I just listened to a discussion between Brent Schlenker and Dr. Karl Kapp about part of Dr. Kapp’s book (Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning) where he covers recruiting the “Gamer” generation.
There are some great takeaways from that conversation for me. For example, they were talking about how far into the future companies have to think now to retain competitiveness in recruiting. For example, they were talking about a group focused on science and technology that have to market their fields to middle school students, because middle school grades determine which math classes you take in high school, and that determines what you’re able to take in college. If they don’t grab the kids attention in those early grades, they likely won’t have the background or interest in the field to become productive employees in relevant companies 10 years or more down the line. Developing games that educate in those fields and are engaging and entertaining is one powerful way to start attracting the attention of those potential employees.
The kinds of games I’m talking about here aren’t marketing a specific company, by the way. They’re teaching concepts, facts, and processes that the sponsoring company would find useful. Business concepts, analysis, cost projection, and such are at the basis of popular games like “Roller Coaster Tycoon”. My brother spends most of his time in Madden Football (at least I think it’s Madden) building his team, working with the budget for the stadium, making choices about concessions and tracking attendance, rather than playing the actual football games. He’s making business decisions and having loads of fun doing it.
That’s obviously a long-term strategy. In the short term, what a lot of recruits are looking for now is a company that will provide some kind of engaging networking or socialization opportunity. In fact, it’s something they frequently expect, having grown up with the ability to network through MySpace or Facebook, and to share their knowledge and experiences in different online venues such as blogs, discussion boards, or wikis. At a bare minimum, just the ability to create a personal profile on the corporate intranet might give one company the edge over another, all other things being equal.
That knowledge sharing ability, by the way, would serve not just as a recruiting tool but as a way to capture the experience and knowledge of workers. That’s a hot topic in all corporate circles as people leave for other jobs or retirement – as things stand now, most of the time those years of experience walk out the door with them.
Let’s look at a concrete example of some of this stuff. I work for a very old, very successful printing company. Honestly, we don’t have much of this stuff. We have the same worries that every other company has, though: how do we retain the knowledge of retiring workers? how do we recruit people who have the skills we need when interest in those skills is waning in the general population? How do we keep people once we’ve got them? How can we maximize the knowledge of workers in one part of the company and transfer some of that knowledge to the people who need to support them, or who will eventually take over their roles? How can we manage all this and still remain profitable in an extremely competitive business landscape?
Well, a relatively low cost improvement we could make is some kind of networking software, similar to Facebook. Heck, we could even use Facebook. That would certainly be useful for many of the knowledge workers we have – the ones most likely to be at a computer for a large majority of the day – but would likely be an incentive and possibly productivity tool for at least some of the more labor intensive positions as well. Most people have access to a computer at some regular interval in their lives – even if they don’t have time during their normal work day, many people log on at night and who knows… they might just take a few minutes and check in on some information or answer a question from someone. We’ll never know if we don’t give them the opportunity.
What about skilled laborers? Let’s take a look at Press Operators. These people are responsible for an entire press. Millions of dollars worth of equipment and product, and it’s their job to make sure it all works accurately and efficiently, and produces a high quality product. They have to know how to work technology, understand color theory, process, mathematics, and mechanics. They not only have to understand these from a technical perspective, they have to have an “eye” for color. It’s a complicated job. We have excellent press simulators that let operators train on how to make adjustments and generally work the press, but those are expensive to run and from what I understand only concentrate on the functions of the press itself. What if we made a game – even one that could be sold commercially – that could teach the concepts and processes around the entire position? It could easily be made to be as engaging as something like Roller Coaster Tycoon. It could be used for general recruitment purposes, similar to what I mentioned above, or as more of an introductory training tool. As you successfully deal with one job, the customer gives you more and your reputation grows and you grow more popular and get more contracts, and now you really have to start working on efficiency and minimizing downtime and getting those magazines (or books, or whatever) out the door. Really show the impact your position has on the general welfare of the company. It could be a very powerful game.
There is so much to discuss in this area that books have been written about it. Heck, whole conferences have been convened around the topics. Hopefully I get excited enough, and find enough time, to continue writing my thoughts about it later – after all, this kind of stuff is a part of my job, albeit a part that seems to keep getting lost in the daily drudgery. For now, my kids have awakened from their naps and I have to get back to my weekend.
[tags]e-learning, technology, human resources, recruitment, games, corporate life[/tags]