I’ve been spouting off for years about how museums need to change the way they recruit, select and train staff. Why? Because
- Museums say they want a more diverse workforce, but the major pipeline for future professional staff—museum studies and related graduate programs—are overwhelmingly white, female, and from relatively affluent backgrounds.
- The skill sets needed for museum jobs are changing (indeed many of the positions are entirely new) and the people with the requisite skills may not be looking at museums as potential employers—museums have to seek them out.
- The educational landscape is changing. As more people turn to microcredentialing as an accessible, affordable and effective way to build their resumes, employers need to figure out how to validate and assess qualifications documented in non-traditional ways.
Time to practice what I preach.
I have the opportunity to hire someone to backstop my work with CFM—share some of the research and writing, hit the road so we can cover more ground with presentations, and project manage events like the CFM lectures or demos at the annual meeting, convenings and publications. I could simply post an ad on the Alliance’s JobHQ, and probably would be inundated with applications. (When the Alliance recently advertised for a meetings and events position, we got a couple hundred resumes.) But I don’t think this method of hiring would align with principles I outlined above—actively trying to diversify the pool of applicants; seeking out people with diverse skills sets; recognizing and valuing non-traditional training & credentialing.
So I want to run the job search as a game: a game that challenges applicants to demonstrate skills related to the work; values creativity, collaboration and initiative and (in so far as possible) masks their identities for as long as possible.
Bear with me here—I am still working out the details, and one of the reasons I am sharing my formative thoughts in this post is that I value your input. Here are some of my jottings as I work this out:
Where could I look for qualified candidates who might broaden the applicant pool beyond the usual suspects? E.g., groups such as military veterans and people with disabilities who seem to be routinely disadvantaged in hiring, despite legal protections. What other professions or training tracks foster the skills I am looking for?
What challenges in the game could enable any applicant to demonstrate the requisite abilities, rather than relying on traditional signifiers of those skills? E.g., why does a job require a graduate degree? Aside from subject expertise (which is arguably moot in this case—am I really going to find a trained museum futurist?) a degree presumably signals that the degree holder has some facility with critical thinking, writing ability, and self-discipline. But a graduate degree doesn’t guarantee any of those qualifications, and someone without a graduate degree might possess all three. How can I give the applicants the chance to show, rather than just tell?
Could the game generate value for applicants whether or not they are offered the position? For example, could they earn a credential, such as a digital badge, for successfully completing all the challenges, much the same way a student may be designated a Merit Scholar Finalist without being offered a scholarship?
By masking the demographic and personal characteristics of applicants until the final stages, can the game help me avoid the unconscious bias that research has demonstrated influences hiring in fields from science to business?
Here are some of the steps I am taking to bring this idea to fruition:
- Recruiting people with expertise in games design to offer advice and support. (Fortunately, I’ve met a number of interesting folk in the games design world, as I’ve kept an eye on what games design can teach museums ever since Jane McGonigal’s inaugural lecture for CFM.)
- Looking for examples of how games have already been used in hiring. Marriott has a social media game—My Marriott Hotel™—that uses a virtual restaurant/kitchen to attract applicants. L’Oreal India has created a game called Reveal that simulates their work environment, presenting players with challenges in finance, sales, marketing, operations and research and innovation. Domino’s Pizza Hero game for the iPad includes a training & hiring component. The US Army has long used video games as recruitment tools. Of course, all these guys can sink major amounts of money into developing enduring platforms, I will be designing this game for one-time use, and trying to make as much use as I can of free online tools, such as social media, much the way that MMARGs (Massive MultiPlayer Alternate Reality Games) do.
- Researching other fields of endeavor, looking for professions that require an equivalent or significantly overlapping skill set. As I’ve pointed out, many outstanding people in the museum field came from alt backgrounds—engineering, music, journalism—how can I tap into those labor pools to find folks who might like the idea of becoming a museum futurist?
- Identifying how I can provide on the job training via web resources (such as CFM’s own digital badging program) or intensive face-to-face training (like the certificate course in futures studies I took from the University of Houston) to supplement the knowledge the successful applicant brings to the job.
Does this sound just a little crazy? I hope so—because part of my job is exploring trends that are just beginning to touch our lives. This may not work, and that’s fine—failure is a necessary part of risk-taking and innovation. Hopefully whether this “games for hiring” experiment succeeds or not, what I learn from the process will help the Alliance, and museums, explore the workforce of the future.
Keep your eye on this blog for periodic updates on my adventures in the hiring game. Ditto if you are interested in the position yourself—please do not send resumes or letters of interest…yet!