Player, Please: Gamification & Social Engagement

Lost in all the buzzwords and best practices about social media recruiting is a simple fact: it’s supposed to be fun.  In the olden days of faxed resumes, form cover letters and cold calling, engaging talent could be a chore.  But new methodologies have developed along with new mediums.  As more and more employers are finding out, the business of work doesn’t have to feel like, well, work at all.

One of the emerging new topics in talent acquisition is the concept of gamification, a concept so new it’s not recognized by spell check.  Gamification can be hard to define, but it’s the idea of creating competition from otherwise mundane or ordinary tasks.  Unlike most traditional games, there’s no real objective other than self edification with most gamification mechanisms, since there’s no real way to win – or no real tangible rewards for doing so other than, perhaps, bragging rights. 

Of course, in talent acquisition, bragging rights are what fuel referrals and retention (not to mention employment brand).

A prominent example of gamification can be seen in the popular Foursquare location based network, where each “check-in” is rewarded with a corresponding number of points, which are tallied up on a leader board.  In this case, winning isn’t everything – it’s actually nothing at all, other than perhaps a reminder that you really should get out more.

Increasingly, employers are starting to experiment with gamification in their talent acquisition strategies; in this case, playing the game is tantamount to engagement, and the rewards might be ethereal, but the end result is anything but: an engaged talent network. 

It makes sense; as The Apprentice and countless reality shows have demonstrated, the competition can be cutthroat when there’s a dream job on the line.  Of course, you don’t have to be Donald Trump to build a portfolio of candidates worth buying and selling.  Entire Empire Avenue, an interesting exercise in trading talent – and a microcosm for the possibilities of gamification and recruiting.

Rock Down To Empire Avenue: Trading for Talent

In Empire Avenue, which is free to register and can be accessed through Facebook Connect, users set up an account, choosing a portfolio symbol and a professional or functional index (one of the most active of which, coincidentally, is Human Resources and Recruitment).  Registering and integrating your existing social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, generate a baseline share price, which equates to your street value in Eaves, the currency of Empire Avenue – and, consequently, a way to measure the relative value of your social media presence against those of candidates, customers and competitors.

These Eaves, like real dollars, can be reinvested in other stock, the price of which rises and falls in real time based on the mechanisms of social media supply and demand.  While network size, influence and activity across social networks are effortlessly integrated into Empire Avenue’s share prices, however, being active within Empire Avenue can generate significant returns – and significant engagement. 

Empire Avenue allows businesses and employers to set up branded accounts at no additional charge.  Unlike many social networks, Empire Avenue treats corporate and individual accounts more or less equally, essentially leveling the playing field between personal and corporate brands.  For small businesses, sole proprietorships, or resource strapped recruiters, this makes measuring (and manipulating) market share intuitive and easy.  And when it comes to acquiring top talent, the market’s definitely heating up.

With a company listing, community management responsibilities can be easily split, and engagement done on behalf of a brand instead of any one individual.  By linking the social networks on which you’ve already developed an employer brand presence, your existing candidates and connections are easily imported. 

This also makes it simple to see which contacts are already listed on Empire Avenue, allowing ready evaluation of the relative risks and rewards of engaging them within this, or any other, social network. Similar to Klout, however, you don’t have to be connected to someone on Empire Avenue to buy their stock or send them a “shout out” or message – a great (free) way to expand your existing network and reach.

The index feature, in which every stock is tied to an area of functional expertise, allows easy searching for specific skill sets and experience, say, leadership or marketing.  Within each of these indexes, individuals are assigned a job level, ranging from ‘shareholder’ to ‘CEO,’ allowing easy benchmarking and comparison within industries. 

Users are also allowed to join location specific networks and groups, which are free to join and enable visibility and communication to all members; similarly, users can list skills and interests, which are then fully searchable, creating valuable functionalities for targeted sourcing and candidate development. 

Of course, Empire Avenue allows social recruiters to put their proverbial money where their mouth, investing in individuals whose values – and long term ROI – are predicated entirely on market demand.   Like any payroll, Empire Avenue sets a fixed amount any employer can spend on building a diverse portfolio of talent over the short term, an investment in people that’s inexorably linked to profitability.

Empire Avenue may just be a game, and suffering a few growing pains in terms of user acceptance and adoption, but it’s an interesting example of the way that gamification can enhance talent acquisition by creating a system for buying and selling candidates that doesn’t mean making an offer.  

It just might, however, present a decent long term predictor of those passive candidates whose who might be worth converting from Eaves into employees.  After all, investing in the right talent determines the winners in recruitment – and in business.  And that’s really the only game that matters.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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