Talent development gamification in talent selection assessment centres

Carole Tansley*, Ella Hafermalz, Kristine Dery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between the use of sophisticated talent selection processes such as gamification and training and development interventions designed to ensure that candidates can successfully navigate the talent assessment process. Gamification is the application of game elements to non-game activities through the adoption of gaming tools, and little is known about how candidates (“talent”) struggle to learn about the structural mechanics of gamification as they engage with the hidden rules of talent selection, such as goals, rules, “levelling up”, feedback and engagement in competitive – collaborative activities. The term “talent development gamification” is coined and used as an analytical tool to consider how young talent are supported by development interventions in their inter-subjectivity as they learn how to survive and win in talent selection games. Design/methodology/approach: Studying hidden dynamics in development processes inherent in gamified talent selection is challenging, so a cult work of fiction, “Ender’s Game”, is examined to address the questions: “How do candidates in talent selection programmes learn to make sense of the structural mechanics of gamification”, “How does this make the hidden rules of talent selection explicit to them?” and “What does this mean for talent development?” Findings: Talent development in selection gamification processes is illustrated through nuanced theoretical accounts of how a multiplicity of shifting and competing developmental learning opportunities are played out as a form of “double-consciousness” by potential organizational talent for them to “win the selection game”. Research limitations/implications: Using novels as an aid to understanding management and the organization of work is ontologically and epistemologically problematic. But analysing novels which are “good reads” also has educational value and can produce new knowledge from its analysis. In exploring how “Characters are made to live dangerously, to face predicaments that, as readers, we experience as vicarious pleasure. We imagine, for example, how a particular character may react or, more importantly, what we would do in similar circumstances” (Knights and Willmott, 1999, p. 5). This future-oriented fictional narrative is both illustrative and provides an analogy to illuminate current organisational development challenges. Originality/value: The term “talent development gamification in selection processes” is coined to allow analysis and provide lessons for talent development practice in a little studied area. Our case study analysis identifies a number of areas for consideration by talent management/talent development specialists involved in developing talent assessment centres incorporating gamification. These include the importance of understanding and taking account of rites of passage through the assessment centre, in particular the role of liminal space, what talent development interventions might be of benefit and the necessity of appreciating and managing talent in developing the skill of double consciousness in game simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-512
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Training and Development
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Liminal space
  • Rites of passage
  • Talent assessment centre
  • Talent development gamification
  • Talent learning
  • Talent management


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