Gametize Hub

Gamification Expert Series: Justina Huang

by Natalie Ann Monteiro / September 16 2021

Welcome to our sixth Gamification Expert Series!

Welcome to yet another instalment of the Gamification Expert Series! Self-taught, tenacious and passionate – that’s how one could describe our expert in focus today. Ms. Justina Huang spent most of her career as an advocate and a practitioner in the field of learning and talent development. Despite having achieved plenty in a short time, Justina still pushes the envelope where creativity matters, and we are thrilled to have her share an end-user perspective on gamification.

Justina has been honing her craft as a Learning & Talent professional over the past 13 years in various MNCs and LLCs. More aptly, she can be described as a learning catalyst, a people developer, and a talent advocate. To Justina, it has always been about the people. “Throughout my career, I’ve always liked working with people. There’s just this unexplainable sense of achievement when I know I’ve made a positive impact on someone, whether it’s supporting people to grow and develop in their careers or helping them to find love – a passion project I am a part of (today)”.

Not one to shy away from accolades, one of her greatest achievements was to successfully set up the Learning & Talent function in a Singapore listed company from ground zero. In a recent role, she also managed to transform a dysfunctional learning function into one that secured the SkillsFuture Employer Award 2020 for the company.

Justina’s first experience with Gametize came on the back of a workplace challenge to revamp the group-wide Orientation programme to one that is virtual and highly engaging. Scouring through the learning marketplace, it was evident that the usual e-learning solutions just wouldn’t cut it. Upon sharing this conundrum with a consultant friend, what resulted was— you guessed it— the beginning of a weird and wonderful relationship with Gametize. According to Justina, she found the right partner in Gametize, simply because the “platform is so flexible, and really, the only one that could keep up with the pace of my ideation and creativity”.

Following her passion - how Justina got to where she is today

Gametize: So, who is Justina Huang?
Justina: I am a people person. If you put me up to any personality test, my sociability score will be off the charts. I am a self-starter – making sure that I work to improve myself and pick up skills, even with regards to technology that I’m not familiar with. My story is one of grit, opportunities, and people. I pretty much started at the bottom as a teller in my first job with DBS. Leveraging on my people skills, I then became one of the youngest Relationship Managers in my time at the age of 21. I was subsequently offered a training role at the age of 23 and I’ve never looked back since.
Gametize: Nice! Great background story…
Justina: (Giggle) I share this for all my interviews. (On a serious note) I use it because I believe in it. I guess I am one of the lucky few that can tell their stories with such conviction. It’s really finding that space where you’re so passionate about it that you never have to fake it.
Gametize: It’s refreshing to meet someone with that authenticity. How did you find that voice to just be who you are?
Justina: It’s just in my character. It’s so embedded– the social, the creativity and the ideation part– that I can’t simply shake away. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t; what I’m good at and where I’m uncomfortable… even at a young age.
Gametize: Out of curiosity, how do you normally respond when faced with something “uncomfortable”?
Justina: I like to explore the root of that discomfort. If it’s something I can change or something I can learn to overcome, even picking up a skill to address that shortcoming, then that’s pretty easy. But if it’s something I can’t effect change to or something that clashes with my values and belief system, then maybe it’s time to move on.

Here is where I found my passion, where I don’t have to try too hard to convince myself of the good that I can do. I’d like to think of my role in learning and talent as one that inspires people to grow and realize their full potential. When we help our people to be the best versions of themselves, our people will in turn enable the business to realize its strategy.
Gametize: What else should we know about you?

Justina: I am joining a new role at a European bank in a week. I am basically taking this short break to rejuvenate and dedicate some time to personal projects I am passionate about.

By the way, I have close to a hundred pet fish at home, thanks to my pair of super-productive chalice convict fish. It’s been really encouraging to see them grow up day by day. (Yes, it seems Justina’s passion for growth and development goes beyond people)

Overcoming the challenge of virtual learning

Gametize: How did your passion with gamification begin?
Justina: My earliest encounter with gamification was in the form of team building games during a corporate Orientation programme. As a facilitator, I also strived to incorporate creative training techniques and team games, where relevant, to improve learning engagement and retention. I am not the most attentive learner myself. I’m a kinesthetic learner— in that I learn through doing— so as far as I’m concerned, a good learning solution must be interactive and engaging.

Anyone can claim to gamify something, but the trick is: how do we make it interesting and engaging by injecting game elements into a relevant activity? Gamification, to me, is about instilling the fun-factor, social engagement and some healthy competition to get our learners excited about learning. And to retain the interest in the process.

Borrowing the wise words from Maya Angelou, she once said “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel”. Transposing this to the learning and talent space, as curators, we need to understand that gamification is not just mindless fun. When executed successfully, it is an effective approach to creating lasting experiences which will aid in learning retention and skills uptake.
Gametize: What have been some of the challenges in your previous roles that you had encountered?
Justina: I guess one of the biggest challenges in the learning space is managing the disruption brought about by the pandemic. Now, with Covid-19, the need to virtualize learning is not even up for discussion.

Despite our best efforts adapting to the new learning landscape— given that it has been nearly two years since the start of Covid-19— people are facing (virtual) meeting and webinar fatigue. How can we get our learners to be excited about learning when it is the 10th Zoom session they are attending in that week?
Gametize: I hear you… So, imagine it’s Friday afternoon, it has been a brutal week, and it’s the 10th virtual session of the week. How do you get that person interested?
Justina: From my perspective, then your MS Teams, your Zoom, is likely not to be the answer. It requires taking learning out of the traditional remote platform. Let’s face it, Zoom has become a traditional platform. It’s not about changing the platform per se, but changing the experience. If the usual way contributes to more fatigue and you’ve exhausted the functionalities on that platform, then isn’t it about time to change the method?

When people say they’re bored with being on these virtual/digital platforms, do they actually mean it? Don’t they relax after work by going on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, etc… Are these same people bored on these social media platforms? The answer is likely no. How then, can we bring that level of engagement that FaceBook or TikTok delivers into our learning platforms?

And if I’m going to be honest, I think the answer is Gametize.
Gametize: Really?! (Maybe I shouldn’t have sounded so shocked…)
Justina: Through my experience building content and curating experiences on the Gametize platform, I have seen how Gametize can be that solution; in a corporate setting, and even a social setting like a social app. I’m one of the few who have had hands-on experience working on and with Gametize for the past three years.

Some of your partners and collaborators may not have had the same experience because they may have a staff or intern do the actual work building the solution. I, on the other hand, would explore the functionality of every challenge type and try every conceivable way to embed interactivity and that “social touch” on Gametize, just so I create that sense of intrinsic motivation and content “stickiness” I hope my users will experience.

Especially working on the social app project, I totally could see how I can leverage Gametize to bring people together.
Gametize: With you, it’s always back to people…
Justina: Yes, it’s about bringing people together. Whether it’s to learn or strategize for an organisation, or to positively impact them in their personal lives.

Revolutionizing the Orientation experience with gamification

Gametize: Let’s talk projects. Any in mind?
Justina: Definitely the project where I had to revamp the group-wide Orientation programme to one that is virtual and highly engaging.
Gametize: What were the problems you wanted to solve?
Justina: The Orientation programme we had then was ancient – a quarterly face-to-face full day briefing conducted by various department reps who generally conduct talks about the functions they represent. Our new joiners were mostly overwhelmed with information by mid-day, and it certainly did not meet the mark in helping our new joiners assimilate more quickly into the company and their role due to the lack of immediacy.
Gametize: What was the mandate given to you then?
Justina: To quote my CHRO then, she envisioned the revamp Orientation to be highly engaging, to the extent of how engaging and fun Candy Crush can be – she was a fan. I thought (initially) how this could even be possible. At that time, I still had the impression that training had to be “professional” and fun was generally not in our vocabulary when it came to corporate training.

This whole thing about trying to replicate the Candy Crush level of fun – I must admit, I had to challenge my assumptions but it provided me with an eureka moment! It dawned on me that if conventional training– the way it’s being done– isn’t exciting the learners, then why are we still doing the same old thing? My CHRO’s enthusiasm rubbed off on me and I started to explore possibilities to inject the fun element and that, we delivered.

Apart from all the insightful content and awesome rewards new joiners now enjoy, we managed to embed live games into the virtual Orientation and one of the live games was actually a Candy Crush equivalent!
Gametize: How was the project received?
Justina: It was very well received by the new joiners who had access to the aSPire Academy app from their first day of joining. They now have an insightful overview of the company, our business segments, and tools to help them succeed all at their fingertips, 24/7.

Orientation was no longer boring because of the interactive bite-sized content, leaderboards, virtual treasure hunts, rewards and achievement badges. We also intentionally included the “social touch” by getting new joiners to post pictures with their buddies and leaders, and share insights they gained through these interactions.

When Covid-19 came along in the early 2020s, we didn’t need to scramble because our e-Orientation was effectively Covid-proof. So, when we transitioned to work-from-home, our new joiners weren’t left out in the cold and we could still effectively assimilate them into the company as if nothing had changed.

Bringing gamification to fruition - how the right partner makes a difference

Gametize: What inspires you, what inspires your creativity?
Justina: I would say it’s curiosity. Just always being curious about what’s out there, the best practices. If someone throws me a challenge, can I find a solution to meet her expectations or am I just going to say that e-learning is all we have? I tend to go the extra mile. I guess that’s who I am, and comes from how I’m self-taught in many things. Where I also get my ideas from, it’s from speaking to people – the stakeholders, the affected parties, the consumers.

It is definitely important to know what engages our target audience and to understand the objectives that our sponsor wants to achieve, before we add value further by researching other leading companies that have solved similar challenges.

Having good ideas is not enough. Having the right partner who understands your vision and is able to brainstorm for creative solutions to your requirements is critical. There is no use having great ideas if your solution partner is not effective in implementing them.
Gametize: I guess you can’t always be relying on your own steam; you’re going to have to leverage off others…
Justina: Absolutely. I’m so not a techie. And sometimes it frustrates the Gametize team when they have to work with me. When they start using technical jargon, I drift off. Yet, not being a techie, Gametize is easy enough for me to successfully build programmes out of the platform and see the range of possibilities.
Gametize: Not entirely a bad thing. By not being a techie and from a user’s perspective, you actually challenge us to come up with real-world solutions to real-world problems.
Justina: I guess that’s the value Keith and the team see in our collaboration. I may come off a little strong at times due to the passion I have for the work we do and the people we serve but the platform has great potential in solving some real challenges in a world where virtualisation is no longer an option… So long as the (Gametize) tech team has the patience to work with me, and the energy to come up with solutions, I will be glad to share the possibilities I see from a user’s perspective.
Gametize: You help us see into a realm of possibilities that may sit outside the traditional techie worldview and I think we all thrive in the diversity that you bring to the table. And as with being challenged, we become more creative and daring.
Justina: After leveraging Gametize for e-Orientation, learning carnivals, and the social app, I am convinced that there’s so much in terms of possibilities. Well, Gametize can even rival Instagram or even Facebook. FaceBook has a news feed, but guess what? So does Gametize.
Gametize: Can I quote you on this?
Justina: Yes… you can, because I honestly feel that way. And Instagram is about the sharing of videos, so can Gametize – you can record and share videos, it’s already a feature there!

Looking into the future

Gametize: So, what does the future hold for Justina Huang?
Justina: I am stepping into a new role where I’ll be leading Learning & Talent for the APAC region. There’s definitely a lot of learning and ground-sensing before I’ll know how I can add value to the team.
Gametize: Your thoughts on the future of gamification…
Justina: There is no end in sight for the pandemic yet. To cope with the virtual meeting and webinar fatigue, having learning initiatives that are gamified, interactive, and engaging will not be sufficient. I predict that gamification needs to be closely tied to social connections for the experience to really stick.

I would like the industry to replicate the stickiness from social media platforms (TikTok, Instagram, FaceBook, etc) and explore how that can be mimicked in a corporate setting hopefully for learning & talent development!

You can’t run away from the social element because that’s what the community is craving now. That’s the future. Since we are already interacting virtually these days, why must the corporate setting be a drag versus the social (TikTok) setting. On the top of my mind: the social element, the news feed part, is something Gametize already has. Being able to drop people into teams, possibly into various teams and groups based on personality profiles or interests– you know, like-minded individuals is where we can move the needle further. This is where we can see social engagement at a deeper level.

And in content sharing, being able to filter content in more specific ways may provide greater value and usage of the insights shared. For example, if we are getting employees to share their skill sets as one of the challenges, being able to leverage a filtering feature to identify people with the necessary skill sets we can tap on will be of great value to any learning function.

Concluding the interview

Gametize: What is your parting message to our readers?
Justina: Getting people engaged with your product or services should be the core focus of any thriving business. Think about how you engage your employees, clients, and users today. Are you fully leveraging gamification, social connections, and user-generated content to build your brand’s stickiness? If your answer is “No”, then maybe you can get some useful insights from the Gametize team!
Gametize: Some of us would really like to know what games you play?
Justina: I play Roblox from time to time at the request of my 8-year-old. I’ve built quite a mean theme park in Theme Park Tycoon 2, haha!
Gametize: Assuming you have any, what do you do in your spare time?
Justina: I practice yoga on a regular basis as it helps to tame my active mind. As a foodie, I’m always on the lookout for new restaurants and cafes to check out. I try to find time for my passion projects which allows me to make a positive impact on people outside a corporate setting.
And the conversation ended with so much banter, we’re just going to leave that out of this. We just want to thank Ms. Justina Huang for her time, as well as her contribution to the practice of gamification. Most of all, we are grateful for her friendship.