Ontario start-up engages employees with video games

Ontario organizational development consulting firm ODScore asked just that. Except that instead of using actual video games to engage their clients’ employees, they use the principles that make video games engrossing to engage employees at work.

So when they wanted to develop a new service to tackle bigger organizational changes, ODScore turned to the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute for renewed expertise.

At a meeting with Professor Neil Randall, the company learned that what they thought was a technical challenge, was really one of human relations.

“Neil convinced us that instead of looking for software to engage these employees that this challenge calls for a solution from the humanities. So we paired up with Betsy Brey — an English-language researcher — for the project,” explains Christy Pettit, CEO of ODScore.

Betsy brought a unique expertise in understanding how employee communication could contribute to satisfaction and engagement during times of change. Betsy uncovered that workers’ personal accounts of organizational change created a narrative around how employees could react during times of change. Simple employee narratives, such as calling themselves “the phoenix rising from the ashes” could contribute to a more empowered workforce than other, less optimistic outlooks.

Betsy was able to draw a connection between narrative and employee motivation, and their role in fostering workplace engagement. This understanding proved insightful for ODScore. The hope is that by shaping new narratives, companies can re-engage employees to perform their best in the face of significant change. In fact, Betsy found that incorporating her findings around narrative could help to sustain engagement over the long term.

Betsy’s research became the basis for a new program that ODScore can offer its clients. Furthermore, the research is being incorporated into ODScore’s other consulting services.

For Betsy, the research partnership gave her a renewed perspective on her skills as an English researcher. “Working with ODScore through Mitacs has been eye-opening,” she reflects. “This internship gave me the opportunity to mobilize the skills I have as an academic researcher in an industry context — a chance I would have missed without Mitacs.

“This experience was helpful for both ODScore and for me; we quickly saw how much overlap there is between industry demand and academic research skills, and everything worked out really well.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia,  the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

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