Monthly Archives: January 2014


Are you using gamification in your human resources functions?  Have you even heard of it?  Perhaps not, but some predict it’s the future of the workplace.  Gamification is the application of gaming processes to non-gaming applications.  Basically, it makes work more fun and engaging by adding gaming elements and achievements to what might otherwise be boring and mundane tasks.  In human resources, gamification has been applied to recruiting, training, and employee performance. 

Research tells us that a large majority of American workers are not engaged in their jobs.  This disengagement leads to higher rates of employee turnover, lower morale, and less productivity.  Gamification seeks to address these concerns by achieving higher levels of engagement on the job.  Most of you are familiar with the leadership boards used in sales to motivate and celebrate sales and stimulate competition.  Imagine applying those elements to non-sales workers.  

Let’s say, for example, that your employees have to satisfy multiple training modules on an annual basis, and maybe it is like pulling teeth to get their cooperation to timely complete these modules.  I know this stretches the imagination but bear with me.  Now suppose that these modules have been modified to allow for leveling-up as skills are attained (or refreshed).  Employees both earn badges for each module completed and earn points based on how timely they completed these modules.  Co-workers could see who has earned badges and who the point leaders are.  Suppose then that the top scoring employees got an actual reward – like half a day off or a two-hour lunch break – for completing their annual training.  Some employers have found that gamification has replaced pulling teeth.  

Think about what gamification has done in this very simplified example.  It breathes a little competition and interest into otherwise mundane or painful tasks.  It engages employees.  It modifies employee behavior to achieve a result desired by the employer.  Success within the module results in leveling up and ultimately a reward, which means that feedback is immediate.  It sets clear goals to be achieved, and those goals are achievable.  It provides feedback to managers as well.  An employee who is having trouble with a module will be identifiable, and additional training can be given to that employee to help him succeed.  Lastly, HR is assisted by the computer’s retention of those who have completed each module, making recordkeeping easier. 

One selling point of gamification has been that it will keep the “gaming generation” feeling more engaged and committed as they enter the workforce.  However, I recently spoke with a start-up founder of a gamification app who also happens to be a member of the “gaming generation” about to enter the workforce and he wasn’t buying that selling point.  He told me that he and his peers are no more attracted to an employer who uses gamification in recruiting, training, or other processes than those who did not.  Beyond that, he made some other valid points that you might want to take to heart if you’re considering adding gamification to your workplace: 

  • Adding gamification just for the sake of having it adds no value.  The gaming generation is used to beating the game and moving on because they’ve gotten all they wanted out of the game.  Think about the $70 video game you got your kid for Christmas only to have him announce to you before you even rang in the New Year that he had already beat the entire thing.
  • Adding gamification to a bad product (or a bad process) still leaves you with a bad product (or process).  Gamification doesn’t fix something that’s broken, but it can help you get more out of your workers where specific behaviors need to be modified.
  • Gamification doesn’t work unless the incentives are real.  The person I spoke with could see where gamification has valid application in the health and wellness context because the individual is seeing and feeling the results as they get healthier, and the competitive element can keep you motivated.  Badges and leaderboards alone won’t always make gamification work, though.

The jury is still out on whether gamification techniques have the efficacy to be the wave of the future in human resources practices.  In my view, gamification might add value to the workplace in a few areas.  I’ll talk about those next time.  Until then, what do you think about gamification?


Join Us February 27 for “Planning for ACA Compliance: What You Need to Know Now”

If you attended any of our Fall Labor Seminars last year, you heard Jamie Leary’s quick summary of issues of immediate concern to employers under the so-called Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). 

As Jamie said during her update, and as you know from a glance at any newspaper these days, the ACA is evolving by the moment.  If you’d like to catch up on the current state of all things ACA, tune into Jamie’s webcast on February 27.  Click here for a quick preview. Although we certainly won’t have all the answers at that point, Jamie will tell you what’s for certain and what’s to come. 

We’d love for you to join us!


In Blankenship v. Caterpillar Global Mining, LLC, the Court denied an employer’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the Plaintiff, an applicant for employment who the employer had not hired, had presented sufficient evidence to create a jury question about whether the employer’s reason for failing to hire her was a pretext for gender discrimination under the West Virginia Human Rights Act (“WVHRA”).  The Court held that, at the summary judgment stage, an applicant plaintiff need only provide circumstantial evidence that could lead a jury to infer a discriminatory motive in the employer’s refusal to hire.  With regard to establishing pretext, if the employer has articulated a nondiscriminatory reason for its refusal to hire then the applicant need only provide evidence that would raise a question about whether employer’s offered reason was a pretext for discrimination.  Discrimination need not be the sole reason behind the employer’s refusal to hire so long as the applicant can put forth evidence showing that discrimination played a significant part in the employer’s adverse decision.   

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“It’s not a stretch to say that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) probably didn’t receive a whole lot of holiday cards from employers this last Christmas. However, employers aren’t the only ones who have taken some umbrage with the Board.  Recently, this discontent has spread to a handful of administrative law judges (ALJs), who have expressed their frustration with the Board’s decision-making and liberties taken by the NLRB’s General Counsel (GC).  

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Employers often face the issue of whether or not they can discipline an employee who is already on some kind of medical leave.  Despite how common that situation may be, many employers think they are unable to take action in that situation.  While the exact answer is always going to be resolved on a case-by-case basis, employers aren’t always as hamstrung as they may feel. 

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As we have reported on this blog before, there has been a trend among employers to adopt mandatory arbitration agreements.  For many employers, arbitration is preferred to civil litigation because the process is usually faster and, as a result, tends to be less expensive.  In part, this increased use of mandatory arbitration agreements can be attributed to a series of recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court that have reaffirmed the validity of arbitration agreements.  West Virginia courts have not always been receptive to arbitration agreements and have found them to be invalid in a variety of contexts, including the employment context.  However, this month the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has issued two important decisions that found arbitration agreements to be valid.  The Court’s decision in New v. GameStop, Inc. d/b/a GameStop, No. 12-1371, which upheld an arbitration agreement in the employment context, has important ramifications for all West Virginia employers that use or plan to use arbitration agreements.

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