The May issue of Harvard Business Review is now off the shelves but the cover story, entitled, “Leadership’s Online Labs,” by Bryon Reeves, Thomas Malone and Tony O-Driscoll has become a buzz among Chief Talent Officers and Chief Learning Officers.
If you are like me and did not grow up playing multiplayer online games also known as MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) it is important to give you some context. Multiplayer online games are a large and growing market with current estimates topping 50 million users. World of Warcraft alone has 10 million players who each pay a subscription fee of $15 a month. According to the Palo Alto Research Center, participants’ play an average of 20 hours a week, their average age is 27 years old and 85% are male. They are not exactly your typical corporate employee, but the question is this: What can we learn from how these virtual teams form to solve a problem and then disband?
Questions about what the participants do when they play these games has caught the interest of corporate talent and learning officers. Essentially, they are facing the same organizational challenges as many of our leaders in today’s FORTUNE 500 firm, namely they are:
• In constant recruitment mode
• Experimenting with being creative about motivating and rewarding top talent
• Using the latest collaborative tools so global teams can be constantly connected to each other
• Incorporating more personalization into day-to-day interactions with team players
So, if we believe these online games are a preview for what leaders will be facing in the next few years, what can we learn about what works? Here are some lessons and observations from Leadership’s Online Labs article:
- Think first about how to change the game rather than solely focusing on “building individual leadership competencies.” Two suggestions: First think about offering immediate individual and non-monetary team rewards. This can range from public ratings and ranking systems recognizing stellar individual contributions (think Amazon ratings here) to devising a game-inspired set of incentives where players have visibility into what their reward will be if their team is successful. As the HBR article states, “the power of online games is that people care very much about the virtual gains and losses, even if the currency that records them can’t be exchanged for dollars.” So the processes we set up for documenting individual contributions and allowing these to be rated, commented on and ranked is a very powerful incentive.
- Create more detailed views into the profiles of team members as I discussed last week in my article, “Performance Learning 2.0“. The static employee profile used for decades by human resource officers is slowly being replaced by a “personal employee tag cloud” where you can view a snapshot of an employee’s personal and professional life—courses taken, language fluency, projects worked on and work/life goals for next few years. But a note of caution here, employees will ask how this data will be used and companies will need to develop a set of guidelines and policies if they go down this road.
Some questions for you and your teams as you leverage the lessons of online games:
- What is your Facebook Strategy? This has come to mean do you have a strategy for embedding social media into your learning/talent development offerings? This does not have to also mean losing control or taking risks regarding security. Rather, it implies that your organization is making a commitment to experiment with using social media as a way to become relevant to the Millennial Generation.
- How much of your Learning & Talent Management staff is from the Millennial Generation? Are you tapping into this mindset as you partner with your customers to design and develop new programs?
- Are you taking the lead to “educate” your organization’s IT department on how game-inspired processes and incentives may need to be created to attract, develop and retain Millennial Generation. For example, have you created a presentation on social media for learning and shared this with your IT department? Remember IT departments need to be brought along early rather than having Human Resources “come up with a solution and then try selling it to IT.” One way companies are doing this is appointing a Chief Technology Officer for their learning department.
Please share your thoughts with our growing community and me.