Since 2014, the escape room industry has exploded in the United States. For good reason too, it beats “Netflix and Chill.”
Organizations of all sizes have taken notice and are booking their team building and corporate events at escape rooms. It’s a no-brainer for several reasons-- first and foremost, it’s fun and everyone is guaranteed to have a good time. Secondly, you know exactly how long the event will last since there is a 60-minute time limit to escape the room. Thirdly, escape rooms are actually really good team building activities! What better way to socialize an awkward group of coworkers than to force them to solve a series of puzzles to escape a room in under an hour?
Beyond being an excellent team building activity, escape rooms can be a great evaluation tool for owners and managers of a business. Here are the seven best reasons to use an escape room as an HR tool.
1)They’ll Never See it Coming
If you’re sending a group of your existing employees, they’ll think they’re just going to another standard team-building activity. The same kind they do every year, right? Their guards will be down. They think it’s just a game. Little do they know, their jobs or promotions might be on the line…
Games have a way of allowing one’s true personality to emerge. When you put people in a strange environment that requires teamwork, add the stress of a time constraint, someone in the group eventually takes charge. Oftentimes in escape rooms, there will be multiple puzzles that can be worked on simultaneously. The most successful groups utilize the “divide and conquer” strategy. This means splitting the team up and having each smaller group work on different puzzles, to save time. Even extremely intelligent people can fail at organizing themselves without a strong leader to tell them what to do. This is where you, as a manager, can discreetly observe which of your employees display strong leadership potential. Just because someone appears shy at first doesn’t mean they cannot lead if given the opportunity.
3)Discover Bad Personality Traits
Sometimes high performing individuals (in the workplace) do not perform well in groups or as managers. It is possible that they have characteristics that actually inhibit the team’s performance. This negative behavior can often escape (pun intended) casual observation. Larger companies will employ very expensive personality tests to evaluate candidates for management positions. Perhaps taking the team to an escape room is not only more cost-effective, but could be more effective overall in exposing one’s true personality. For example, in escape rooms, using “hints” as a metric, how often the group asks for a hint and if they ask at all, can evaluate some important traits: time-management, resourcefulness, and stubbornness. Can a multiple choice test do all that?
We can all relate to wanting to escape with no help at all. It’s natural, for some of us, at least. The trope of the driving husband who’s lost and refuses to ask for directions while his wife begs him to pull over and ask comes to mind. Similarly, there are some players who would rather fail the room than ask for help. That is a very respectable way to play the game. We see it all the time. It can, however, suggest overconfidence or narcissism. The person who would rather fail than ask for help and win thinks very highly of himself/herself but at the detriment of the team. Then there’s the opposite manifestation of being stubborn-- the person who constantly asks for hints without really trying to solve the puzzles. This type of person wants to speed through the game and see the ending as quick as possible without a challenge. This can suggest a potentially lazy employee.
There will be a series of puzzles to solve in order to escape. And it’s not always linear-- meaning a clue you find at the beginning might not make sense right away. You may use that clue at a later time. Or, you might potentially find a key at the very end that opens a lock toward the beginning of a game. Not only will you discover which of your employees are the best at solving puzzles, but you’ll also see who handles stress very well. Alternatively, you might find out who gets easily frustrated or cracks under the pressure.
Successful communication is required for a group to escape. This means relaying information to and from multiple parties. It also involves staying focused and paying attention to everything that everyone says. The best communicator in the escape room is also probably a great team member when it comes to projects at work. Effective leaders, both inside and outside of the escape room, ensure that everyone is heard and nobody gets left out.
A positive attitude is often the most overlooked but most powerful weapon one can have in an escape room. Encouraging ideas and staying positive correlates highly with escape room success rates. Conversely, shooting down the ideas of other people lowers group morale and leads to failure. An individual’s optimism or pessimism manifests itself more readily in a game environment. Their in-game attitude can paint a picture of their overall outlook on life. It may at first seem absurd to draw these kinds of conclusions about someone’s personality from how they play a game; however, compare that to how much (or little) you really get to know someone during a job interview: you ask, they answer, you ask, they answer. It is easy for a candidate to lie or exaggerate. You ask, “are you a positive person?” They answer, “yes.” Of course they would. In an escape room, you will literally get to see how someone reacts when under pressure.
7)Hiring & Promotions
Thinking about whether or not to hire a person in the first place? Maybe round 1 of an interview could involve evaluating your favorite candidates’ performance in an escape room. Or perhaps you are trying to decide which employee out of the group needs to fill the recently vacated manager spot. Everyone thinks it belongs to the longest tenured team member, but that person may not be the best leader of the team.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re planning a team-building escape just for fun or for an undercover HR operation, you can learn a lot about someone by how they play. It’s sort of like getting the opportunity to view an animal in its natural habitat, versus at the zoo (no, we’re not calling your employees animals, just highlighting the difference in behavior in one setting compared to the other). Regardless of how seriously you use escape rooms to evaluate employees, their behavior here can confirm something you were already thinking, or expose a trait you were completely unaware of. As millennials continue making up a larger part of the workforce, companies will seek to become more innovative. Escape rooms provide a unique opportunity to spot those who truly possess “outside the box” thinking.
Drop us a line here if you’re thinking about planning your next team-building event at an escape room!
p.s. Sorry to all employees everywhere for having given your boss these horrible ideas.
Watch below: professional e-sports (Blizzard) Overwatch team, Florida Mayhem, play A.I. and An Hour to Kill.