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When employee retention is not a linear thing

  20th April, 2018 By An Coppens

In our work with employee engagement and gamification of HR, we come across the request to work on staff retention through creative ways of showing career path options that may not be linear. Most of us when joining an organisation want to feel that we are doing meaningful work and that we are progressing. Progression in a traditional set-up is often called moving up the ladder. In most organisations, the number of opportunities to move up will be less plentiful the higher up you go. When some employees feel they no longer have the opportunity to grow and improve their skills, they move on to other organisations.

When we are asked to become involved in these situations, we, first of all, want to read some of the exit interviews and look through the number of open positions in the company for the last 12 months. Personal career goals are a key driver in decisions by individuals, but also the perception communicated on possibilities to gain more skills. Narrative on the ground will tell you very quickly how people feel about working at your company and their ability (real or perceived) to do new things. Staff turnover often has more than one reason, for simplicity in this post we will focus only on the feeling that there is no room to grow or move up in the company.

In any career, you may have to step to the side before you can move forward. Think of a labyrinth or maze, often one chosen route may not work, so you may have to backtrack and find a new one. Moving back and stepping to the side doesn’t have to mean that you have to drop your salary, even if in some cases it will happen, but it always means you need to learn new skills to be able to step up. What we identify is a playful way of communicating those skills and the opportunities for growth.

In one organisation we created different mountain paths where along the road you will pick up specific skills. As you went higher up in the organisation the lovely forest path changed to a more windy mountain road with hairpin bends and finally a Mount Everest style ascent. Each road has a skill set associated with it and it is up to the individual to provide proof of competency in the skill and the associated actions.

For another company, it looks more like a honeycomb with stepping stones and distinct levels of skill to achieve in each honey piece. The rollout of the communication about opportunities has been through a digital quest and in the honeycomb case, we are working on a board game and training managers to be game masters to communicate the message across all teams.

From a gamification perspective, we decide on the strategy based on the company culture, the levels and routes of communication open to us. We also explore other elements of job design such as rotation, enlargement and enrichment. Depending on the options available we advise on the best way forward.

The type of gameplay we choose is driven by what we feel will have the most impact. Up until this year, the idea of board games wasn’t one that companies accepted, but something in people’s mindset seems to have shifted and we are now creating our 3rd one in 2018 alone. In a digital age, hiding behind email and other electronic messaging tools is very common. As a leadership trainer, I often walked groups to the opposite side of an open plan office to talk in person to the person they were so frustrated with on email. So it comes as no surprise to me when managers tell me they want to encourage more face to face interaction in a specific office and boardgames lend themselves well to this purpose.

 

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