student – Northumbria University)

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