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Rationale for Using Gaming Techniques in Selection

Given the wide range of tools and methods available for evaluating job candidates, and taking into consideration the years of research that support these approaches (e.g., Schmidt & Hunter, 1998), one may question the need for using gaming techniques in a selection context. However, as organizations continue to experience significant growth and profitability expectations, their ability to identify and attract the best talent efficiently will remain a critical business need. It is hypothesized that the use of gaming techniques has the potential to increase the predictive validity of assessment processes beyond what can be achieved with traditional methods as well as to yield engagement outcomes that are not possible with traditional methods.

Research has shown that high-fidelity work-sample assessments are valid predictors of job performance (Roth, Bobko & McFarland, 2005; Thornton & Kedharnath, 2013). This occurs because work-sample assessments reduce the inferential leaps that are required between candidates' scores on the assessment and their performance on the job. With most traditional selection tools (e.g., personality inventories and cognitive ability tests), the focus is on measuring competences or traits using multiple-choice items. Two inferential leaps are made: the first is between candidates' scores on the multiple-choice measurement tool and the degree to which they possess that competency or trait, and the second is between the competence or trait and how candidates will actually perform on the job. More robust predictions are achieved through the use of simulation assessments that require less inference. By putting candidates in situations that are similar to those they will encounter on the job, the goal of simulation is to elicit and measure behaviours similar to those that are required to perform the job. All else being equal, the closer a simulation comes to recreating the work environment and eliciting the full range of critical behaviours that are required for performance (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2009), the better the assessment will predict subsequent job performance.

Simulations and multimedia-based assessments are currently used to determine candidate suitability and measure knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAOS) that are critical for managers, customer service and sales representatives, clerical and administrative personnel, contact centre and collections agents, bank tellers, cashiers, manufacturing workers, professional staff and many others (for a comprehensive review, see Fetzer & Tuzinski, 2013). These are not only highly predictive of job performance (e.g., Lievens & De Soete, 2012; Schmidt & Hunter, 1998), but can potentially result in enabling organizations to augment their brand awareness, engage candidates and enhance positive perceptions of the company due to being at the cutting edge of technology, providing competitive advantage in the battle for talent.

The same rationale can be applied to support the use of gaming techniques. To the extent that these techniques are used to elicit in-game actions that mirror on-the-job behaviours, they will be more predictive of job performance than inferential measurement of traits or competences, all else being equal. Furthermore, gaming technology has the potential to increase the use of job-relevant behavioural assessments by increasing their scalability and cost-effectiveness. However, the greatest potential value of gaming techniques in a selection context arguably lies in a concept known as stealth assessment, which refers to embedding assessments in a game-like environment (Shute, 2011; Shute & Ventura, 2013; Shute, Ventura, Bauer & Zapata-Rivera, 2009). When players are engaged in playing the game, attentiveness to the fact they are being assessed is reduced and/or eliminated, due in part to a level of engagement not unlike Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). This is the point at which candidates may become so immersed in the game that their true behaviours emerge, increasing the accuracy of the assessment, rather than being constrained or changed by social desirability and the propensity of candidates to second-guess their actions during employment assessment.

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