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Why did business take so long to ‘gamify’ to develop talent?

Marelize Wagener


If you consider that action learning has been fundamental in adult education for many years - and that ice breakers and training games have been used very successfully for decades, then it's somewhat surprising that the idea of games crossing the entertainment line into business territory occurred only a few years ago. I'm referring to gamification. Currently, gamification is one of the most popular topics in the HR industry to, among others, develop talent. More and more companies are becoming aware of its benefits yet many people out there still don't know what it's all about.

Gamification has been defined as using game thinking and game mechanisms in non-game contexts, such as the workplace, to engage users and encourage them to pursue problem-solving and learning. Basically, it's taking the fundamental nature of games (fun and play) and applying it to the world of work. Companies are increasingly using gaming principles not only for training and development but also for everything else, e.g. HR processes such as recruitment and selection through to leadership, developing talent and career development.

Similar to what we've experienced in the training industry, companies are gradually adding gaming elements to everyday processes because this improves engagement, motivates people, influences behaviour, stimulates creativity and enhances learning. This is because most people like to have fun, collaborate and compete.

If we've known the value of applying gaming concepts in training for years, then why did it take so long for businesses to buy into this remarkable, yet elementary, concept and use it in other areas and everyday processes? And how long will it take before this 'new' trend will become the norm?

Experts believe that:

  • The time wasn't ripe for exploiting gamification in other areas before,
  • Technological advancement and social media boosts gamification, and
  • The majority of the workforce today consists of the right mix – a generation of talent who can't imagine a world without technology and social networks (cloud technologies) as well as the older generation who embraced gaming in their youth.

Even though gamification is still a rather quiet revolution in South Africa, for this year it's been predicted that more than 70% of the Forbes Global 2000 companies will have at least one gamified application. How long are you going to wait before you explore the possibilities for your company before you start doing what you do for the love of the game?

Marelize Wagener Marelize Wagener is a registered industrial psychologist and a research and development specialist at Maccauvlei Learning Academy. She has a masters degree in industrial and organisational psychology from North West University.