Founders of a startup in Athens, Greece feel that human resources professionals at many companies have lost their connection with the human factor, instead focusing only on hard skills and bottom line numbers.
But according to Owiwi co-founders Ilias Vartholomaios and Athina Polina Dova, it is the intangible “soft skills” of employees that often prove more valuable than their hard skills. But how to measure this? Vartholomaios and Dova answer this need through video gaming.
The pair is convinced that gamification has increasing relevance in the business world. Last year, they put their ideas to the test in the Enter-Grow-Go competition, an initiative designed to boost entrepreneurship among young Greek businesspeople. The result? They won.
Enter-Grow-Go judges were impressed with Owiwi’s video game tool, which is fun for job applicants and provides those in human resources a very thorough assessment gauge. The game, which centers on role playing, features an elaborate and developing storyline that measures such assets as confidence, patience, critical thinking, time management, leadership, and more.
Dova and Vartholomaios met in 2012 at ALBA Graduate Business School in Greece, where they soon found themselves discussing the relationship between business and gamification. He has a business background, while she focused her studies on law. Before long, they met over coffee to hash out their ideas further. Their shared excitement led to their new company, Owiwi.
“We thought we could combine gamification and human resources,” said Vartholomaios. But they still had quite a bit to learn before being able to launch a successful company. Hence, Vartholomaios earned a certificate in gamification from the University of Pennsylvania, and Dova gained qualification in game theory strategy via a Yale University distance learning program.
From their courses and through talking to other human resources professionals, they learned that some companies place a premium on payroll and cheap labor, but the end result is often bad hires and high turnover. In the end, this costs these companies money.
And it goes both ways—because when hiring managers aren’t tuned in to how to find the best match for an open position, not only does the company lose, but the new hire may very well find herself ill-suited for the new job. This is why determining “soft skills” of applicants is so important, says Vartholomaios. “Hard skills help you get a job; soft skills help you keep it,” he said.
Dova already sees the modern business world as a big game, with its own procedures and rules. “Every game has rules,” said Dova, who believes that gamification is already changing human resources. “We don’t see games as games—we are serious about gaming.”
Vartholomaios believes that there is unlimited potential for gamification applications, in almost any kind of field. He is also bullish on the growth opportunity of gaming applications, as many entering today’s job market grew up around video games. “With Generation Y, video games are second nature,” he said.
Owiwi hopes to launch the first edition of its video game assessment tool in March.