Gamification: when work becomes play

Videogames are increasingly being used for training and recruiting purposes

Treasure hunts, “obstacle course” parties, professional speed dating. Who said work has to be boring? For a couple of years now the gamification trend has been breathing new life into all types of working environment. You know videogames, right? Well, take them and apply them to e-learning training courses, recruitment or, more simply, the sale of a product or service and the rest is quite literally child’s play. The term became mainstream in 2010 thanks to Jesse Schell, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who in Las Vegas described how gaming was set to invade real life: “It will burst out of consoles and PCs to become part of our everyday lives. You’ll even be able to score points by brushing your teeth” – he guaranteed. He wasn’t wrong. Almost 10 years later gamification is everywhere. Businesses have begun replicating the typically playful mechanism of games with a clear goal: to capture the attention of their target audience, particularly the young.

In fact, gamification will become an increasingly important tool in marketing, as well as in HR and the social arena, for attracting those born in the new millennium (“Generation Z”). Indeed, it is estimated that around 2/3 of Italian businesses have projects of this type in the pipeline, particularly for recruiting and training, so much so that agencies specialising in this type of business have begun to crop up. For example, Friendz is a digital marketing company that was founded by Cecilia Nostro, Alessandro Cadoni, Daniele Scaglia and Giorgio Pallocca. They specialise, among other things, in the organisation of non-traditional job interviews. “We began by experimenting among ourselves – explains Cecilia Nostro – Friendz was the first professional experience for most of us so when we needed to hire new staff we said to ourselves: what kind of credibility do we have to sit on the other side of the interview desk? We aren’t experienced company managers. So we organised a party via Facebook”. Lots of people replied to the invitation and at the party they took part in aptitude tests with escape rooms which they had 60 minutes to get out of. The prize: a job, or rather three jobs. Because the three winners ended up joining the team.

But Friendz is far from an isolated case, quite the opposite. Gamification is increasingly used in recruitment processes because if offers scope for thinking outside the box. Whereas in traditional interviews candidates tend to prepare set answers, through gaming they demonstrate their true selves, enabling companies to test all of the other skills that are hard to gauge from the classic CV, such as creativity, problem solving and stress management. UBI Banca, for example, recently launched the application “UBIverse: put your skills to the test”. Aimed at students and young workers, it is designed to acquaint them with a different side of the bank and provide them with useful advice as they take their first steps in the working world. Participants find themselves immersed in a working adventure set in the future, in a world in which technology is important but where the human factor continues to make the real difference. The game requires players to pass different tests in 3 phases. The first phase is based on the importance of relational skills in creating a diverse team capable of making the most of everyone’s skills and strengths; the second phase focuses on the cognitive-managerial dimension and involves logic and mathematical puzzles, questions on current affairs, technology and the evolution of the banking world; the third phase tests the speed-of-thought of the player with tests of increasing difficulty, with the ultimate aim of opening a bank vault. At the end of the game the player will have created their own virtual CV on the basis of the goals they have achieved and will therefore be able to apply for vacancies at UBI Banca via LinkedIn.

But it is a truly global trend. One of the trailblazers in the area has been the Marriott chain of hotels. Candidates for an open position must play an interactive simulation, similar to the game Farmville, acting as the manager of the hotel or head of the kitchen, completing daily tasks and earning points that help them to achieve their goals. L’Oréal have done something similar with a game called “Reveal” through which players experience the launch of a new product or other workplace situations in five company sectors: Finance & Controlling, Marketing, Operations, Research & Innovations, Sales & Development. The candidate/player goes up against other participants and at the end of the game compiles a score which can enable them to win material prizes and, more importantly, to be selected for the company’s real recruitment process.

And that’s not all: games are increasingly being used for training purposes. In fact, it is thought that playing is more effective when it comes to memorising and therefore learning. For example, think how quickly we learn specific “movements” when playing videogames. Without forgetting that some sectors, such as the military and air transport sectors, have been using simulation games as training tools for years. As gamification guru Fabio Viola points out, games capture the attention, create competition dynamics and engagement, and stimulate virtuous behaviours. Consider that even the emirate of Dubai has introduced the dynamics of gaming for its Department of Tourism, creating the programme “Dubai Expert”, a digital game that trains and certifies the best tour guides to ensure they are always ready and informed about the latest attractions. The usage rate among travel professionals is very high. If they pass the 20 missions that make up the game they can obtain the much sought-after quality certification required to work in the emirate, naturally earning the trust of the emir in the process.


Silvia Pagliuca

Silvia Pagliuca Giornalista professionista e Comunicatore pubblico, è laureata in scienze e tecnologie della comunicazione, con Master in management della comunicazione sociale, politica e istituzionale e Master in giornalismo presso il campus IULM - Mediaset. Scrive di lavoro, startup, innovazione e imprenditoria per Corriere della Sera, Corriere Imprese e Corriere del Trentino. Collabora come copywriter e consulente in comunicazione per diverse realtà pubbliche e private.