Level Up Your Talent

Building Indiana Business

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Why can’t the philosophies behind video game culture be applied to companies facing talent shortages? There’s every reason to do so. Many businesses have expended way too much time and money to find skilled people that would be “just the right fit.” In our circle of news, that’s a dead horse that’s been beaten so badly only bones remain. We say, stop searching and start cultivating. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and level up our own talent.

I love video games (I. Love. Them.), and I often think about games when I’m listening to businesses lament their staffing shortages. You see, in many video games you start out with a squad of grunts. They start out rather unspecialized. But over time, the ways you utilize them will grant increasing levels of new abilities. Towards the end of the game, these become your best soldiers. The “right fit,” as it were, for even monumental tasks.

So how has your company been utilizing your existing squads of employees? Have you been pushing your talent to level up and encouraging them to grow? Or have you been wasting their potential? You already have these people on your team, why not develop them into the endgame special forces that you’ve been looking for?

Level 1: Start of the Path

One of the first things your company could do is to establish the expectation of advancement. Players should never just play the first level of a game and then quit. That’d be crazy. Would you seriously stop at the first flag on Super Mario Bros. level 1? No way, and your employees shouldn’t either.

Instead, at every stage, your company could create a culture that promotes the expectation that employees should be continually learning. Like the level structure found in most games, you could achieve this by laying out well-defined career paths. Along the way, certain skills or layers of experience could serve as the keys required to advance to the next role. Which brings us to side quests, which are great ways to level up.

Level 2: Side Quests

In many of the games that I play, unique bonuses or experience (XP) gains are found along side quests. Does your company offer side quests? And by that I mean, opportunities to attend professional development initiatives like workshops, seminars, or even formal instruction? These are some of the best ways to challenge and encourage individuals to grow. And if side quests are offered, most players will play them. In fact, as many as 92% of employees feel that access to these types of opportunities is important and are likely to be more engaged with their companies, according to The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Level 3: The Change-Up

New and unexpected endeavors are another important set of ways your company could upskill its employees. The same old routine can lead to complacency, but a change-up can lead to healthy growth and increased confidence. For example, in many video games the player will encounter a situation that strips them of their abilities or equipment. Like if you were an archer that lost their bow. You still have to defeat the dragon, only now you have to rely on new methods. The end result is that the player comes out of this situation feeling emboldened, which is a scenario that companies can foster for their employees.

Encourage your people to try out a new role in your company, with support of course. Show them that excellence comes from within, and they can be successful across many of your company’s positions. Most folks will understandably be reluctant to try this at first, like that archer without their bow. But in time they just might surprise themselves with how much they’re capable of achieving. Also, your company might attain a newfound amount of flexibility across your departments.

Level 4: The Test

The real test of a player’s mettle a video game is the almighty boss battle. This is where you test your skills and achieve validation through success. At your company, you can establish this through structured assessment, review, and rewards. This will look a bit different in every industry, but the important thing to remember is to provide clear and meaningful feedback and develop a reward system that keeps the player wanting to compete. Consider a raise or benefit structure based on skill acquisition that rewards learning and growth. Many of your employees will be willing to take on new learning challenges when they’re incentivized.

Get in the Game!

Across industries, the endless search for talent with particularly desired skills has truly gone on too long. Years even, and at great costs. Let’s all start paying more attention to the wonderful examples laid out by the gaming world and start building our talented people from within. With the right elements in place, companies are sure to start seeing more of their employees ascend through the levels of their operations and grow into highly qualified, skilled, and loyal endgame talent.

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