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The key to building a feedback culture? Gamification

There are limitless possibilities for HR professionals when it comes to incorporating serious games

In today’s knowledge economy the opinions and ideas of a company’s employees are an important business asset, so sharing feedback across teams is of the utmost importance. Feedback is essential to learning, collaboration and engagement and is key to unlocking the brainpower HR professionals work so hard to recruit into their organisations.

I’m chief human resources officer at Amadeus, a global travel technology company, and I’m tasked with developing a workforce of almost 15,000 people in more than 100 countries. One of my priorities is building a culture in which employees share feedback and ideas both within and across teams, to help our knowledge-based business stay apace of rapid evolution in our industry.

However, sharing feedback is not always easy, especially for a global company like ours. Although we pride ourselves on our diverse workforce, in recent years we noticed that a number of our teams with members from all over the world were finding it difficult giving and receiving feedback, due in part to cultural differences between the members. This was causing frustration and misunderstandings. Think of the vast disparities in conveying ideas, exhibiting authority, or the directness of language between (for example) Scandinavian, Asian and French cultures.

In a multinational company like ours a more direct feedback approach is important to overcome the complexities between different cultural communication styles. We wanted to build a ‘feedback culture’ within the organisation, and to do so we turned to an exciting new tool for HR professionals – gamification.

It seems counter-intuitive to advocate play at work, but gamification opens up a world of possibilities for HR professionals. Games allow us to try out and practise new behaviours in a fun safe environment. Through play we are capable of absorbing very complex concepts and we learn faster, without even realising we are learning. Once the behaviours featured in the game have been practised over and over again the players develop the confidence and security to apply these concepts in real life. And with a game HR professionals can train thousands of employees around the globe at once.

To help us build the feedback culture we want we developed Amadeus Crew, a game that covers a range of issues including positive feedback and recognition, admitting to mistakes and speaking up about your own behaviour, and critical feedback, which is the hardest skill to learn.

The game focuses on desired or unwanted behaviours, and starts from a departure gate scene before moving to the cockpit with two pilots as the key characters. The principle is simple: the player takes the role of a crew member – it might be the pilot or the head of cabin – during a flight. Each flight presents different situations that will have to be solved by using feedback effectively, and so each situation helps the player learn to either give or receive feedback.

The response to the game has been fantastic. During a proof of concept phase more than 6,000 people played Amadeus Crew, and their feedback has confirmed my belief that gamification should be taken seriously as a tool for employers.

Given the high employee engagement gamification secures, there are limitless possibilities for HR professionals when it comes to incorporating serious games into employee training, culture change and company processes – but there are some best practices to bear in mind.

For example, it’s essential to understand how the end user will interpret and interact with the game you have created. ‘Why am I using this game?’ should therefore be one of the first questions you ask when developing your strategy.

It’s also vital that the user experience is easy and intuitive. When creating a game designed for employees it’s important to consider how those employees are going to be playing – most likely on their mobile device, so is the experience easy to follow on a smartphone screen? They will also want to be able to easily understand the dialogue and content, so don’t make this too complex.

For our organisation this is only the beginning. I’m already preparing more gamification-based training to extend its benefits to other aspects of our company culture, and I’m really excited to explore how else we can use it.

Sabine Hansen Peck is chief human resources officer at Amadeus IT Group