Uckers_gameboard_graphicI was en route to #HRTF16 last night, playing a round of Cookie Jam on my iPad, and got to thinking how just a few years ago heading off to an HR technology event meant there would be lots of chatter (and sessions) devoted to gamification.

Remember that? We were told that every aspect of the HR sphere would be disrupted. People want awards and stickers and scores and badges!! (we were told). You can increase engagement and fun!! (we were told). Employees like the thrill of the competition!! (we were told). Sort of like the Olympics only without, you know, the performance enhancing drugs and bowls of condoms in the Olympic Village.

Back in those halcyon days everyone from my benefit provider to my safety consultant got into this. My medical carrier, I am not even kidding, hauled a kiosk into our building one day (via a dolly) and set it up so that employees could log in, create profiles, and then compete for (virtual) wellness badges against sports celebrities and inanimate objects like Frank the Fire Hydrant (I am not making this up) and Skippy the Dog.

A year later that program, which had been released with much fanfare to customers …. there were billboards on the interstate!…. was kaput.

Huh. For a while there everyone in HR was tripping over themselves, trying to sound smart, by using the “G” word. But what has it wrought?

Your job applicants don’t want to play games; they want a smooth, seamless fast process that allows them to escape your crappy ATS as soon as possible.

Just because Justine and Kara in the Call Center are earning badges on your “TEAM Culture!!” website/game faster than a newly sworn in Brownie (whose mother is the troop leader) doesn’t mean they’re more “engaged.”  Perhaps they’re merely looking for a break from the humdrum monotony and since you have an HR policy that prohibits playing “Angry Birds 2” on their phones, they have to do something.

Karl in IT? The guy who is on top of the leaderboard for your wellness program? He’s chalking up points while simultaneously eating Cheetos from the comfort of his couch while binge re-watching the entire GOT series from beginning to end.

Gaming theory? Game mechanics? Game thinking? Absolutely fascinating to discuss but I wonder if we went off the rails in terms of any huge impact or disruption (if you will) within the HR space?

Did any of this make sense in the first place? Weren’t the organizations with cultures built on this kind of stuff……doing it anyway? I don’t know about you but every L&D lady I ever worked with had game theory embedded in every granule of her adult learning mantra.

Or not? Huh.

In any event I’m off to enjoy the conference where I anticipate having a whole bunch of smarty pants HR conversations with super amazing people.

Yup; I’ll be heading out in just a minute or two; there are a few friends I’m gaining on in Candy Crush Soda Saga……

Take Me to the Leaderboard – #HRTF16
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