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Essay: Continuous Feedback – a question from game-based assessments

Posted by on March 7, 2018

Continuous Feedback

A question from Game Based Assessments

I revisited my youth (this is ironic considering I’m still very much in my youth…) by bringing out the dusty old playstation 3 and playing some of those family favourites. We’ve bypassed a television at home and instead put in a large projector. While carting the television away, we happened upon a formidable forgotten box of gizmos and gadgets that have long since seen the light of day. In this box included things like my first Tamagotchi, my CD Walkman, my Gameboy advance and all of its cartridges, cards from games that would probably earn me a pretty penny today, the old old playstation 1 with its memory cards still in place, the wii and all of its myriad of battery-powered additives, and all of the games that go with all of these things. It’s incredible to think how much space all of this entertainment takes up. We plugged in the playstation 3, took out a whole lotta games and then transported ourselves to a different space. I would say a different time, but the thing about games is that time is irrelevant. You can be playing Mario brothers from the early 2000’s and still experience the same joy as the newer versions we see today.

The best part about plugging in these old games was seeing that “continue game” option, clicking it, and then being taken to exactly where one left off with a very clear idea of what is still required to be done. The immediacy of the status indicators gives a good feeling of goal orientation and action direction. No matter what game you come across, you’ll always have some kind of bar indicating progression – indicating feedback.

Being a young and boisterous employee, I am often faced with the very stark reality of engagement for engagement’s sake, rather than with the purpose of useful feedback. Looking at some of the trends emerging from HR stats, it’s therefore no wonder to see that employees want feedback. And they want it now. Given that we live in a day-and-age where feedback is readily available for almost anything else, I don’t see why the work environment needs to be any different.

Living in South Africa, we have the stark reality of legal requirements surrounding certain kinds of feedback – in particular, feedback of psychological constructs. Feedback of constructs of this kind is considered a psychological act. But people want feedback and they want it now. Also, they have a right to their feedback.

The difficulty with something like giving feedback immediately, is that one is also tempted to “try again”, “beat your previous score”, or even “compete against others”. If we can play Candy Crush over and over, and on different occasions do better or do worse depending on the circumstances in which we are playing (think playing on the train versus playing under the table at the boardroom meeting…not that I’m advocating for any such activities…), then why can’t we attempt to try again in psychometric tests – particularly those that have been designed more and more in a game-like fashion?

Although, think about the absolute mayhem this may create with selection processes. I can also think of a few benefits – you’d be able to get so much more data, and of a different kind to normal. How many times did they reattempt to better their score? How long did it take to get their best score? How much longer after getting their best score did they attempt to improve it even further? What was the range of scores between highest and lowest? What was the standard deviation between all scores? What time of day produced the best scores? What time of day saw the highest level of attempts? How many times was the game/assessment quit in the middle before being completed?

These are all questions which produce information that is specific to the person – no need to compare to any norms just yet. It gives information about the person’s motivation and behaviour that we would not normally see with an ordinary assessment. Now, add in some norms to compare this behaviour to, and we can start seeing trends in the kinds of employees being invited to take the assessment/game, and extrapolate this information further to the team culture or even organisational conflicts that might arise between different teams.

There is of course the mayhem that I alluded to earlier. For selection purposes, if you can see the scores of others and know where along the line your scores fall, when will you stop competing? Also, we know that selection processes are not as linear in nature as we would like, and we often have candidates being added to the list half way through the process. How would we handle for differences in time, learning based on higher exposure levels, and fairness of experience? There is also the difficulty of if you are the person at the top of the list, and you know it, how will you be able to accept the response that you have not been selected for the role? We very well know that the smartest, or best performing, does not always get selected – reasons for this range from nepotism through to culture fit arguments. This may make it more and more pertinent for HR to be transparent with why exactly they are not taking you.

Feedback of this kind is actually what employees now need. Specific, tangible, and able to give closure for considerations that they would otherwise mull over at night until the wee hours of the morning. If it’s a situation where you don’t have any control over it, then it’s just as important to say that too. In other words, it’s not just important to give feedback around percentage completion or relation to others. But also it’s important to start with feedback of what is expected – so that the specificity of action applied leads to specificity of outcome achieved.

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Game based assessments are gaining favour world round for their high enjoyment and engagement factor. The problem remains that without immediate feedback, the experience of face validity is often questioned. There are also ethical conundrums surrounding generational differences, game readiness, and construct validity. Let’s talk!

Wonderwhiterabbit hopping off…

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