Royal Caribbean Cruises Using Escape Rooms For Recruitment


Any company that's trying to recruit remotely is going to come up against a number of problems. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses are having to look at new ideas and practical solutions. For Royal Caribbean Cruisers, they opted for something totally new, escape room games. And the whole process came about almost by accident.

The Vice President EMEA Ben Bouldin was convinced to take part in a real escape room game, and by so doing do, became a firm disciple. Originally billed as a company team-building exercise, it turned out that no one in the company had ever experienced a game like this before. Bouldin believes that the exercise really bought the team together and that they all became stronger because of it. So it was a natural step to using escape rooms in recruiting after Bouldin was asked to find a couple of new people.

Escape Rooms: An Innovative Recruitment Tool

Recruiting over the internet, using a conference app like Zoom, is fraught with difficulties. Though technically it's still facing to face, the monitor acts as a barrier to a more natural interaction. “It’s very difficult to get to know someone via the web or Teams in place of meeting them face to face, but in the current guise we didn’t have the opportunity to meet the candidates,” he explains. “An escape room is a fascinating exercise because everybody approaches that sort of environment, and those kinds of challenges, quite differently.” The interesting part of this whole story is that many of their cruise liners actually have an escape room for the passengers to play in. So utilizing this was a natural step, with nothing to add as far as setting up cost. Having a number of escape room onboard, with names such as "Escape From The Future", "Anthem of The Seas", "Space Mission Apollo 18," and least but not last, "Oasis of the Seas," meant that the company's brand values of new technology and innovation were echoed in their approach.

The Need For a Remote Solution

Looking over their recruitment stats showed that almost one-third of applicants made their final decision to join the company based on this recruitment process. on average they get around 350 applicants for each job position, so the gameplay strategy has certainly helped with a more targeted response. Of course, like most other businesses, Royal Caribbean Cruisers carries out its interview processes, face to face. But thanks to the pandemic, that's no longer possible. So it was only natural to make the transition to remote escape room games as a means of helping whittle down the number of recruits. The use of an escape room game can solve all the issues found in just having a number of Cv's to look through. 

The Importance of Soft Skills

Though many recruiters think of using escape room games as a recruiting tool because it will highlight things like teamwork and communication, Bouldin was quick to point out, that though those factors are important, what was more essential for Royal Caribbean Cruises was seeing soft skills in action. With the pressure of time, and the need to collaborate, the game proves an excellent platform with which to view the player's real personality. As Bouldin goes on to say, it's important for the company to find out the "right DNA" of the candidates, as only certain types of individuals will be able to make the best of a position within the company.

According to a Leadership IQ study, a full 46% of candidates will drop out within 18 months. Obviously, this represents a huge negative cost for any business. What was noticeable from this survey was that one of the top reasons for failure was poor interpersonal skills. In other words, the simple ability to get on with other people. Negative attitudes account for 89%, in contrast to just 11% failing due to poor technical skills. 

Playing Rogue Agent

Once a basic interview process has whittled the number of candidates down to a more manageable, it's time for a more complex online escape room game. They have to play "Rogue Agent," where the player is a member of MI5 and they are looking to track down an agent who's gone AWOL and is stealing artworks from museums all over the world. This game comes from the stable of Escape Live games. Its sales director, Alex Sandham says, “I don’t know of another experience you could do that ticks as many of the boxes that corporate clients have.” He continues, “The immersion in the activity means you don’t necessarily act consciously,” he says. “We see the person that is below sea level; the iceberg below the surface will come out in this environment.” This is the perfect means to see those soft skills up close and personal.

Candidates Uncomfortable With The Process

“What we’re seeing generally in society is an increase in gamification – it is more difficult to engage people, so companies realise they need to gamify things,” says Sandham. “If you’re trying to assess someone’s negotiation skills, people skills, leadership, communication skills, all these things are massively tested in the escape room – and that’s just the soft skills. That doesn’t include the problem-solving skills and your outside-of-the-box thinking skills.” Though Talent LMS ran a survey stating that 78% of candidates think that some sort of "gamification" during the recruitment process is desirable, Bouldin points out that the vast majority of their candidates are uncomfortable with having to play escape room games. “They didn’t like the fact that the other candidates would see them in the process,” he says. “They were uncomfortable, I think, because they hadn’t done anything like this before.”

It's a Win For Royal Caribbean Cruises

The Royal Caribbean Cruises recruitment team were looking out for six major processors to access: data connections, lateral thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, communication and influencing skills. Also, there was the more simple task of seeing how the candidates behaved under pressure. At the end of the day, these escape room games for recruiting went so well, that the company now has them as a major part of the whole recruitment process. “There is nothing better than seeing people interact with one another,” he says. “We had three or four people who interviewed very well, but when you put them in that forum it was really clear who we wanted.”

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